Anger Management: Strategies for Parents and Grandparents

Parenting and grandparenting can be an emotional roller coaster. Although you're filled with love for your kids and grandkids, caring for them can also be scary, frustrating, and sometimes downright infuriating. But no matter how riled up you get, it's important to control your anger around youngsters.

The importance of managing anger

It never feels good to rage at someone you love, especially a child. And although anger is a completely natural and healthy emotion, research shows that frequent, uncontrolled anger is associated with heart disease, digestive disorders, insomnia, and other health problems. It's also linked to family violence and aggression.

Anger management can help you deal with your child or grandchild in a kind and constructive way. It also sets a good example of how to handle challenging situations and work out conflicts.

Woman holding a small child

Anger management strategies

When you feel like you're on the verge of losing your temper with a challenging child, rely on anger management strategies to keep your anger from boiling over. 

First, try to calm yourself with relaxation techniques, such as:

  • Slow, deep breathing

  • Visual imagery—picturing a relaxing scene

  • Repeating a relaxing word or phrase in your mind

Next, try action steps that can help you to manage the heated situation:

  • Talk calmly and listen. Make sure that you communicate clearly and check to see whether the child understands you. Remember to listen carefully to what he or she is trying to communicate to you.

  • Be logical. Children, particularly young children, probably aren't trying to make you angry. You may be able to let your defenses down if you stop to realize that the child is not out to get you.

  • Don't make generalizations. Avoid remarks like "you never clean your room" or "you always leave a mess." Be sure to acknowledge and praise the things that your child does well or correctly.

  • Be aware of an impending storm. If your heart starts pounding or you tense up and clench your teeth just before you're about to lash out in anger, use the time-tested strategy of counting to 10 before talking. Figure out what's getting you riled up and try to respond thoughtfully. If you're still about to explode, leave the room until you calm down.

  • Try to use the word "I" instead of "you." This will help make the situation less confrontational. For instance, say "I feel frustrated when you do X because ..." instead of "You are making me crazy."

  • Don't let yourself get defensive. Even if your child criticizes you, don't start a fight or criticize in return. Try to understand what's really bothering him or her, and ask questions calmly to try to resolve the issue.

  • Use some humor. Laugh, get silly with your child, or do some mock wrestling. But don't engage in hostile teasing or make jokes at your child's expense.

  • Give yourself a break. Don't confront your child or deal with a problem when you're already stressed or exhausted from a long day at work. Take 10 to 15 minutes to relax, calm down, and do something you enjoy before you tackle a taxing problem.

Taking the long view

Anger management strategies aren't just for use in the heat of the moment. Doing daily meditation or yoga may put you in a calmer, more accepting frame of mind in general. Getting in more exercise can help you relieve some of your everyday stresses so that you can be more relaxed when you're with your children.

Parents and grandparents who can't control their anger and are suffering from relationship problems with children may want to seek professional help for anger management. Health care professionals can help you learn the skills you need to better communicate with children and change any negative thought patterns.