How to Control Your Anger When You Are A Parent

AD If you asked me 10 years ago if I lost my temper easily I would have said no. 3 children later and I am often surprised at how frequently I get angry and how easily. As a parent, of young children especially, we often experience a large number of triggers which can make us angry and we have less opportunities to focus on ourselves. This is a bad combination which means many of us lose our temper more than before we had children. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to stop ourselves feeling angry, but you can learn how to control your anger when you are a parent. This helps to ensure we don’t scare our children and helps to model the behaviour we want them to copy as they get older. 

A black and white photo of a mother looking down reflectively
It is common to find you get more angry when you have children, but what can you do about it?


How To Learn To Manage Your Anger As A Parent

What Makes Us Get Angry?

Children seem to be experts at pushing their parents buttons and finding ways to annoy us, although it’s not normally intentional. The way we react to their behaviour often depends on what other triggers we are experiencing at the same time, especially internal ones.

Physiological triggers

When you have young children it is normal to not get enough sleep and feeling tired can make it much harder to control our emotions.  Parents often neglect their other basic needs like eating and drinking: hanger is a real thing (being angry because you are hungry). Experiencing illness or pain can also make people more likely to lose their temper.

Psychological triggers

If you are stressed have, depression or anxiety it can make you lose your temper more easily, but these don’t need to be at a clinical level to have an impact on our behaviour. If you lost your child briefly in a shop it would be a normal reaction when you find them to shout before you even hug them because the worry followed by relief triggers the outburst.

Beliefs and values

We all have different value models which will be based on how we were brought up and our experiences. For example some people believe it is very rude not to make eye contact or when people queue jump, whereas these wont bother other people at all. When someone acts in a way that is against your beliefs it can make you angry. The more strongly you hold your values the more annoyed you will get. 


How To Learn To Control Your Anger


Identify the main triggers that make you get angry

For me these are tiredness, getting a migraine (in the hours before a migraine starts I get very easily annoyed), not having any time to myself and a lot of value based triggers including: not being listened to, not being appreciated, people being careless and breaking things and people being dishonest. As you can see from this list many of the ways children normally behave can annoy me eg a room that I just tidied being messed up, asking my children to put their socks on multiple times and them not doing it or toys being broken.

Recognise the early signs of feeling angry

Anger is linked to the "flight or fight" physiological response which we get when we feel threatened in some way. Our bodies release hormones like adrenaline and cortisol which cause physical changes to your body as well as to your thinking. You might feel your heart beating faster or breathing quicker, you might notice your body and muscles feeling tense. Maybe you notice you clench your fists or teeth when you are angry? 

Learn strategies to prevent an outburst

When you feel you are getting angry your initial aim is to defuse how you are feeling to prevent a verbal or physical outburst. 

You could try:

  • Taking slow deep breaths.
  • Counting to 10 slowly (it’s the name of this blog for a reason).
  • Fiddling with something which allows you to focus your frustration, these spinner rings are perfect for this.
  • Physically distancing yourself from the trigger (even if that means locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes).
  • Mentally distancing yourself eg by closing your eyes and visualising a calm scene.
  • Sending a ranting message to a close friend or giving them a quick call. Talking about the issues can help you calm down.

6 Longer Term Strategies To Help Manage Your Anger 

If you are already in a heightened emotional state the time between an action and your reaction may be very short for instance if you are tired and hungry and someone pushes you then you might react straight away by shouting or pushing back. If you are feeling more centred then it might not annoy you at all or you may feel yourself getting angry and be able to take action to calm yourself down. The more you can do to manage your internal triggers the more you will be able to manage external ones that push you to react.

Sleep

Getting sufficient sleep is really important. You know that, I know that, but that doesn’t mean we will get it or even prioritise it. As a parent the quality of our sleep is often disrupted and we tend to go to sleep too late because that is our child free time to relax or get things done. If you know you are going in to a period of high stress eg a holiday period, make more of an effort to prioritise sleep.

Food and Drink

Staying hydrated and eating regular meals helps to manage our emotions. A balanced diet and the right foods can make a huge difference too, but at a minimum eat regularly and avoid caffeine and alcohol. 

Therapy

If there are particular situations that make you angry or you feel that mental health issues may be affecting you then private psychiatry can help work through these and teach you coping mechanisms.

Time Out

It’s important to spend at least a small amount of time each day on something for you. This might be meditation, a walk or having a bath. If you have a partner make sure they know this time is not to be interrupted except in an emergency.

Exercise

Depending on your preferences choose an exercise which encourages you to slow down, breathe and clear your mind or a high cardio activity like running or boxing which can release the built up energy. 

Journal

Many people find writing down their thoughts each day can help provide clarity and work through issues, if you are new to journaling these prompts might help. Gratitude journalling is also an option to help shift your perspective.


It's not always easy to stop feeling angry, but with some effort it is possible to get your anger under control so it doesn't negatively affect your relationship with your family.

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