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At first, the question “Why do parents yell at their kids?” seems to have an obvious answer. It happens because children have a way of pushing all our buttons. They act out and test our limits almost every single day. Sometimes they just make parenting very hard and frustrating.
But to get the right answer to this question we need to dig a little deeper.
Because here is a truth that might feel hard to accept at first: It’s not the child’s behavior that determines if you are going to act on your anger or not.
It’s your ability to handle your own emotions that determines if you are going to handle a situation in an angry or calm way.
For me, this idea was difficult to process at first. It was hard to realize that my anger has to do with my struggle with handling strong emotions. It felt easier to put the “blame” on the child’s behavior.
But as parents, we have the responsibility to control our emotions no matter how our children behave.
I know that this seems very hard to do in those difficult situations when you feel frustrated and overwhelmed.
The good news is that realizing that managing your anger only depends on you also gives you full control in this process of becoming a calmer parent.
You can’t control how your kids act, but you can control the way you react to their behavior.
The Anger Iceberg
A great visualization that allows us to understand better how anger works is the Anger Iceberg created by the Gottman Institute. (you can check it out here)
This graphic shows how anger is only what we see at the surface. In reality, there are a lot of other emotions hidden under the surface that actually make us get angry.
The Anger Iceberg explains why the same situation makes us react differently depending on our emotional state.
Let’s say your child spills the milk on the table during breakfast. In a day when you feel relaxed, you would probably don’t give much attention to this and quickly help the child clean the mess. But if you are already in a hurry and you are worried that you won’t get out of the house on time, the same situation might seem infuriating.
Or let’s say that in the evening your child puts on a superhero cape and starts running around instead of putting on his pajamas. If you are in a good mood, you might find this funny and come up with a quick game to convince him to dress up for sleep. But if you get to bedtime already feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, you might feel like your child has no respect for your rules and get angry at him.
What hides behind your anger?
In many situations, parenting anger comes from a feeling of fear or powerlessness.
We get angry because:
- we feel overwhelmed when kids act out, and we feel like we have no control over their behavior.
- we feel powerless when children don’t listen to us despite our best efforts.
- we feel afraid that we are failing as parents when we see our kids acting disrespectful or defiant.
- we feel frustrated that we need to deal with the same power struggles over and over again.
Many feelings can hide behind our anger. Identifying these feelings is the first step towards letting go of your anger.
In many cases, parenting anger is also connected to our childhoods.
The way you were raised has a very powerful impact on the way you act as a parent, even if you don’t realize it (or even if you try to prevent this from happening).
If your parents used to yell at you or punish you often, all those repressed feelings from your childhood could affect your parenting.
You might see your child acting out and remember how your parents reacted to your disobedience as a child. Without realizing it, this might send you the message that the behavior must be stopped immediately or punished harshly, even if that is not the case.
Why is it important to discover what hides behind the angry parenting moments?
Thinking that our angry moments are just a result of how our kids act makes us powerless when it comes to becoming calmer parents.
We can’t control how children act when they feel overwhelmed by their emotions, but we can control how we manage our emotions.
Realizing that becoming a calmer parent is all about learning how to deal better with our negative feelings empowers us to make the positive changes we want easier.
The best resources that will help you become a calmer mom
If you want to start a journey toward becoming a calmer mom, here are the resources that made a big difference in my life:
- Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting – a wonderful book by Dr. Laura Markham (you can get the book for free when you join the course below)
- Peaceful Parent Happy Kids Online Course – a self-paced 12-week online program created by Dr. Laura Markham that gives you the tools and inspiration you need to parent with more peace, joy and connection. (This was the best parenting course I ever took, and it brought so many positive changes for our family!)
photos from depositphotos.com