How Not To Be The Angry Parent

To read  this in Spanish, please see here:

Are you ever an angry parent?

Conflict is a part of life, and anger is not a BAD emotion – it is just a feeling like other feelings.  However, many parents choose to discipline their children when they are angry or hurt.  Some parents choose to hit their children when they are angry.  Hitting a child is wrong, (if you need an argument for this please see this post: )  and when we lose control and responsibility for our actions when we are angry we lose that teachable moment.  A  split-second action in anger can also cause a parent to have remorse and guilt.  It can necessitate an apology!

Instead of losing control, I would like to talk to you today about how not to be the angry parent.  I personally believe the number one reason parents get angry with their children is that their children “are not listening.”  Many times this happens in conjunction with having to complete something on a tight time table.  Sometimes it just seems as if the child is endlessly negative, or the temperament of the child in conjunction with the parent leads to a fragile relationship between the child and the adult.

However, aren’t children supposed to be immature?  Children are noisy, messy, and yes, often immature.  Otherwise they would be born as adults and age backward, right?

I believe anger issues actually are OUR problem, the parent’s problem.  Usually we are trying to do something in a tight time frame, we are carrying in baggage from our own childhood (“I NEVER would have talked to MY parents that way!), we are tired and stressed out over things that may or may not even have to do with that child, we are carrying unrealistic expectations of that child’s behavior, or just in general our needs are not being met.

In the heat of the moment, what one needs is the ability to calm down.  This may entail taking a “parent time-out”.  Many parents complain about this because they are ready to explode, they are trying to get away to calm down for a minute, only to have  a screaming child follow them!  Ah, that  youthful immaturity again – an adult probably would give you the space to calm down whereas a child may not!

What do you do then?

My personal vote is to go outside.  I pull a lot of weeds in yard when I am angry, and that helps me calm down before I do something stupid.  My children can be out there, but will often give me a bit of space in an open area (as opposed to going into the bathroom with everyone yelling and screaming on the other side of the door!). 

The question becomes:  What do we want our CHILDREN to do when they are angry and how can we model that for them?  If we walk around yelling and slamming doors, how can we be surprised when our six-year old does that?

After you are calm, hopefully you can return to the situation and work to solve the problem. Help the child, guide the child.  Breathe in and breathe out.

Patience is developed over time.  I am certain I am more patient with this third child than I was with my first child.  Learning to relax into parenting and how to let go of the mentality that every single thing must be addressed so the child will not become a Detriment To Society is also learned.  Set a timer and see if you can keep your patience for half an hour if that is where you are, and work up from there. You can do this!  Fill your own tank so you have something to give.  Get your children into a rhythm with an early bedtime so you have time for you and time for you and your spouse. 

Most of all, be thankful.  Go look at your children while they are sleeping, those small faces, realize how very little ages three, four and five really are.  And in this time of dwindling light and moving into darkness, work to cultivate yourself as a light for your family.



29 thoughts on “How Not To Be The Angry Parent

  1. Another great post, Carrie! I’ve definitely been the parent who loses it from time to time (“That’s it! You’re grounded!”) Like you say, it never helps anything and sure doesn’t model what I want my children to do when they’re angry.
    It is so helpful to remember how little they really are — even my dear 14-year-old has a lot of growing up still to do.

  2. Carrie,

    THANK you so much for this one, of all the voices I am reading and have read you have possibly the most gifted and gracious balance of incisive observation, true compassion, unaffected humility and the ability to instill hope in a flailing parent instead of the desire to beat oneself up about one’s failings…
    THANK you thank YOU THANKYOU!!! :))

  3. I have struggled with this. I’m happy to say that now, using something very similar to what you describe here I am a much less angry parent.
    And to see sometimes how angry I can get at something that is often not important has made me very glad I firmly believe in not spanking children. I know that if I had thought it was okay to spank I would often have done it in anger and not as a considered parenting strategy (which is what I am now developing).

  4. Brilliant. Not just because they make a whole lot of sense, but also because you have discussed a topic often pushed aside – anger. I mean, who wants to admit to *that* – aren’t we all perfectly patient? (wink).

    Thank you for confronting this with such wisdom – it’s going in my book of inspiration!

  5. Thank you for this post, it was lovely. Often I will sneak into my childrens’ rooms after they are sleep and stare at their angelic faces. Any anger or frustration I might be holding onto melts away in that moment. They are such blessings, and their childhoods fleeting. This was a great reminder to enjoy it while we can.

