If you are struggling with anger and you are directing that anger towards your spouse or perhaps even your children then now is the time to stop and get help. Living with an angry parent will hurt your child.
Dad.info asked three experts at Fegans to explain why anger damages children and to share their tips to stop anger in its tracks.
Vicki Bellman – a counsellor who works with Fegans as Deputy Manager in West Kent.
‘it’s ok to be angry, it’s not ok to be aggressive’
Angry parents can be overwhelming for children, as being scared by a loved one is confusing. Whilst it can be difficult to maintain our patience, empathy and resilience, it is important to work towards this, to avoid resorting to anger in times of stress or upset; children thrive in harmonious environments. We can do our bit to support our children in developing a good relationship with anger by modelling it ourselves.
Anger is a natural emotion – it can be a powerful motivator and source of energy, but when it gets in the way of our relationships and scares other people, it is unhelpful. A mantra I often share with children is, ‘it’s ok to be angry, it’s not ok to be aggressive’. The same mantra can be useful for us to remember – it’s natural to get angry, but it’s not ok to intimidate others by our emotions. As the adult in the relationship, we need to work hard to regulate our emotions, to show them how to do it. And remember, it’s important to say sorry when we’ve made a mistake – an apology to your children when you have lost your temper is part of resolving the situation.
Ian Soars – Parent Support Worker and CEO of Dad.Info
‘Children don’t do what we say…they do what we do.’
Home isn’t what makes children feel safe…it’s the parents. So if parents get too angry too quickly too often it can make children really insecure. Anger is the emotional equivalent of an earthquake shaking the house…everything suddenly feels unsafe.
It isn’t my proudest parenting moment, but I will share it here. I was having a shouting match with one of my children. As they got louder, I simply went louder still as I wanted to “win”… until, suddenly, my precious child erupted in tears. It didn’t look like a win and I didn’t do that again.
I work with parents all the time and you can see the pattern. Unfortunately, angry parents create angry children.
Think about this example in terms of how you speak to your children.
I had a parent come to me whose child shouted at them all the time, almost for no reason. We talked and it turned out that their parents didn’t so much “CALL” them for dinner but bellow. The parent realised that if they shouted up the stairs to their kids (i.e. for no real reason) then the children would do the same…for no real reason. The parent changed the way they communicated. They started to go up the stairs to announce dinner….and hey presto, their child shouted less as well.
Mary Fowlie – a counsellor and Fegans’ Head of Counselling
‘An angry dad probably had an angry dad’
Adults are role models for children, they copy our behaviour. If a child has an unpredictably explosive parent, they will learn to be hypervigilant and this causes chemical reactions which shape the brain differently over time. So next time you are angry, stop and take a moment and recognise that you’re getting angry. Learn some self-soothing techniques you can use before you “lose it” completely. I think this ‘poem’ written by Dorothy Law Nolte in the 1950s explains much you need to know about how to raise children in 2020.
CHILDREN LEARN WHAT THEY LIVE–Dorothy Law Nolte
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.
If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship, he learns to find love in the world.
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For more ideas about managing anger read these articles on Dad.info:
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