10. You’re not alone
More parents are losing their cool when managing children, observes Alfred Tan, executive director of the Singapore Children’s Society. While he doesn’t have official figures, he reckons that’s because mums and dads have higher expectations and demands of their kids.
Thanks to life in a fast-paced society and less support from traditional sources like an extended family, stress levels also are higher these days, explains Reshmi Karayan Kayanoth, senior psychologist from the Department of Psychological Medicine at National University Hospital (NUH).
9. You can spot the triggers
While these differ from family to family, the most common one is the stress of daily living, coupled with poor support for the parent, Reshmi says. Another is couples who have problems with their marriage and take it out on their kids.
The challenges of taking care of children at different development stages may also push the wrong buttons for you. She explains: “For parents of infants, it may stem from the drudgery of facing a crying baby day in and day out, with not much other time or opportunity for self-care and social or leisure pursuits.
“Toddlerhood, with the developing sense of autonomy in the child, ushers in the era of temper tantrums and seeming disobedience. This may be particularly difficult for some parents.”
Older children may also demand the latest gadgets and “in” things, which parents can’t afford, says Alfred. That can lead to arguments.
8. It happens to mums more
All the experts Young Parents spoke to agree that mums tend to lose their temper more. “This is because the mother is usually the one who disciplines the child, supervises homework and manages the domestic affairs at home,” says Frances Yeo, principal psychologist at Thomson Paediatric Centre (The Child Development Centre).
Generally speaking, mums tend to be more verbally aggressive, while dads are the ones who use physical violence, Reshmi says. But mums also tend to seek help more frequently.
7. Your kid won’t forget
It’s okay to give him a tongue-lashing; he’ll forget it sooner or later. Spare the rod and spoil the child, right? Those are all myths, says Reshmi. Even infants are aware of their environment and learn from it, so family experiences do affect their personality development and how they cope.
Frances adds: “Children learn through modelling. For example, if a parent yells or hits the child, the boy may also do the same when he’s angry.” Your kid may react by becoming rebellious, withdrawn or even anxious and insecure.
Reshmi cautions: “In primary school, aggression in the family environment is likely to impact the child’s school performance and manifest as conduct or discipline problems, or as depression, if the anger is turned inwards.”
6. Just walk away
Frances suggests three steps to preventing a meltdown: First, recognise that you’re mad. Then, walk away from the situation and calm down. Return to resolve it only when you’ve cleared your head.
If you’re still raging, get Hubby or Grandma to do the disciplining, says Alfred.
5. It’s okay to say sorry
You’ve just had a terrible outburst. You’re exhausted and hate yourself for what you did. But won’t you “lose face” if you say sorry?
No, says Reshmi. It’s actually one of the best damage control measures you can take to heal the relationship and build trust. Acknowledge that you were wrong to lose control. Apologise and reassure your child that you’ll do your best not to lash out again.
If the matter involved something between the both of you, talk about what happened that escalated the emotions and what could have been done differently to prevent a recurrence. That empowers him and builds his problem-solving skills, too.
“The good news is that one or rare occasions of ‘losing it’ will not do permanent damage to the child, especially if he shares a warm and trusting relationship with you,” she says.
4. Anger-proof your life
Engage in regular activities to help you manage stress, says Frances. Exercise, meet your friends, take up a hobby or chill with a DVD. Share your worries with people you trust – it helps you vent and they may be able to teach you ways to cope.
3. Be there for her
If you’re the husband, have a discussion before things get rough, says Alfred. Draw up a set of rules so that you know to step in if she’s about to explode in anger.
Also, avoid confronting her in front of the kids, says Reshmi. That would just confuse them. When she has calmed down, don’t start blaming her. Hear her out and tell her you’re there for her. If she clearly has anger management issues, suggest that you seek help together as a couple, so that she doesn’t feel targeted.
In the longer term, help your wife relieve stress by offering to take care of the kids on the weekend, so that she can have some me-time, says Frances.
2. Mend your ties
It’s never too late to rebuild your relationship with your kids. Frances recounts a case of an angry teenager whose outbursts were the result of his mother’s frequent scolding and high expectations. Eventually, the mother learnt to walk away from a heated situation and even changed the way she spoke to her son. Frances taught her to plan “dates” with her teen so that they could bond.
1. Get help
If you find yourself unable to cope, there’s no shame in seeing a counsellor or psychologist for expert help. Reshmi points out that as the stigma about mental health services is slowly lifting, experts are seeing more parents reaching out for help with parenting, and with issues that include their own anger management.