Why Do We Get Angry With Our Kids?

by David Durovy, Editor-in-Chief, Post Parenting Toolbox Series
(If It Doesn't Work, Don't Do It Louder)

Our 19-year-old adopted son has an almost imperceptible window of tolerance. It is small. Tiny actually.  Anything and everything seems to push him into anger. We are sick and tired of his angry responses. Give us a break, oh Lawd!

To be honest, son only has 3 difficult times during the day: waking up, going to bed and everything in between. But it is the anger that makes us angry. So I begin to wonder, “Why do we get angry with son when we know he is going to respond with anger, and 9 out of 10 times not do what we ask? Is anger the most powerful tool we have in our parenting toolbox? Is it the only tool we have? Is it just the last straw that we run to when all diplomacy fails and we don’t want to start a physical war? What would happen if we did not get angry? And why on earth is our anger ok and son’s is not?

It’s not like anger sneaks up on us unannounced. Sure, we all have our moments when some trigger throws us into a raging maniac (well, at least I have) and we stand by speechless wondering where that came from. Most times we see the progression, which starts somewhere in our stomach or face, with neutral to irritated tonality, volume increases (if it doesn’t work, do it louder), followed by repeated instructions, then onto shame, blame and threats, finally if no action by child, punishment, physical touch, grab, shove or worse.

I have my reasons and excuses about being sick and tired of being sick and tired, and after 14 years you’d think that son would finally get that dad & mom love him, etc. But what is, is. I with my small brain cannot seem figure out that a storm is coming. Son gets angry (yellow flag-Red Alert, Danger Will Robinson, Danger),  so being sick and tired of being sick and tired I get angry and voila—the storm comes. Darn that kid, can’t he control his anger any better than that?

So I wonder, why do parents get angry? Why do you yell at your kids even when you know that it doesn’t help or heal. Why? If we adults can’t control ourselves, how can we expect our traumatized kids with faulty wiring to do any better? I have my suspicions, but I’d like to hear from you.

Let us know why do you get angry with your kids, and what's your secret to "doing better/yelling less", or is yelling just ok with you?

Comments

  1. I never ever want to yell at my kid but sometimes when she just doesn’t listen and I’m already tired or frustrated about something or under pressure from someone I end up yelling at my kid and it hurts me so much when she complies after I’ve yelled. I end up crying and apologizing to her and doing something to make up to her instead. What I try to do is to make sure I don’t let tensions from other places and people get in between us. When I’m with my daughter I don’t think about other things in my life and that actually helps me remain so much more calm and happy even when she’s “rebelling”.

  2. I did not learn to yell from the way I was raised. My parents are very calm people who never raise their voices. I think the reason I started yelling was out of fear — fear of losing control of the situation and not knowing what to do. When I was a kid, the absolute worst thing that anyone could do to me was yell at me. Even now, I just shut down if someone yells at me or confronts me angrily. I think the yelling started out of desparation. I knew that if someone yelled at me for doing something, I would have never, ever done it again. It didn’t work that way with my kids though. In fact, it seemed to feed their misbehavior. Over time, I have learned to do a much better job of keeping myself calm — at least externally. I don’t yell nearly as much as I used to, but it still does happen when I am exhausted and one of my kids pushes me too far. I still have a long say to go.

    • Bryan Post says:

      So what is your secret – how do you “do better” or “not yell”?

      • I think just realizing that yelling is so very damaging helps. I have to frequently rehearse in my mind the responses that I can give other than yelling. If I don’t, I will forget them in the heat of the moment and will start to feel helpless and out of control. Sometimes, I just have to step away and breathe! That is easier now that my kids are older. When they were younger, it was harder to remove myself from them.

  3. I find that a trigger for me is feeling like I have the responsibility to do something, but not the power to do it. It tends to throw me into a panic, and it’s in those panic moments I lose my temper. I have been given the responsibility to take care of daughter, and to teach her how to live in the world, and she fights me every step of the way on both. I don’t have the power to make her learn what I’m trying to teach! Another trigger is feeling trapped in the situation. It triggers my fight or flight response. If she were anyone but my child, I could just walk away from her, and leave her to the consequences of her choices, but I am stuck with this responsibility I can’t fulfill, and my lizard brain takes over.

  4. I yell because I grew up yelling. Yelling was the only way to be heard in my house (heard, but not necessarily successful). I sometimes think that if I yell loud enough, or look mean enough, things will finally change with my kiddos.

    And you know what else – sometimes, yelling just feels good. There, I said it. Sick, but true.

    • Bryan Post says:

      A lot of what we do as parents does make us feel good and that is often why we do it, even if we think there is a better way. Our own emotional/parenting blueprints often drag us down so we just don’t have “it” to make the needed changes – at times. Not sick in the sicko kinda way, just sick in the “needs attention diseased” kinda way. The old paradigms don’t give up easily, but don’t you give up easily either. Choose love.

