Parenting little ones finds a way of exposing our edges. We find we can love more than we thought possible; our selfishness, however, also extends further than we could see.
You'll find more than enough advice about managing your child's tantrums, his anger moments. We need to learn to parent our children through their own anger.
What I fear is often neglected, though, is our own trouble with anger, our own parent tantrums. C.S. Lewis, the famous professor, author, and Christian apologist, thought the same, it seems.
We hear a great deal about the rudeness of the rising generation. I am an oldster myself and might be expected to take the oldsters' side, but in fact I have been far more impressed by the bad manners of parents to children than by those of children to parents.1
The question before us today is, "How can you prevent your own parent tantrums?" We'll consider five suggestions.
1. Positively invest in relationships
Avoiding anger begins with investing positively in relationships. I find that I'm usually sharp with my children when I am distant from my spouse or am dealing with a problem in my extended family.
So I find that the best fortification against anger is caring for those around me. If my relationships are healthy, I'm much less likely to fly off the handle.
2. Stay organized
I find a common theme in my tantrums. I am angry at my children most easily when I feel overwhelmed and frazzled. Staying on top of my tasks makes me a more pleasant person all around.
Sometimes you just get behind. It's part of being human. Take a few moments and write out a list of the mental items hounding you. See what you can delete, delegate, or defer to another date.
The important thing is that you'll be clear-headed and ready to give your full attention to your child or whatever person or task is before you.
3. Set limits before you get angry
Set up some "never-cross" boundaries before you ever encounter difficult situations. Here are some you should consider:
- I will not discipline my child when I'm angry
- I will not use threats against my children
- I will never hit my child
- I will never yell at my child
Tell your spouse or a friend as a way of making it an official commitment before someone else.
4. Anticipate trigger situations
We all have buttons that trigger anger or frustration.
For instance, you may really flip when your kids don't take their shoes off at the door on rainy days. When it rains, prepare yourself for the probable situation that your kids will forget to take off their shoes.
Sometimes trigger situations have nothing to do with your kids. Being under pressure at work or dealing with a failing parent can make you more on edge. Anticipate that you'll struggle more and refuse to vent that pressure out on your child.
5. Know your limits
When we had our first daughter, our hospital required that we watch a video on anger management. They found that first-time parents were surprised by the anger they could feel toward their little one.
The basic message of the video was, "Know your limits." You may need to internally count to five before responding if you're getting frustrated. Additionally, you may need to walk away or calmly send your child to her room if you're really battling with anger.
Part of being an adult is the skill of self-parenting. Put these five tips into place to avoid your own parent tantrumns.
The Four Loves, 42. ↩︎