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Angry Parents And What Can You Do

Inherently, anger is a normal emotion, but it becomes problematic when it becomes intense, frequent, or, most importantly, manifested in behavior like aggression, avoidance, and withdrawal. When the anger in parents becomes a source of distress to self and others, it is time to seek help.

Parent With Anger Issues

Parenting can be a challenging and frustrating experience, and there can be many situations that understandably cause parents to feel angry. For example, children may skip homework, disobey instructions, lie, steal, show disrespect, act entitled, or disregard safety.

But when anger outbursts escalate into aggression or impact a parent’s physical well-being, it becomes a serious issue that needs to be addressed and managed effectively.

Anger is associated with various negative behaviors that often have negative psychosocial and interpersonal consequences.

angry parents scolding girl sitting on floor
  • Aggression – Anger has been linked to various forms of aggression, like family violence, child abuse, road rage, and murder​1​.
  • Automobile accidents – Highly angry drivers report more car accidents, aggressive driving, and intense and frequent angry feelings​2​.
  • Compromised immune system – Anger increases one’s vulnerability to illnesses, compromises the immune system, increases pain, and increases the risk of death from cardiovascular disease​3​.
  • Pain intensity – Anger suppression is linked to higher pain intensity and blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke​4​.

Effects on children

Intergenerational transmission is the most profound impact of anger on children.

Angry parents raise angry children​5​.

As these angry children grow up and have children of their own, adult children use aggressive parenting practices, resulting in their kids’ anger and aggression.

It becomes a cycle that passes from generation to generation.

Aggression in children and adolescents is associated with antisocial behavior​6​, substance use, and delinquency​7​.

Perhaps the most problematic about parents with explosive anger is that it can develop into couple fighting, spouse abuse or child maltreatment. 

Parent rage can sometimes result in verbal abuse towards their children, including name-calling and derogatory language, even when the child has not done anything wrong. This type of behavior can hurt the child’s self-esteem, potentially causing them to develop feelings of low self-worth​8​.

Anger Management Obstacles

Readiness

The first impediment to anger management is the parent’s readiness​9​.

Parents’ readiness refers to their willingness to work on changing this.

Parents prompted to seek anger management help by others are likely to have low readiness.

Without parental commitment, anger management techniques will be less effective.

Co-morbidity

Angry parents often struggle with more than just anger management. 

There is a clear link between anger and issues such as substance abuse, personality disorders, family dysfunction, and mental illnesses​10​.

These conditions will likely weaken treatment readiness.

The effectiveness of anger management classes alone can also be reduced by conditions such as psychopathic or personality disorders.

Authoritarian Parenting Style

Authoritarian parents are associated with parental rejection, anger, and lack of warmth​11​.

They tend to believe children misbehave because of their own choice rather than because of extenuating circumstances. Making negative attributions may make them feel hostile toward children and more likely to derogate them.

These parents are rigid and are less likely to recognize the harm caused by their chronic anger​12​.

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What To Do If You Are An Angry Parent

Kudos To Your Commitment

First, kudos to you for recognizing the issue and taking the initiative to want to make a change. 

Willingness to change is an admirable first step, and committing to it is a wonderful gift for yourself, your child, and your family. 

Not only will it make you happier, but it will also lead to a healthier and more fulfilling family life.

Prioritize Self-care

Anger can be difficult to manage when you have many responsibilities and stressors in daily life​13​

One way you can help yourself manage anger is through self-care, which involves taking time to focus on your own physical, emotional, and mental well-being.

Self-care can reduce stress and anxiety, improve mood, and increase feelings of well-being. When parents take care of themselves, they are better equipped to handle the challenges and stressors of parenting, including managing their anger.

The best way to reduce stress and maintain your emotional health includes

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Spend time with loved ones
  • Engage in hobbies and activities that are fun and fulfilling
  • Exercise
  • Do not over-schedule
  • Work on reducing family stress

Identify triggers

To manage anger levels effectively, one needs to recognize it when it begins to surface. Identify the triggers that tend to lead to the emotion of anger.

For example, some parents may be triggered by disrespect, not being listened to, or lacking control over a situation. 

Find out the underlying causes

Reflect on why those situations make you angry. Does it relate to your own childhood experiences?

Behavior patterns and reactions to stressful situations can often be traced back to early childhood experiences.

Some common causes include

  • Unrealistic expectations
  • Lack of flexibility
  • Lack of perceived control of the situation
  • Feelings of being wronged or treated unfairly​14​

Reappraise the causes and intention

It’s common for people with high anger traits to automatically place blame on others for triggering their angry reactions. They also tend to attribute others’ actions to bad intentions, increasing feelings of hostility and negative interactions​15​.

