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How to Handle Being Angry at Your Kids

Learn how to handle being angry at your kids from anger management expert Dr. J. Ryan Fuller in this Howcast video.


I'm Dr. Ryan Fuller and I'm going to talk to you a little bit about how to manage anger when the anger is directed at your children. So, at first, I think it's very easy for us to judge ourselves, maybe even judge other parents when we talk about being angry at our children. This is a very, very common clinical problem. In fact, if you look at anger across the board, the most common trigger for anger are going to be those people in our families.

So, it makes perfect sense that parents are going to get angry, frequently, with their children. With that said, it's a serious issue. It's obviously related to child abuse even though that's rare, and we want to take it seriously and seek out professional help when that's necessary. So in the case of anger directed at a child, there are a couple things to keep in mind.

First, it's really critical that children have very clear understandings of what is expected of them and what the rules are. Likewise there need to be consistent contingencies, and what I simply mean is parents have to consistently, if a child breaks a rule, notify that child what has occurred. Explain what has happened and what the next steps will be, whether it's some form of punishment or just an explanation, so that the child has very clear, predictable ideas about how they're going to be treated in that environment relative to the behaviors they engage in. That alone is going to help, hopefully, reduce anger triggers for the parent.

The second piece, though, is having realistic expectations and thoughts about the child's capacities. So, oftentimes we see that we sort of believe children are thinking the same way that we are about situations, and what we know is that their development in terms of their frontal lobe and things like that, in terms of planning, foresight, and thinking through consequences, just is not the same as an adult's. It doesn't necessarily mean we want to lower the standards. We want to make sure that our expectations or what the standards are realistic for our child, and we want to sort of set gradual, realistic goals for them to be reached, with consistent, as I mentioned before, consistent contingencies for them, so that they can grow and succeed. We want to engineer success for them and be patient as they go along the way. It doesn't mean we want to be passive. You don't. We want parents to be authoritative, to give clear rules, and enforce them consistently. We don't want them to be punishing children out of something emotional like anger. We want punishment to come if it's going to be the case because a rule was broken that was established beforehand and the child understands the reason. We don't want punishment to be coming from anger.

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