Angry parents can be scary to kids. As a dad, sometimes my kids get the worst from me. I get upset and snap quickly and find myself feeling embarrassed and guilty for how I speak to them. I have never physically touched them in anger, but my words wound deeply.
One day, I yelled at my daughter for tearing up her brother’s coloring pages out of anger. She looked up at me with tears in her eyes and my gut sank. She wasn’t upset because she got in trouble. She was upset because after I snapped, she was afraid of me. As fathers, we are protectors, and our kids should be comforted by our actions and words. Anger and frustration may happen in our homes, but our kids should never be afraid of Dad. I have had to learn some tough lessons dealing with my anger. Here are 5 things every father needs to know.
1. We don’t have to be mean.
I have the ability to be very mean with my words, my tone, and volume. I used to think speaking to them in a forceful way would demand respect. And yes, as dads, our kids need to respect us. But we don’t have to be mean when we are upset. We need to avoid mean words like “are you stupid?” These words spoken over our kids can and will impact their perceptions of their identities in the long run. If your kids hear you call them stupid long enough, they will start to believe they are stupid.
2. Our words can hurt our kids’ feelings.
When I correct and discipline my boys, how they feel about the situation isn’t usually evident. Most times, they say, “yes sir” and move on. But I know the exact moment I hurt my daughter’s feelings. She shows it with her body language and with her words. As dads, we have to learn to think before we speak. There is a fine line between our kids being sad or disappointed and having their feelings hurt. I know I can cross that line, but we have to watch our reactions in the moment and choose our words.
3. Our kids deserve consistency.
As I mentioned in point two, my boys do not respond the same way to discipline as my daughter. I have learned that I am much harder on them because of this. One day, while I was getting on to my daughter for something she did to her brother, I told her to stop and went on with my day. My son called me out. “Last week you made me go to my room for doing the same thing,” he said. I realized I tend to be softer on my daughter than I am on my sons. But we need to be consistent with all our kids. Consistency is a marker of stability and our kids need to be surrounded by stability.
4. We’re not safe for kids when we’re angry.
When I am angry and upset with them, I communicate both verbally and emotionally that I am not a safe place. We want our kids to know that they can come to their dad for any reason or situation. If we are not a safe place, then when a tough day comes, your kids will not come to you. And they may go to someone else instead. Keeping this in mind when I am angry has helped me to remain calm. We don’t want our kids, especially our daughters, running to someone else when they should be running to dad.
5. We don’t have to take our stress out on our kids.
One day, my daughter came into my room and slammed the door, knocking a picture off the wall. It was an accident but I turned around quickly and yelled at her about slamming doors. After I calmed down, my daughter said, “Dad must have had a bad day.” She was right. Have you ever had a bad day at work and lashed out on your family because of it? Most of the time, anger is a symptom of something else. Kids do not deserve to get the brunt of their dad’s bad day. We need to be intentional about keeping our bad days at the office.
Sound off: How does your anger impact your kids? What is one thing you need to work on?
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