If you’re committed to taking control of your excessive anger, it can be helpful to try to see the situation from the perspective of others and avoid feeling like everyone is out to get you.

By stepping back and trying to understand the thoughts and intentions of those around you, you can develop a greater sense of empathy and work towards resolving conflicts more positively and constructively.

Develop and Practice Coping Strategies

In addition to reappraising the situation, develop strategies to help calm and control yourself the next time a trigger occurs.

Before the trigger presents itself again, practice the strategy.

For instance, take slow, deep breaths to calm yourself, and practice them now so you won’t be caught off guard the next time a trigger occurs​16​.

Seek Professional Help for Co-morbid Issues

While the steps listed above can be effective in helping parents control and reduce their anger, making significant changes in behavior can be challenging to accomplish on your own. 

Professional support from a family therapist or counselor can be invaluable for parents struggling with anger management​17​.

Mental health professionals can address other underlying mental health issues, such as depression or anxiety, which may contribute to anger and frustration.

Therapy can also provide a safe, supportive environment to explore your difficult feelings and experiences, learn healthy communication techniques, and develop stress management strategies.

It can make a significant difference in your life and the lives of your loved ones. Commit to building a healthy family.

References

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    Deffenbacher JL, Lynch RS, Filetti LB, Dahlen ER, Oetting ER. Anger, aggression, risky behavior, and crash-related outcomes in three groups of drivers. Behaviour Research and Therapy. Published online March 2003:333-349. doi:10.1016/s0005-7967(02)00014-1
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    Suinn RM. The terrible twos—anger and anxiety: Hazardous to your health. American Psychologist. Published online 2001:27-36. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.56.1.27
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    Bruehl S, Liu X, Burns JW, Chont M, Jamison RN. Associations between daily chronic pain intensity, daily anger expression, and trait anger expressiveness: An ecological momentary assessment study. Pain. Published online December 2012:2352-2358. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2012.08.001
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    Lynne-Landsman SD, Graber JA, Nichols TR, Botvin GJ. Trajectories of aggression, delinquency, and substance use across middle school among urban, minority adolescents. Aggr Behav. Published online November 30, 2010:161-176. doi:10.1002/ab.20382
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    Rudy D, Grusec JE. Authoritarian parenting in individualist and collectivist groups: Associations with maternal emotion and cognition and children’s self-esteem. Journal of Family Psychology. Published online 2006:68-78. doi:10.1037/0893-3200.20.1.68
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    Howells K, Day A. Readiness for anger management: clinical and theoretical issues. Clinical Psychology Review. Published online March 2003:319-337. doi:10.1016/s0272-7358(02)00228-3
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    Müller-Isberner R, Hodgins S. Evidence-based treatment for mentally disordered offenders. In: Violence, Crime and Mentally Disordered Offenders: Concepts and Methods for Effective Treatment and Prevention. ; 2000:7-38.
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    Coplan RJ, Hastings PD, Lagacé-Séguin DG, Moulton CE. Authoritative and Authoritarian Mothers’ Parenting Goals, Attributions, and Emotions Across Different Childrearing Contexts. Parenting. Published online February 1, 2002:1-26. doi:10.1207/s15327922par0201_1
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    Timpano KR, Keough ME, Mahaffey B, Schmidt NB, Abramowitz J. Parenting and Obsessive Compulsive Symptoms: Implications of Authoritarian Parenting. J Cogn Psychother. Published online August 2010:151-164. doi:10.1891/0889-8391.24.3.151
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    Maan Diong S, Bishop GD, Enkelmann HC, et al. Anger, stress, coping, social support and health: Modelling the relationships. Psychology & Health. Published online August 2005:467-495. doi:10.1080/0887044040512331333960
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    Törestad B. What is anger provoking? A psychophysical study of perceived causes of anger. Aggressive Behavior. 1990;16(1):9–26. https://psycnet.apa.org/record/1990-22246-001
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    Sanders MR, Pidgeon AM, Gravestock F, Connors MD, Brown S, Young RW. Does parental attributional retraining and anger management enhance the effects of the triple P-positive parenting program with parents at risk of child maltreatment? Behavior Therapy. Published online 2004:513-535. doi:10.1016/s0005-7894(04)80030-3
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    Beck R, Fernandez E. Cognitive Therapy and Research. Published online 1998:63-74. doi:10.1023/a:1018763902991

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