Anger is a common and natural emotion when it comes to raising children, but how you handle that anger can have long-lasting effects on your kids. Often, outside factors play a role in parental anger, and experts say it behooves parents to take a step away from their anger before lashing out at their kids.
While occasional yelling is common in U.S. families, frequent rage-fests equate to emotional abuse that can be as damaging as physical abuse, according to the American Psychological Association. Quoting a study from 2001 of nearly 1,000 families, the APA says that yelling makes children angry and frustrated and rarely causes them to think about their actions. Instead, try giving warnings and reminders without threatening your child and telling him what he should be doing rather than what he shouldn't be doing. The APA emphasizes that it's normal for parents to get angry, but it is important for them to recognize that anger and work through the emotion positively.
If you yell at your child or hit him in anger, he will start adopting defensive behaviors according to Clinical Psychologist Laura Markham, who writes Aha! Parenting. He will close up around you and others and start looking to his peer group for a sense of self, as opposed to trusting you. He will be less likely to want to please you, Markham says, because he will be conditioned to think it's not possible or, at the very least, unlikely. He will rely on his own imperfect judgement and retaliate against his parents instead of coming to them with problems.
If a child is frequently the recipient of her parents' rage, she begins to lose perspective on the many missteps she's bound to make in life, according to Ask Dr. Sears. If she spills something or does her schoolwork wrong, she might emotionally break down because she never knows what will cause that anger to be directed at her. Little mistakes begin to take on huge roles in her life, and she may not be able to separate herself from her actions. She could start casting blame on herself for every gaffe, and, having not been taught how to deal with negative emotions calmly, she could have a breakdown over them at any time.
If you continually rage at your child, he may begin to suffer self-esteem issues in the long term. If your disappointment with his actions is confused with anger and resentment toward his person, your child will grow up feeling that he's worthless and deserving only of the irritation you've shown. While your anger may be justified, try to emphasize that you are not angry with the person your child is, but rather with the behavior he is showing. Separate his actions from his being.
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