How to Connect With your child After Losing your Temper

What Happens to Your Child When You Scream or Hit

Consider your spouse losing his or her cool and yelling at you and hitting you. Consider them three times your size, towering above you. Consider how much you rely on that individual for your food, housing, safety, and protection. Imagine that they are your only source of affection, self-assurance, and global information and that you have nowhere else to turn. Take whatever emotions you’ve evoked and multiply them by a factor of 1000. That’s similar to what happens to your child when you’re upset with him.

Of course, we all become upset with our children, even outangerd at times. The goal is to summon our maturity so that we can regulate how we express our anger and therefore reduce its harmful consequences.

Anger is frightening enough. Because the kid is reliant on the parent for his sense of self, name-calling or other verbal abuse in which the parent talks disrespectfully to the child has a more personal impact. And children who are subjected to physical aggression, such as spanking, have been shown to have long-term detrimental consequences that affect every aspect of their adult lives, from lower IQ to tumultuous relationships to a higher risk of drug misuse.

If your small child appears unconcerned with your anger, it’s because he or she has witnessed too much of it and has evolved defences against it — and against you. The unpleasant outcome is a child who is less inclined to desire to please you and is more susceptible to peer group pressures. That implies you’ll have to perform some repairs. Whether they express it or not — and the more we become angry, the more guarded they become, and thus the less likely they are to exhibit it — our anger is scary to our children.

6. Apologize to Your Child When Necessary

One of the greatest gifts you can give your child is knowing when to admit you’ve done something wrong and to apologize. Some parents struggle with this, thinking that if they do this they are giving up their power or showing weakness.

But ask yourself what it is you want to teach and model to your child about grown-up relationships. Surely we want to teach our kids the importance of an apology when they’ve wronged someone. There’s nothing more powerful than a parent admitting their faults and offering a sincere apology.

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4. Let Go of Parenting Guilt

For most parents, the worst part about losing our temper is how we feel afterward. Losing our tempers with our kids can lead to significant parenting guilt. And we can’t turn the clock back and undo what we have just done.

Parenting guilt itself can lead us to parent ineffectively in the future. Parents who harbor guilt often have difficulty holding their kids accountable in the future.

Related content: Am I a Bad Parent? How to Let Go of Parenting Guilt

It is important to realize that all parents do things that they regret. After all, we’re only human. So, give yourself a break, and don’t let your guilt about past actions keep you from parenting effectively in the future.

How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids

Here are a few things to do when you feel like you are going to lose your temper… and while the “just breathe” method works, I  wanted to introduce you to some other ideas that you can try today to stop losing your temper with your kids:

1. Feel a Watchful Eye

Parent like someone is watching you.

Really.  

You will see how much differently you act.  You will follow all of those “parent rules” like consistency, calmness & being firm, but fair… all the ones that you know you should be following.

2. Take Out the Personal

Pretend that it isn’t your child.  

If you were their teacher, not their parent, how would you react.  I taught for many years and never once yelled at a child.

3. Teach Instead of Yelling

Be the teacher, not just the rule enforcer.  Show them what you expect and explain why.

4. Pre-empt Your Temper

Recognize when you are going to lose your temper and stop it.  

Are the kids getting louder?  

Are the toys getting messier?  

Is dinner running behind?  

Recognize it and fix it before it escalates to losing your temper.  It is usually a lot of little things that equals one big explosion.

5. Replace Your Yell with Your Inside Voice

Speak quietly instead of yelling.  The calmer and softer you speak, the more impact your words will have.

6. Adult Time Out

Give yourself a time out.  

Walk into another room for a few minutes.  Let yourself cool down and then walk back and address the problem.

7. Get Some Rest

Get enough rest.  

Our kids get cranky when they are tired… why would it be any different for the adults?

8. Gain Perspective

Think long-term.  If you do this “______” now (Yell, talk rudely, etc…) how will it be remembered by them tomorrow, in a week, in a month?  

Don’t break their spirit because you lost your temper.

9. Exercise

Exercise. You have to get your stress and frustrations out and working them out is the perfect way to do it.

Plus, you are setting a great example for your kids. They need their wiggles out and so do you!

10. Consistency All The Way

Be consistent.  This is huge for your kids.  