  6. i love this post. thanks for bringing up the anger involved in parenting. i have been doing some inner work around this and have realized that i was once again slipping into the trap of judging my own parenting based on my children’s “behavior” at times. what a slippery slope! and one that it is best to not be on at all. i can’t even tell you the weight that lifted once i was aware of what i was doing and able to clear it right out of my system. i am sure i will struggle again but for some reason it felt timely to read this post right as i was going through this little mini breakthrough…

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  8. Carrie, this is beautiful, insightful, and extremely helpful. Your posts always seem to come at the right time. Soon I may have calm children, calm family, and a well-weeded yard! =)

  9. Thank you for this post. I like the idea of going outside. I have tried the locked door method of taking a few moments to breath and, you’re right, it usually just results in more frustration as my daughter stands outside the door and screams! Recently, my husband had taken the door off of our bedroom to paint it, and, in a moment of great frustration toward my daughter, I made a big deal of putting the door back on in order to lock it (picture me going to the basement, hauling the door back upstairs, finding a drill, dropping screws– well, you get the idea!). When it was all over, I felt very immature. I will definitely try going outside next time.

    • I had to laugh regarding your description of going to get the door, etc. 🙂 Anger can drive us to do things where we look back and think, now why would I have thought this was a good way to handle it??!!
      The best part is, though, with practice we can reign ourselves in..

  10. I wish I can show this to my dad…he’s so angry all the time, and the more he yells at me (or even if it’s just to remind me in a condescending, strict way to do something that’s good for me), I want to do that thing even less.

  11. Carrie,
    Hi, Your post was good and very soothing at the end. I am trying to find ways to deal with my anger which is more of a flash anger thing but I usually send my child to his room. He is 9 and is just a slob and I try to be consistent and tell him to pick this or that up or even tell him to stop what he is doing and come and put the dropped cheese wrappers on the living room floor in the garbage….. but there are times when it just gets to me. …..But someone told me once that if you walk out the door .. the child might think you are leaving them and (inside think you are abandoning them)(and what if someone got hurt inside when you were outside?)
    I watch the Nanny and I try to be consistent with the discipline but he is just oblivious so many times….but I do need to get this under control. (I never hit but I sure can yell)
    Thanks D

  12. you got it…word for word. thank you thank you….i think you might have saved our family!
    arohanui from new zealand

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  14. Carrie – Rosemary is spot on here… there are so many sites out there that just leave me feeling like a worse parent rather than making me feel like I can do this.

    Also – though I am now (shock, horror) 39 years old, I have memories of feeling like Alicia. And at times, since my parents live so close, still feel that way toward my 67 year old mother… who I still see as controlling. My “baggage from [my] own childhood” is that there are times I still respond to her very much like a rebellious teenager. I somehow need to forgive her (which is something that I have to do and re-do, often daily). And, then the bigger step… I need to change my reaction to her and try to think of her statements and inquiries as helpful concern rather than disapproving and controlling.

    I’d love to see more posts about trusting oneself as a parent.

  15. this information ive just read,,,i think is going to help me,,,,ive been feeling as though i cant cope with my 7 yr old son,,,,,i dont know how to control my anger

    • Great Paula -so glad you are here!! There are many, many more posts on anger in parenting, and we are currently looking chapter by chapter at “Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma”/

  16. Thanks Carrie for sharing the tools. I will continue to align my compass. i needed this right now.


    Father of 2

  17. my situation is very difficult at the moment to say the least, i left my ex 10 years ago and subsequently my four boys stayed with dad, in 2009 the ex got another partner and the relationship broke down between the ex and his youngest son who is 12, he then came to live with me after ten years of just ‘visisting’, which dont get me wrong im extremely happy about, he moved in with me in January of this year, and its been a struggle which is made worse by the fact that his dad has basically disowned him and will not see him ever, as he also has a new baby now on the scene . this women basically belittled my son at every turn and the father did not do anything about it, i feel guilty because i did not do something sooner. i have just got my degree as a nurse and am working full time, and juggling everything else an ailing mother with mental health problems and a sister with special needs, i feel overwhelmed by everrything in general, my son generally is well behaved which is a surprise really with the issues he must feel surrounding the loss of his dad and moving away from his brothers and friends, how do i cope with his attitude at times he is so defensive and trys to be older than what he is, when we argue he constantly states that he is bad and thats what he has always been like, i know this is not true because on the whole he is a loving polite funny boy, i just dont know how to deal with conflict with him i am finding myself dreading inforcing rules in case we argue and then we both lose out tempers, i am trying very hard to support him and give him a more stable upbringing that i myself never had .

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