Everyone has been there at least once. Your child or partner does something that flips a switch inside you, and in a single moment you transform from a reasonable person to a ball of fury. Learning how to control and learn from your anger is a skill that can save you from reacting inappropriately with your family. In addition, watching a parent deal effectively with angry feelings teaches children ways to cope with their own emotions. Here are a few resources to help you learn about anger management techniques.
Expectations and Experiences From the Past Can Trigger Anger
One of the first steps toward learning how to control and defuse your anger is to uncover the assumptions and expectations you have of your children and the way they should behave. Often these expectations come from your own childhood. If you were raised in a family where children were expected to clear their plates before leaving the dinner table, you may find yourself feeling upset if your kids don’t want to eat what you serve them. Understanding how past selves influence current behavior is an important step in learning anger management skills. In When Your Kids Push Your Buttons: And What You Can do About it [Grand Central Publishing, 2004, ISBN 0446692859] Bonnie Harris shares lots of valuable information about how those “buttons” are created and how to overcome them.
Take a Time Out for Yourself
If you find yourself in a situation where one of your buttons has been pushed, try removing yourself from the situation for five minutes to allow yourself the time and space to cool down. This is especially helpful if you already use time outs with your children, and it can be valuable for them to see a parent using time outs as a way of calming down instead of a punishment. Before you begin, explain to your children what you are doing and why, then go to a room with a door that closes and take several deep breaths. Visualize yourself dealing with the situation without losing your cool, then go out and do it.
Remember That You Can Choose to Change
Angry feelings often arise when a person is shamed, criticized or feels trapped. Lashing out in anger or burying angry feelings may feel like the only option in the moment, but it doesn’t really change anything. The key to really changing behavior is to use emotions and feelings as tools and guides for learning. Angries Out is a great site with lots of essays and resources by psychologist Lynn Namka, and it’s a great place to start learning about anger management. If you are still having trouble with anger, consider having a few sessions with a counselor to talk it through.
Anger can be scary, both when it is happening to you or to someone you love. As scary as it is, it is also part of the broad range of normal human emotions. Anger can even spur on positive changes in your life when you manage it effectively. So take a look at your past, take a time out for yourself and learn more about anger management techniques so that you can keep a handle on your anger.
Originally published on Suite101.com on May 13, 2008