They need you to be consistent so they can know what to expect.   It is the hardest part of parenting, in my opinion, because there are so many different instances that can allow for inconsistency.

11. Positive Reinforcement

Start with a positive.  “You are normally just so sweet, but it hurt my heart that you just raised your voice to me” or “I love you, but I don’t like that behavior.”

12. Stress Techniques

Try squeezing a stress ball when you get upset.  They really work and many therapist and councilors suggest them.

13. Grab the Talking Stick Gently

Try using a “talking stick”  when you get mad.  When  the child  is talking, they are holding the stick and have your full attention for a minute, then switch.  Let your child explain what has happened & then give yourself a chance to explain why you are upset up it.

14. Quiet the Argument

Don’t get into a back and forth argument.  It only escalates the problem and won’t result in a good outcome.

16. Firm, but Fair

Remember: firm, but fair.

No, your kids won’t remember that day that you were late.  They won’t remember that they couldn’t find their shoes or that they couldn’t find their homework, but they will remember how you reacted, because they will learn to react the same way.

17. Set an Example

They will mimic you, try to be like you and learn from  you.  

Remember that right now, at this moment, your kids are being just like you.  Be the example that would make anyone proud.  Be the parent that you want your children to be in thirty years.  You are a wonderful parent… (if you weren’t you certainly wouldn’t be reading this), so let your kids see that side of you.

How To Stop Losing Your Temper With Your Toddler for the Long-Term

The questions I provided above will give you a good start at identifying where your triggers originate, when they are most likely to flare. Reflecting and re-feeling these past moments of anger will help you move beyond them, to a place of calm responsiveness. You’ll see that behaviors that made you rage once upon a time will no longer cause a big expression of emotion. 

These work well with the self-care strategies I recommend below. Together, you will be able to model calmer expressions of your limits and boundaries, and increase your connection with your toddler. You will feel less anger, and will be able to handle the anger you feel or your toddler feels without losing it. 

3. Your toddlers behavior isnt for no reason

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase.

I can’t remember how many times I complained to my husband, “He just threw a fit for no reason!

In the heat of the moment, it may seem like your toddler erupts out of nowhere. He might be perfectly fine, but will suddenly hit his brother on the head. Or he’d been in a good mood all day when he’ll throw a fit about getting in the car seat.

Now I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as “for no reason.” There’s always a reason—sometimes it just takes a little digging to discover what it is.

It might be that he had a rough day with other kids at preschool, something you wouldn’t know if he doesn’t say anything. He could be afraid of a television show he watched, his fears surfacing hours or even days later.

And it could be as simple as not having his basic needs met. He might be hungry for a snack, sleepy for a nap, or needs your attention.

We all have bad days, and even we can’t always pinpoint the exact reason we feel down. The same is true for our kids.

On that note, check out No Fits, Nelson! by Zachariah OHora all about helping your child calm down when things go wrong:

How to Reframe Anger for You And Your Toddler And Turn Things Around

Conscious, connected parenting invites you to reflect on how you model self-regulation to your child.  By the time we become parents, we develop a strong working memory, but how about inhibitory control and mental flexibility, all elements of executive functioning skills? What happens when we feel triggered? 

Unless we ask ourselves these questions, we will be unable to self-regulate in the heat of the moment. 

Anger is a powerful emotion and can be scary due to its explosive, volcanic and seemingly destructive nature. Parents who were not allowed to show their anger as children often find they can have a hard time embracing their toddler’s anger. The pain of being reminded of your own (old) anger triggers a response to reject, deny or stop a child’s anger, likely generating more anger, more resentment and more frustration in the child. 

In this way, the generational curse of emotional un-safety is passed on. 

Working through our own feelings about anger and reframing it as valuable emotion is helpful. 

Remember, anger is healthy. It can signal a perceived threat to physical, emotional or mental safety. And anger lets us know that we want to protect something that’s important to us, such as our body, our mental space, our personal values, our principles or an idea. 

Teaching toddlers how to safely express anger gives them a foundation for feeling empowered so they can learn to fearlessly protect themselves as they grow older. The only way to teach our children executive functioning skills is to model them ourselves. 

