Google+ Authentic Parenting: Anger: 10 Ideas on How to Stop Reacting and Focus on Responding

Friday, August 10, 2012

Anger: 10 Ideas on How to Stop Reacting and Focus on Responding

It’s nearly impossible to parent and not get angry at some point. Sometimes, as parents we must deal with quite some annoying, difficult, stressful situations. It's not unusual for parents to feel angry.  Sometimes in anger we react. Sometimes we react badly!


A few weeks ago, it was taking longer than usual for the kids to go to sleep. I thought I had finally settled everyone and then I heard the pitter patter of my four year old coming up the stairs..."I can't sleep!" he offered with a sweet smile.  It was the end of a long day and I needed time for myself, and was not keen on settling four kids into bed yet again. I wanted to yell "go to sleep...now!!!!!!"  I started off in a bad direction, I crinkled my forehead and said, "you know I am so tired of.." but before I could go any further I realized something.  I was reacting...not responding!

Often, it is stored anger and stress that trigger reactions, strong reactions that we later regret. It can feel really difficult, nearly impossible at times to overcome the urge to react with yelling or threats and consequences... Just like children get angry and need an outlet for their anger, adults need outlets too.  Anger is a complex emotion and we simply should not ignore it!

While there isn't really a quick fix, learning to stop reacting in anger and start responding instead to our needs, our child's needs and reduce conflict is possible! Here are several ways to cope with anger and stress:

Write it out:  write down all the things that are bugging you on a piece of paper. Just being aware of what is making us angry or stressed is a great first step. This doesn't need to be a detailed account, even just jotting down key words works well.

Unload: find someone that  is willing to listen to you. Someone that will really listen, not judge or try to fix your problems but simply listen so you can get whatever is bugging you off your chest. If parenting is bringing you a lot of stress, it's really ok to seek someone out that can help you sort out your thoughts on parenting and the challenges that you are facing. If you have a friend that is willing to truly listen great! Otherwise, finding a counselor or coach and meeting with them once a week or once a month can also be very helpful.

Learn to pause: a huge distinction between reacting and responding to our children is that when we react, we do it immediately, with our first thought. This can be great in situations of danger or urgency. But in non-urgent situations when we can pause, evaluate our options and then respond instead of react, we can consider all sides of the story and create a plan of action that is going to work for everyone involved.  Just because we are pausing, It doesn't mean we should suppress our anger.  We can acknowledge our feelings and then take our own time in to sort our feelings. It's like a time in for us parents, and very much something we can model for our children.

There are many situations where taking a break before responding are in fact more advisable then regretting your immediate reaction.

Learn some breathing exercises: Long steady refocusing breaths are essential when faced with a toddlers and preschooler who just dumped out a bottle of glue...short breaths can be very grounding. Another great breath exercise is to breathe in like you are smelling a flower and then blowing out a candle. Often in a moment that is challenging, breathing can really guide you back to a place that is calm so you can respond instead of react. 

Stick to your limits but don't engage in an argument that is going nowhere:  It is great for children to have and exercise critical thinking, yet,  a back and forth of twenty "but please, I want it" and "I said no" is not going to help anyone.  State your final decision and then help your child move on, they may need to cry, be frustrated or cope with anger of their own, that is all fine, but don't engage into back talk or everyone's frustration will escalate into anger with no resolution in sight.

Exercise:  This is another great way to release anger and maintain inner harmony. Many people find that a daily run or long walk is very centering.  Yoga and meditation work wonders for me. Making time for yourself, even if it seems impossible is really important. By taking time for yourself, you are also modeling the importance of self-care to your child. 

Rethink the motives:  Chances are that whatever is making you angry may not be that terrible to begin with. Often children act in ways we deem badly but really they are just exploring or expressing a need. If we rethink the motives, baby is crying because he has a belly ache, not to drive me nuts....Johnny  just spilled the glue because he is curious, not because he wants me to spend 30min scrubbing it away... plus we can clean up together…Rethinking helps us respond to the actual need and not react to how it made us feel.



