Is It Wrong For Me To Be Mad At My Child?
Updated: Mar 18, 2022
Children can easily push a parent to feel frustrated, overwhelmed, or annoyed—but is it okay to be angry with your child?
Our children cause us to feel the entire spectrum of emotion, everything from joy to sadness to irritation to pride. Parenthood is a roller coaster, and no one is exempt from the ride. However, is it okay to get angry with your child?
Feeling Angry Doesn't Make You a Bad Parent
If you're a parent of a child of any age and say that you've never gotten angry at your child, you're either a saint or you're just plain lying. It happens to all of us and for a variety of reasons. Some of us have naturally short fuses, some of us are struggling with anxiety and overstimulation 24/7, some of us have way too much on our plates, and some of us just have such rambunctious kids that something is bound to go wrong on a regular basis.
Anger is a normal emotion, and it is okay and healthy for you to allow yourself to experience it. You are not a bad person for having negative feelings towards your child sometimes. You're human, they're human, and we're all flawed and drive each other crazy at some point or another. It's just part of life. You are responding perfectly reasonably when feeling irritated when your little one decided to "wash clothes" just like you do but instead threw all of their socks in the toilet.
You're allowed to feel whatever emotions another person causes to arise within you, but you need to be responsible with how you choose to inform that other person of what you're feeling. This applies to both children and adults.
How You Express Your Anger is What's Important
You can get angry every single day if the situations call for it, but what's most important is what you choose to do with that anger. Obviously, lashing out at your child verbally, physically, or even indirectly is not an appropriate way to express your anger and frustration. You should never choose to speak or act harshly to a child for any reason.
If you're struggling to contain your emotions and feel as if you may say something or do something harmful towards your child, remove yourself from the situation. Being overwhelmed with negative emotions to the point that it affects your self-control is not a time to interact with a child. Take a moment to cool off, come back, and then calmly address the situation.
Additionally, there's a difference between being firm and being cruel. Using strong and serious tones (and even a loud voice) with your child when scolding and redirecting them—especially if they've done something particularly dangerous or harmful that could have resulted in very serious consequences—is much different from openly berating them in the midst of your own anger and not actually addressing the situation itself.
It can be difficult not to react intensely when your child has done something foolish that's nearly caused harm to themselves or to a younger sibling. Even if you react appropriately numerous times to absurd or scary situations with your kids, it's only normal to slip up at times when you're in a state of panic. You are not a bad parent because you freaked out when one of your children put themselves in a dangerous situation.
However, if you're reacting with adrenaline-fueled rage over something like your kid breaking the television or something else that can be replaced (even if it will financially inconvenience you), you need to re-evaluate your priorities and work towards gaining some self-control over your emotions.
If you accidentally slip and yell at your child when they wriggled out of your grip and nearly ran in front of a car, scaring you to death and making you angry at their foolish behavior, no one can fault you for losing all control when your baby could have nearly just met a very horrible end. The panic is real.
If you're rage-screaming at your kid because they spilled red Hawaiian Punch all over the back seat of your car, just remind yourself that there are worse things that could happen. You can at least replace the car or just clean it up.
Keep your priorities straight. Kids are going to do infinite annoying, messy, frustrating, and destructive things. You'll need to adjust your expectations and emotions accordingly.
Opportunities to Communicate About Emotions
Getting angry or feeling overloaded with any emotion actually provides a great opportunity to healthily express your feelings to your child to help them begin to learn the concept of empathy.
Clearly, this is limited depending on a child's age and maturity level, but letting your kid know that you feel emotions too and how their actions may contribute to you feeling certain ways is a great method of helping them learn to empathize with others and become aware of how their words and actions will affect those around them.
These are also good opportunities to encourage open conversation about their own emotions and what activities, experiences, and situations cause them to feel certain ways. The earlier you can help your child communicate these issues and become aware of their own feelings and behaviors as well as those around them, the better.
Empathy is invaluable.
Are You Struggling With Your Emotions?
If you're a parent who is genuinely struggling with your emotions, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to have a good support system and receive proper help when needed.
Make sure you have friends or family that you trust that you can speak to when you're overwhelmed, sad, or angry.
If these aren't options for you, don't be afraid to seek out the help of a licensed counselor. There are plenty of remote, online counseling options available out to find you a professional that meets your own specific needs and schedule. Personally, I recommend the good folks over at Betterhelp. They have something for everyone, whether it's just someone to talk to, help for a specific situation or relationship, or professional guidance for those of us who struggle with certain psychological disorders.
If you're at the point where you feel unable to handle life's burdens, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or you can also use their online chat service as well.
Be sure to take time to care of you as well as your kids. You can't be the best possible parent if you're run into the ground, overwhelmed, and barely able to function.
Lastly, subscribe to our newsletter to make sure you never miss an update, including our upcoming posts on How to Take Care of Yourself When You're a Busy Parent and The Importance of Teaching Your Child Empathy.