Have you ever felt guilty for yelling at your children for a minor mishap? Or felt like a bad parent for not being able to control or teach them? As it turns out, these feelings are completely normal.
Dr. Steven Stosny specializes in anger and how it affects relationships and families, and how it can sometimes lead to domestic violence. He recently wrote an article for Psychology Today describing how the anger we can often feel towards out children is actually a product of a feeling inadequate as a parent – and that’s a good thing.
Any time someone tries something new, like raising a child, it can be a struggle and the individual probably isn’t good at doing it. It takes time and practice to master it, and the motivation to keep it up comes for the simple desire to not be bad at it. The feeling of inadequacy that we often feel is so uncomfortable and powerful that it drives us to be better. When we have this feeling with our children, it makes us want to become a better parent.
Unfortunately, this feeling can often be confused with complete failure as a person, which can lead to anger. Anger can also be sparked when we blame our children for making us feel inadequate, when in reality they’re just trying to learn the ways of the world at the same time we’re trying to learn to be a parent. In some sad cases, this anger can lead to violence or child abuse when parents are forcefully trying to make their children change their behavior. So what makes some parents turn inadequacy into anger and violence while others turn it into motivation to become a better parent?
The answer seems to be self esteem, according to Dr. Stosny. When self-value is low, we are much more susceptible to feeling frustrated, irritable and angry than when we hold a high opinion of ourselves. This means that how we react to our children’s misbehavior is entirely dependent upon ourselves. It’s not to say you should never feel angry with them, because it’s a normal human emotion, but excessive and unnecessary anger in the family can lead to bad dynamics or violence. In addition, if we are better able to control our anger be regulating our self-value, then our children will model that behavior on their own, thereby learning to regulate their own anger better. And fi that’s not a good enough reason, higher self esteem has been shown to have significant benefits in other aspects of our lives.
In summary, sometimes feeling angry with your children is completely normal. It is a sign that you still have things to learn as a parent, and that you desire to be better for your children. Excessive feelings of anger, however, are unhealthy, and can be regulated for the good of your family.
Dr. Steven Stosny’s full article can be read here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201508/anger-our-children