It is normal to feel angry, but uncontrolled parental anger can have serious negative effects on children, including poor mental, emotional, and physical health.
A parent may express their anger by losing their temper, yelling at their children, or being physically, verbally, or emotionally abusive.
Parents may feel angry for a range of reasons. Feeling tired, dealing with daily responsibilities and demands, and attending to the needs of a child can all make it harder for people to stay patient.
Coping strategies can help people manage their anger and respond to triggers more calmly.
In this article, we look at the effects of parental anger on children and the strategies people can use to control their anger.
Parental anger can have severe effects on children.
Children may blame themselves if a parent is angry. And parental anger may cause a child to feel stressed, which can affect how their brain develops. Growing up around anger is a risk factor for mental illness in later life.
Parental anger may result in emotional or verbal abuse toward a child. If a parent says hurtful things to a child out of anger, the child may think it is their fault and develop feelings of worthlessness.
Children may respond to angry parents with negative behavior, rudeness, or aggression. Children may also become ill, withdraw from others, or have difficulty sleeping.
If anger turns into physical violence, it could seriously harm a child. Shaking, hitting, or throwing a baby could cause severe injury, disability, or death.
Punishing a child physically can also negatively affect them later in life, possibly resulting in:
- antisocial behavior
- low self-esteem
- mental health issues
- negative relationships
Parents may experience anger around their children for various reasons.
Parents may shoulder significant responsibilities and demands, including:
- taking care of family members
- managing household finances
- doing household chores
- running errands
This may leave them feeling stressed or overwhelmed, making it easier to lose patience and become angry.
Children may not cooperate or do as a parent asks, or they may behave rudely to a parent or others. These behaviors could trigger anger in a parent. A child may also take longer to carry out a task than a parent feels they have time for.
A parent may feel anger due to a partner or other adult in the household. For example, people may disagree about parenting styles, discipline, or household chores.
People may also feel frustrated or angry if they have other pressures on them, such as stress related to work, sleeplessness, fatigue, physical or mental illness, or money problems.
These issues can make it harder to remain patient and calm when responding to the needs of a child.
People may also experience postnatal rage after giving birth, which may be due to a range of factors such as fluctuating hormones, sleep deprivation, and the impact of parenthood.
One of the first steps to controlling anger can be recognizing the signs of anger. These can include:
- feeling agitated, annoyed, grumpy, or tense
- tensing or clenching muscles, such as those in the jaw, shoulders, or hands
- a racing heart
- a churning or tight stomach
- breathing faster
- having negative thoughts
Once people recognize the signs of anger, they can take steps to calm down and prevent themselves from expressing their anger to their children.
Ways to do this include:
- explaining to a child that they are beginning to feel angry and need to step away for a few minutes to calm down
- focusing on taking long, deep breaths in and breathing out with a sigh, and repeating this until feeling calmer
- counting to 10 slowly, and repeating this until feeling calmer
If a person is able to leave their child somewhere safe, they may be able to remove themselves from the situation for longer to calm down. They could try:
- taking a warm shower to relax the body
- walking outside to get some fresh air
- meditating or practicing mindfulness or deep breathing
- finding a quiet space to be alone
- exercising or doing physical activity, such as going for a run, gardening, cleaning, or doing a house project
- doing an activity that they find soothing, such as painting, listening to music, or reading a book or magazine
Once people feel calmer, it can then be helpful to reflect on the situation.
People may be able to identify what triggered their anger and whether there is a solution to the situation or a way to cope with it positively in the future.
Certain techniques may work better for some people than others. People may want to try different strategies to find what works best for them and what situations commonly trigger them.
People may experience other emotions alongside anger, such as guilt or shame for losing their temper.
People may find it helpful to connect with others going through similar challenges. Talking with others in a safe, nonjudgemental space may help people manage their emotions.
And taking steps toward managing anger may help people navigate guilt or other emotions. People could try writing down triggers for their anger and any actions they could take to manage their response to those triggers.
A person can practice self-compassion and realize that factors such as sleep deprivation and work stress can greatly impact their emotions.
If people have lost their temper with their children, they can talk with their children about it and explain why they felt angry.
People can apologize for losing their temper rather than for feeling angry. Anger is a natural and common emotion and is not always negative. How a person expresses their anger is what matters.
People can let children know what a better way to handle the situation would have looked like, such as walking away to calm down. This helps children learn a more positive way of dealing with anger.
If people are struggling to control their anger, they may need to talk with a healthcare professional.
A person can start by speaking with their doctor, who may refer them to a counselor or psychologist.
There is a range of support groups and anger management classes, including online options, that can teach people coping strategies.
People can also use the following online tool to find a local marriage and family therapist (MFT).
Parents may experience anger around their children for a range of reasons. Anger is a normal emotion, but expressing it negatively can have serious effects on children.
Parental anger can have negative effects on a child’s mental and physical well-being that may continue into later life.
Learning techniques and strategies for managing anger can help prevent parents from losing their temper around children.
If people are struggling to control their anger, they can contact a healthcare professional or support group for help.