All parents, even those who try to always be involved and concerned for their kids, erupt on their children from time to time.
Especially during the pandemic, with all the time spent together at home, fewer boundaries and more screens, the children are bored and restless all the time around us. You try to keep all the balls in the air: home, relationships, work and in the end find yourself pushing things off, you feel less efficient and sufficient, you’re late even for zoom meetings and then suddenly your son remembers having a task to do for Family Day tomorrow and in the background his sister is screaming and that’s it! You erupt!
First, it's important to know that you're not alone, 98% of parents have tantrums in front of their children, especially when the children are preschoolers.
Although kids are annoying, that's not why you’re angry. The kids’ outbursts may be the trigger, they’re probably the straw that broke the camel's back, but the reasons for our storm aren’t related to them; they’re connected to our interpretation of events and the fact that we sometimes react more dramatically.
We see our child's behavior (he’s hitting again) and we jump to conclusions (he’ll end up in prison) which triggers more conclusions ("I failed as a parent") and here begins the wave as unbearable feelings of fear and guilt attack us from all sides and the good defense is attack, so we explode on them, shout, erupt. It happens very fast .The whole process takes less than two seconds.
We will survive. Our brain responds to a trigger, sometimes it recognizes the situation as an "emergency" and the child as an enemy, then physically we enter a state of "fight or flight" as hormones flood the body, causing our muscles to contract, our pulse rises and we breathe rapidly. At that moment we feel a huge urge to act, to react, to "teach a lesson" - but it’s anger that speaks and not logic. It’s important to delay the reactions and not hit when the is hot. You can still teach your kids what you want them to understand after the rage passes, and it will be much more effective. After all, your kids aren’t going anywhere.
When we show self-control in front of our children in moments of anger we protect them from the monster that comes out of us and equally important, we teach them an important life lesson, to take responsibility for their reactions, to be aware and responsible for their feelings and to know how to communicate respectfully.
Accept it, anger is a fact of life, it must be acknowledged and prepared for.
The good relationship at home isn’t connected to a sudden change in human nature, so give up the fantasy in advance and instead of trying not to get angry, try to control the expression of your anger, reactions and behavior
Tips to control anger
This is an early sign.
Every person has a personal red line. Recognize what your red line is.This is in advance when you’re "warming up" and may lose control. Does noise ignite you? Quarrels between siblings? Mess at home? Maybe it's a certain hour around the morning or evening get-together. You’ll usually find consistency and a regular pattern.
Decide to relax
You recognized the early signs, met the red line, made a conscious decision to act differently. Remind yourself that this isn’t an emergency, that your children need love especially when it’s difficult for them, that you want to teach them self-control and respect. By the way, it's really okay to say it to yourself out loud.
If possible walk away and do something else
Remember that feeling angry doesn’t last long, soon the storm will pass and logic will come back to you. In the meantime go make coffee, it’s much harder to lose control with a cup of coffee in hand. Go out on the porch, wash your face, put on a song you like, and even smile forcefully since this sends a message to the brain that we’re not in an emergency.
And in the same context, the fact that you stepped back doesn’t mean that you gave up on your principles or that the child "won;" it just means that you’re a model of self-control and respectful attitude. Soon you’ll return calmer and can solve the problem together.
You didn’t succeed - apologize
Sometimes you can’t cope and you’ll get angry and scream. Find the strength yourself to apologize and open a new page, to say something along the lines of: "I shouted too much and that was scary, I didn’t mean it and next time I’ll try harder.”
Our children live in the "here and now", they perceive the world in a concrete way and they really need to hear us say that it’s passed, that we’re no longer angry.
Dana Amar is a Certified Behavioral Analyst, MA in Special Education, a lecturer and an expert in family development.
This article was written in partnership with the JAMA parenting app.