It’s the little things

All parents get mad at their kids from time to time — it’s normal. A lot of parental anger comes from the constant little things that build up, and build up, until we blow a gasket. Most parents secretly wonder if their anger makes them a bad parent and fear that one day they’ll cross the line. Here are six things you can do to reduce your anger and frustration and still address the issues.


Role-Play really works -Look at what sets you off. Do you get angry because your child doesn’t seem to be able to put cause and effect together even though you’ve told her a million times “if you do this — then that will happen?” A young child’s brain hasn’t matured to the place where logical thinking is in place yet, that doesn’t begin to happen until age 7. Your job is to help her with this kind of thinking. Try role-playing the situation she’s having trouble with. Use dolls or socks puppets to act out the situation and find solutions while she watches. Let her chime in if she wants too. Role-play will take her through the logical thinking process since she isn’t there yet. If she isn’t cleaning up her toys, act out the problem. Show her that someone may trip over the toys and that would hurt and make them angry. If she’s a slow poke in the morning act it out, show her what happens when everyone is late. Maybe give her the job of telling people when it’s time to go; of course she has to be ready in order to do that.

Timing Parents need to remember what a child is capable of when they make requests. We know that young children can’t tell time, yet most of us say, “dinner is in 20 minutes, go play” and then get angry when he comes back in 2 minutes. Try using a toy clock with moveable hands and say, “When the clock looks like this, dinner will be ready” or say, “go listen to 3 songs and then dinner will be ready.”

Change “you” statements to “I” statements – A simple switch in words can produce big results. Shift your words from “you did this” to “I get upset when this happens.” The use of an “I” statement stops your words from feeling like a personal attack. When anyone feels attacked they immediately switch from listening to defending, and children are no different.

Use images to help a child understand the situation so he knows what to doEven though a preschooler can speak in full sentences does not mean he can comprehend concepts at the same level you do. That takes time and requires more development and can be frustrating for a parent. However, if you include images as part of the conversation it can go a long way toward helping him understand what’s happening. This is especially helpful when he’s overwhelmed with “big” feelings. Try saying, not yelling, “What does the look on my face say to you? What is your brother’s crying trying to tell you?” Using images that way shares clues that tell him where to look to see what’s going on with people. When he sees what others are thinking or feeling it’s easier for him to know what to do next and you’re less frustrated.

Try a signal instead of a word to keep you calmer – Another way to reduce parental frustration is to use a signal instead of talking. If a child takes a cookie without permission, reserve your anger and try a signal. With a firm look on your face silently extend your hand showing her she needs to give you the cookie now. If she runs away, silently, firmly, and with no anger, walk up and take her to timeout, even if she’s screaming. Tell her why you’re doing this and set the timer. Using a signal is a great way to reduce your anger while still sending all the information needed to your child.

Be good to yourself – I know you’ve heard this before, but taking care of your needs really does reduce how often you get angry at the little things. Take a bath, watch a movie, go on a date, and make it a priority for your sanity and the emotional health of your children. This also models that regenerating your energy is the best way to live a healthy life.


by Sharon Silver

Image courtesy of photostock /

Sharon Silver is the founder of ProActive Parenting, a site helping parents Stop Reacting & Start Responding. She hosts Ask Me and Getting to the Heart of the Matter @ Join her on twitter @Sharon_Silver & Facebook @Sharon.ProActiveParenting.Tips.