Anger Management

 “Don’t vex about an event the event does not heed your vexation” (Marcus Aurelius)

Picture the scene – you’re in the kitchen preparing tea and the kids are in the sitting room playing happily.   The playing progresses to a bit of a game of chase around the downstairs of your house.   As they run through the kitchen you saysomething like “be careful this floor is a bit slippy in your socks” – but they pay little attention and carry on running around.    Most parents face this situation on a daily basis and often there are a couple of ways this progresses:
  1. You get louder and more anxious/aggressive sounding in your warning
  2. You carry on with your cooking, the kids carry on running around and eventually there is a crash/mishap to which you react angrily saying “I told you to be careful!”

Either way your stress level goes up and your kids will feed off that letting the stress make them more worked up and agitated in their playing or they will do something else but feeling that dad is always cross/angry/shouting.

It’s hard not to – it’s the easy natural thing to do.  Couple with this perhaps you’ve stresses from other parts of your life and perhaps you’re not getting as much sleep as you should be your temper becomes shorter.

But neither option is good for you or for your relationship with your children.

The best way I think to approach any aspect of your life is to treat it as a series of learning events and not to expect to do everything perfectly every time.  In fact you can learn so much by failure and you shouldn’t beat yourself up when you do.

Treat everything as a way to increase your Wisdom that you should perhaps hold dear as one of your key values.

One key aspect of the Stoical approach to life is to increase your awareness of your reactions and feelings in certain events.  To recognise unhealthy emotions and practices.

Children are like little sponges feeding off their environment and a large part of this is the behaviour and interaction with their parents.  So while of course like a lot of things it’s a lot easier to write down and a lot harder to do in practice, for a healthier child and family (and parent) it’s imperitive to try to remove negative emotions from a situation.   So as your kids run around (which they are naturally going to do!) perhaps if you are able to take brief time out from the meal preparation/cooking engage with them to try to gently move them on to another activity, or even better if you can plan ahead and have them doing that before you start cooking.  Or if you can’t take time out then perhaps ask them (in a non-anxious way) to come and have a look what dad or mum is doing in the kitchen (to distract them).

If none of these techniques or others prevent things escalating to outcome number 2 above (the mishap…) then the last thing you should do is react angrily.  Your kids need to feel safe and cared for.  You should be able to go to them and first of all make sure they are ok rather than flipping out and yelling “I told you to be careful”.  Once things are calmed you can speak to them in a quiet and relaxed manner so they understand why you had tried to warn them and why they need to be careful.  After that perhaps engage them in what you’re doing so they understand why it has taken your attention away from them in the first place.  View things in terms of the bigger picture – you want your kids to feel loved and not to think of you as short tempered and shouty – so if it means you have to take your eye off the cooking it’s only a meal whereas making your kids and building their character is much more important.

Like I say it’s not an easy thing to do and I get it wrong a lot.  But be aware of it, accept things as practice so next time you can try a different approach.