Holidays can be tricky, so perhaps a good time to think about parenting anger! Every parent & carer gets angry sometimes & conflict is a natural part of family life. The important thing is how we make up again, or ‘repair’ our relationship with our child. Understanding our own anger & helping our child make sense of it, is a useful part of repair. This is especially so for a child with an insecure attachment, for whom any conflict immediately becomes all about the relationship & their fear of losing you.
Dan Hughes identifies 3 main types of parenting anger:
Bad hair day – when it’s just an ‘off day’. It’s important to recognise when your patience is low & accept it. Own the anger, accept responsibility, & acknowledge it (I’m having an off day so it’s going to be hard for me to be patient with you). A child can accept this if they can then understand they aren’t being blamed.
Oops – when you’re caught off balance, that sense of ‘where did that come from?’ Acknowledge it, apologise & explain that the strength of anger wasn’t about what your child did but about you.
Appropriate, developmental – there are times when an angry response will be justified. Some behaviours from your child can’t be minimised & need an honest response. This is generally when your child is hurting someone. Save this sort of anger for the big issues & it will have more impact.
This anger needs to be short, specific & controlled. Specific to behaviour – e.g. ‘I am angry because you hurt the dog. I am going to keep our dog safe like everyone else in this family. If you have a problem with the dog, you let me know.’ Talk fast & loud & move on. This avoids triggering shame.
Try to calm & repair quickly. Don’t use relationship withdrawal as discipline. If you need a minute to gather yourself, let your child know you’ll be back soon & reduce fear of abandonment.