Nourish yourself:  It's tough being a parent...lack of sleep, sometimes no time for one self...hurried meals…rest and a healthy diet are so important. It may feel unrealistic with a newborn and toddler to find any time to rest, but really ignore the dishes and the dust and make resting a priority. Encourage your children to play independently, find activities that are low key but engaging and find ways to rest, eat regular meals and try to take small breaks.

Accept help:  If you are really finding yourself reacting at every little thing, it’s ok so seek out some help. It may be help in the form of a baby sitter so you can get that rest, it may be a cleaning person so you have less on your to-do list, a friend with whom you can swap child care or just a cup of coffee and some laughs while the children play... maybe you can get your partner or family a little bit more involved.  Which ever way you can accept help is worth it!

Finally, having a glass of wine while soaking in a bubble bath, practicing positive alternatives to traditional punitive parenting like giving choices, adjusting expectations and striving for cooperation and harmony can really reduce the amount of struggles, stress and chances of anger festering.


Learning to respond instead of reacting is not about ignoring emergencies or becoming permissive, but rather trusting that learning can take place at a moment when everyone is actually ready to communicate; that place rarely lies in anger. 

Do you ever feel so frustrated, stressed or angry...which of these ideas might work for you?

Peace & Be Well, 

Ariadne

Ps - Come join me at the Positive Parenting Connection Facebook Page!


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16 comments:

  1. This is great. I've been reacting angrily pretty consistently with my 5 yr old, and I am having major mama guilt. I know it's because I have life stress going on as well as ongoing issues with my husband, and my poor little guy bears the brunt of my frustration. I will be saving this and re-reading it, but I love the practical/practice suggestions and I THINK I can do this. Thank you. Annie

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    1. Letting go of that guilt is tough, but go ahead, and move forward if you can!! I am so happy to read that this may be helpful to you :)

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  2. This was a much needed reminder for me today. Thank you!

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    1. Tacey, so happy to hear that it may be helpful! Thank you for reading.

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  3. I love the words reacting and responding to describe how we deal with anger. I will think of this next time I am in this situation. Thank you.

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    1. thank you sustainablemum! I often can ask myself "ok am I reacting or responding here?" works wonders!!

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    2. Oooo, I love that: Reacting or Responding. Going to share that....
      ~sheila

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  4. Love this! Thank you - have shared on my blog: http://theawakenedparent.org/2012/08/11/sharing-saturday-5-11-august/ and on Pinterest too :) x

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    1. Thank you for sharing it!!will check out your sunday sharing!

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  5. Love this article! I love the practical tips, the forgiving tone, and the real life example. My family has been under a lot of stress lately and we've all been doing a lot of reacting. I'm really looking forward to putting some of these techniques back into action. Thanks!

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  6. Kellie - stress is such a huge factor ins't it! I hope these ideas are helpful to you, thank you for sharing your thoughts :)

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  7. Thank you for this article, it's exactly what I needed right now. I'm going to bookmark it so I can read it again.

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  8. I very much enjoyed reading this piece. I have been reacting horribly instead of responding to my wonderful boyfriend and it's time to change that. Even though your example was mainly children it's made me see I have been acting childish and its time to grow up. Thank you for shining light into my darkness.

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  9. I very much enjoyed reading this piece. I have been reacting horribly instead of responding to my wonderful boyfriend and it's time to change that. Even though your example was mainly children it's made me see I have been acting childish and its time to grow up. Thank you for shining light into my darkness.

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  10. I very much enjoyed reading this piece. I have been reacting horribly instead of responding to my wonderful boyfriend and it's time to change that. Even though your example was mainly children it's made me see I have been acting childish and its time to grow up. Thank you for shining light into my darkness.

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  11. Thank you for this post. The desire to respond vs. react is always there, but the pause doesn't always come so easily. It is great to have techniques to work towards the ability to respond more. I find that when I do the above things (exercise, time for myself, mantras, pausing for perspective, etc.), the situation rarely merits what would have been my initial reaction and I stay much more connected to my daughter. Thank you!

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