It’s the beginning of summer and already some of us are wondering what we’re going to do with the kids home all summer. Long, lazy days can be fun and relaxing at first, but by mid-July, you might feel like you are going to blow if their rooms don’t cleaned up, they don’t start helping with chores and especially if they are whining about being bored. You might normally be a calm and reasonable person but our kids somehow possess the ability to trigger angry responses like no one else can. It’s important to remember that parental anger can have lasting and harmful effects on children. The child looks to the parent for a sense of self and when that person is calling them names, speaking disrespectfully or condescendingly or is exhibiting any kind of physical violence, it’s unsafe, demoralizing and hurtful to the child’s self-esteem.
As a responsible adult, you have the power to control and change your negative behavior before it results in a breakdown of your family life and have long-term detrimental effects on your child’s personality. If your angry behavior is starting to become an ongoing struggle, it might mean it’s time to learn new skills or take a refresher course to help you redirect and manage your responses. Investing some time in anger management classes for parents, parenting programs or 1/1 therapy are all helpful ways to get back on track to become the parent you would like to be.
Some quick tips to think about are as follows:
1. Set rules and boundaries at the beginning of the summer so there isn’t a question of what you expect from your kids. Have a family meeting to set up a chore list, reading list, acceptable bedtimes and whatever else you want to get done during the time off and that you perceive might grate on you. When the limits aren’t being followed, stop what you are doing and restate the rules before things unravel too far and you get angry.
2. Give yourself a time-out. When you find yourself losing it, walk away. Go for a run or a walk around the block, take a shower, or run an errand before you respond. Tell your child that you will talk to her when you’ve calmed down. Respond to the situation after you’ve had some time to think about it clearly and come up with positive solutions to the behavior.
3. Breathe, laugh, exercise. What helps you to quickly calm down? Have a go to list of ways to get yourself under control before lashing out. Try counting in your head to 30, taking 10 deep breathes; think of something funny, or a happy memory. Remind yourself that this moment is not an emergency and it too will pass.
4. Avoid making threats. Nothing undermines your authority more than saying things that you don’t follow-through on. If you say you are going to take away all electronics, do it. No playdates for a week? It’s harder on you, but it’s the only way the kids will learn to change their behavior in the long run. When you don’t enforce your punishments, the kids learn that you don’t really mean what you say, so there’s nothing for them to worry about.
5. Watch what you say and how you say it. When you speak calmly, it shows you are under control and gives you more power. Speak respectfully to your kids, the same way you would want them to speak to you. Using highly charged words or “always” and “nevers” creates unnecessary drama, is hurtful and is an ineffective of way of communicating with the ones you love.