  5. Susan Durovy says:

    This is a great article, YOu are sooo right. I am right there with you on this one. Thanks

  6. oblongcircles says:

    Yellow I think for the most part parents become angry because they start blending in rational thoughts into an irrational situation. They weigh in what they give, apply, contribute and feel with their child’s seemingly unreasonable and unprovoked angry responses over the simplest requests.

    This is not even considering the fact that sometimes, brace yourselves, this may cause a maelstrom of protest, sometimes children, hurt and not hurt, should just do what their parents ask them to do. I know, I know, they are exempt from exercising good behavior because of the pain they have gone through.

    Asking a child to put their toys away or wash their hands should not have to always be a battle-royale. When reasoning with them and positive reinforcement don’t help the situation, what do you recommend? And don’t say just give them a hug because that display of affection also causes a meltdown. Talking to them about the situation or the rules of the house or what behavior is expected (or just helpful, we’ll settle for that!) also cause extremely disproportionate angry reactions.

    • Bryan Post says:

      Great question – What indeed to do when they don’t do the simple tasks requested of them? Not that just giving a hug is the answer, but certainly whatever fans the flames should be avoided. Your comment “also cause extremely dispropriate angry reactions” is par for the course with most of our children. That is why we call our approach “beyond reason, logic and control”. This naturally puts us parents in a very uniquely difficult position of needing to do things differently just to find ways to overcome our own desire to use our authority as parent by allowing ourselves the luxury of “living with” and changing our behaviors until things turn around. Our Post Parenting Toolbox #23 has some info that you might enjoy reading. Neurophysiologic Feedback Loops: How We Keep Getting the Same Results Over and Over and Over… and Mindful Parenting: Repeat, Repeat, Repeat…
      Try this link:

  7. I don’t want to comment on Facebook. I hope it’s alright to do it here.

    Why do I get angry.. Like you say, because time after time after time. Our young man doesn’t listen and repeats the same mistakes more times than I can remember. I am at a loss of what to do about it as its such a frequent happening. So I get frustrated and exasperated and let my feelings out.
    Completely the wrong thing to do and to teach him. I always apologise after and tell him I’m wrong and say it’s not his fault that I loose my cool and shout at him. Sometimes I manage to check myself and it feels really good to talk to him and say I feel angry and upset. But manage to keep calm. Oxytocin for both of us 🙂

  8. Because I an afraid because I do not know how to get my needs met. (For the child to “obey”) I I am out of control, in my amygdala and am unaware and become angry as defence against fear of being out of control. Convoluted and the way it is for me.

  9. Lesa Beaty says:

    I thnk the real reason I lose it with my kids sometimes is because I don’t really have confidence in myself as a parent. I adopted my two daughters from a Russian orphanage more than 7 years ago as a first time parent. When logic and consequences did not work with them, it threw me for a loop. I discovered Bryan Post and Heather Forbes several years ago, but still feel like nothing “works” with my kids except giving in to them. Anytime I say “no,” it starts an immediate power struggle and/or meltdown by one of my kids. I do not react well to power struggles. I get really angry when they verbally abuse me; it pushes all my buttons. I guess I fear that they can “see through me” and know that I don’t know what I’m doing. I am really frustrated because I feel that it is also impossible to teach them anything during calm times. If I try to go back and say, “how could you have handled that better,” or “you need to understand why what you did was wrong” they cover their ears and don’t want to talk about it. I feel my job as a parent is to teach them, and that it is impossible to do that because they don’t respect me or trust my opinions. I love them to pieces, and it’s not all bad, but I don’t feel like a good parent.

    • Bryan Post says:

      Thank you Lesa, you are one of a million parents in pretty much the same place. None of us know how to parent children from such hard places. Make sure you read Post Parenting Toolbox #22.

    • Lesa, I could have written your comments myself. I have two boys who we adopted from a Ukrainian orphanage 6.5 years ago. Everything that you said, from the behaviors of the children to the way I feel about myself as a parent is exactly as you described! I don’t have any answers for you, but at least there is one other mom out there who “gets it.”

    • Louise Raven says:

      Lesa, I am 70 years old, parent of three grown kids who are great, parent of two adopted kids and three foster kids and ex school teacher. I have confidence and I still have many of the same problems with my daughter that you have. Prenatal alcohol etc cause problems that parental experience can’t fix. Have to blaze new trails.

  10. Sadly, it seems like patience comes in a finite daily allotment rather than in the form of a constantly flowing stream – there when you need it. some days it feels like the allotment has been almost used up by the time we greet our kids in the Afternoon/evening.

    • Bryan Post says:

      I once heard it said that when we pray for strength, God throws us a set of weights. Just keep in mind that you just need to get a little further each time/day/week or so and acknowledge your limitations and have a plan for those (like a tag team partner if you have one) or whatever you can come up with for support.

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