Executive functioning skills are highly desirable in our society. They reflect a well-rounded individual who can manage their emotions and make good judgements that are win-win for everybody. But managing our emotions in the heat of the moment is difficult, even for parents who practice mindfulness or meditation. 

Is My Temper Hurting My Child?

Over the years I’ve heard and seen some pretty horrific ways parents have lost their temper with their kids. I won’t share the worst of them with you, but here are some examples.

  • Thrown their child across the room
  • Pulled appliances out of the wall in anger at them
  • Thrown their phone at them (or a guy I work with last week threw his daughters $1,500 phone in the swimming pool)
  • Punched holes in the door and walls of their kid’s room
  • Screamed with spit flying 2 inches from their child’s face
  • Implemented punishment that is extreme (“You’re not going to Disneyland tomorrow”)

Many parents will apologize sometime afterward and believe this fixes it. While this is very important to do, damage has already been done that can’t be eliminated with a “sorry.”

I’m not suggesting that we should only show our kids positive emotions, That’s not real, honest or helpful for them. They need to see that all emotions are okay, even the negative ones, but they also must see them managed appropriately.

Despite what many people think, anger is not a bad emotion. It helps us, tells us something’s wrong, keeps us safe, motivates us, and benefits us in other ways, yet too much of it is also a problem.

Your temper can be harmful to your child for several reasons. It can:

  • Make them fear you
  • Lead them not to trust you
  • Cause them to walk around on eggshells around you (or as one mom put it, “Don’t poke the bear”)
  • Make them question what’s wrong with themselves
  • Damage the development of their self-identity

I have been with my partner for 8 years and we have a 7 and 3 year old. He has always been quick to fire up with his temper but its steadily getting worse and worse. When he loses his temper now he has started smashing things around the house. When we argue we go round in circles same things all the time. I get frustrated as nothing I have said that is a problem changes. When I try and bring anything up he just starts shouting and name calling and then the aggressive behavior starts. He says he is aggressive as I have said I can’t do this any more and that I should leave him alone when he is like that – trouble is he will go upstairs or away and that is it for the night, won’t speak about it. If I try he starts again and says for me to leave and start smashing things again – but nothing is ever getting sorted. He blew up about disciplining our child. I didn’t agree with the way he dealt with a situation. He started screaming, shouting, name calling again and went upstairs for the whole night. He was never like this at first – if he doesn’t get his own way he has a mood. It’s the worst with me, but he loses his temper with the kids several times a day. Our 7 year old can be pretty defiant and they get into it constantly. Yesterday he was screaming at our son because he spilled cereal on the floor. He’s 7!! I have previously been in a violent abusive relationship and can’t believe this happened again. He says he is scared of losing us but I don’t know what to do – even after the worst night when neighbors called the police he said he was sorry, but I should of left him when he got like that and I was baiting him standing there. All I did was stand there and just ask him calmly to calm down to avoid this situation. He kicked table over and smashed stuff against the wall – even then he was saying it was my fault for not leaving him. This was a result of an argument but I didn’t think I was causing an argument, I was trying to have a discussion. I just don’t know what to do.” -Ridhi

What do you think the long-term effects could be for these kids of their dad losing his temper at them several times a day?

5. A good track record doesnt mean your toddler is perfect

One of my biggest temper triggers is, surprisingly, after my kids have been behaving so well.

You see, when your toddler has been doing what he’s supposed to, it’s easy to get upset when he hits a toddler sleep regression or makes mistakes.

Except, you guessed it—it’s normal to regress and make mistakes. You and I do, all the time. It’s unfair to get mad at him for the one time he spilled the plate of food on the way to the dining table when he’d been doing so well up to that point.

Ask yourself: Do you give him grief for throwing a tantrum at bedtime, forgetting that he hasn’t thrown one in months? Do you lose your patience when he has a potty accident, never mind that he’d been using the potty so well all this time?

You can see where I’m going here. He’s bound to behave in ways you’d rather he not—even when he’s been behaving so well. In fact, harping on that one misstep can send negative messages about how to respond to mistakes.

Instead, correct the behavior and move on. He should see mistakes as learning opportunities instead of feeling penalized for the few times he didn’t put the toys back in the toy box.

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