Know your early warning signs

Often anger feels like it takes us by surprise. But there are lots of physical signs that anger is building up. If you recognise when you’re starting to get angry you can begin to calm yourself down. Early warning signs include:

  • breathing faster
  • heart pounding
  • getting hot
  • tensing up
  • clenched teeth

What to do when you’re about to lose it

You can calm yourself down quickly using these simple steps:.

  • Tell your child you need a minute to calm down. Reassure them you’ll be back.
  • Move away – somewhere you can still hear your kids are safe.
  • Breathe - deep breaths help to slow down your heart rate and calm you further.
  • Count to ten, sing, jump – use that energy up in safe ways!
  • If you’ve calmed down, give yourself a pat on the back and go back and talk to your child.

Having a bad day?

When you’re feeling wound up, it’s a sign that you need to take action. Here are some tension-busters that have worked for other parents.

  • Exercise helps reduce stress. Try grabbing the pushchair and taking the kids for a quick walk round the block.
  • Play a silly game or talk in a funny voice – humour is a great way of releasing tension and making everyone feel better.
  • Drink a glass of cold water. It only takes a minute and helps you cool down and re-focus.
  • Put on some music and sing or dance
  • Phone a friend, or a helpline (eg RU OK 0800 456 450 or Skylight 0800 299 100)

Already lost your cool?

Nobody’s perfect – and most of us have had times when we snapped or lashed out at our kids. When you do, it’s important to say you’re sorry and talk about how you both can do better next time. This doesn’t mean you’re weak. It teaches your kids that no one behaves perfectly all the time, not even mum or dad.  But that we all need to take responsibility for our own behaviour.

Identify your triggers

Everyday life can be very stressful for parents. What’s really making you angry often has little to do with the way your kids are behaving. Actively managing your own stress levels and knowing your triggers can help you to deal with your anger better, so you don’t fall into the trap of taking it out on the kids. Common anger triggers include:

  • money problems 
  • alcohol and other drugs
  • job or relationship stress
  • taking on too much
  • lack of sleep
  • no time to yourself

Do any of these sound familiar? What about you, what are your anger triggers? Is there anything you could change or deal with better?

Need help?

If you’re regularly losing it with your kids, it’s a sign that you might need some outside help. Yelling and swearing at them every day is not OK - for them or for you. Emotional abuse might not leave bruises but it still damages kids, and can lead to a range of issues in later life.

You might feel embarrassed, but remember it is OK to ask for help.

Talk to someone you trust, a family member or friend, your doctor or maybe try one of these helplines.

Are You Ok 0800 456 450
Skylight 0800 299 100
PlunketLine 0800 933 922
Lifeline: 0800 543 354
Parent Help 0800 568 856
Parent2Parent- 0508 236236 (support for parents of children with special needs)
Depression – 0800 111 757
Citizens Advice Bureau 0800 367 222

When your kids are angry

Angry kids can often become angry adults. So it’s really important to help them learn how to handle their feelings, especially the scary or angry ones. Here are some tips to try:

  • Always acknowledge their feelings. Start off with something like “I can see you’re feeling…(angry/annoyed/frustrated) …but it’s not okay to pull your brother’s hair.’
  • Be clear about what behaviour you expect and be consistent with consequences
  • Try to remain firm but fair – and stay calm so you won’t feed their anger 
  • Make time to talk about how they feel and how you feel – eg happy, sad, scared. This helps them to recognise what they’re feeling and understand that not all emotions are about anger. 
  • Try to have some special time with each child every day, even if it’s just 15 minutes.

Teasing – harmless or not?

Teasing might seem like fun but kids don’t always see it that way. Embarrassing or shaming kids, or letting them do it to each other is a form of bullying. It damages their self-esteem, increases anger and makes it more likely that they will bully others. Make your home a ‘no shaming’ zone.