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Controlling your anger as a parent

7-minute read

Key facts

  • It's normal to get angry sometimes, but it's a problem if it happens often or if you express your anger in an unhealthy way.
  • Parents might get angry if they are stressed or don't get enough sleep or if their child misbehaves.
  • If parents get angry a lot, their children are more likely to develop social and emotional difficulties, and will have a higher risk of mental health problems in future.
  • If you notice yourself getting angry, it can help to take some deep breaths, leave the room, listen to soft music, or go for a walk to calm down.
  • If you have trouble controlling your anger, it's a good idea to see a psychologist for help.

What causes anger?

Anger is a common human emotion. You might get angry if you believe something unfair has happened or you feel under threat. When you get angry, your muscles tighten, your heart rate and blood pressure increase and you may get flushed skin.

Common triggers for anger include:

  • getting frustrated
  • feeling like you're not being appreciated
  • things not going your way
  • being treated unfairly
  • feeling embarrassed, jealous, sad or scared
  • people not listening to you

It's normal to get angry from time to time. Anger becomes a problem if it happens often, or if you express it in a way that harms yourself or others.

You're more likely to have anger problems if you:

Why might I experience anger?

It is normal if you have young children to get angry from time to time. You're probably dealing with a lot of demands, such as family, work, looking after the house and social activities. It can be difficult when children don't behave or things don't go to plan.

Common anger triggers

Common triggers for anger in parents are:

  • feeling like your partner isn't helping
  • stress about finances or relationships
  • lack of sleep

Sometimes, having a baby can trigger negative emotions and memories of trauma from your own childhood. If you experienced trauma or abuse as a child, you can call the Blue Knot Foundation on 1300 657 380 for support and advice.

How does my anger affect my child?

Everyone gets angry — it's how you deal with it that matters. You are setting a good example for your child if you take a few deep breaths and walk away when you're angry. But if you lose your temper a lot, it can have serious negative effects for your child.

Living in a household where there is a lot of anger puts your child at risk of mental health problems later in life.

Children may react to angry parents with a wide range of different responses, for example, by:

  • not being able to concentrate
  • finding it hard to play with other children
  • becoming quiet and fearful
  • becoming rude and aggressive
  • developing sleeping problems

You should never physically hurt or punish your child, no matter what they have done or how angry you are. Physically punishing children puts them at risk of:

  • injuries
  • antisocial behaviour
  • aggressive behaviour
  • low self-esteem
  • mental health problems
  • learning problems
  • abusive relationships

Never shake a baby. Shaking, hitting, kicking or throwing a baby can result in death, disability or serious injury.

How do I deal with my feelings?

Anger is often accompanied by other emotions, such as disappointment, worry, embarrassment, frustration, hurt or fear. Recognising and dealing with these emotions can help you control your anger.

Bottling up your anger is not helpful. It's important to learn to express it in a controlled way, that doesn't cause harm to others.

If you can understand the negative thoughts or feelings that trigger your anger, you might be able to avoid these situations, or react differently when they happen. Think about what is really making you feel angry.

Talking with someone you trust, like a friend, a relative or a professional counsellor, can help you work through your feelings.

How can I learn to control my anger?

Controlling your anger in the moment

It's important to recognise the signs that you're becoming angry, so you can take action before it gets out of control.

Signs might include:

  • a fast heartbeat or breathing faster
  • tense shoulders
  • clenching your jaw or hands
  • sweating
  • feeling agitated

If you notice these signs, try one of these techniques to calm yourself down:

  • Count to 10 before you react.
  • Leave the room and go somewhere quiet. Make sure your child is safe before you leave the room.
  • Take some slow, deep breaths.
  • Go for a walk, take a warm shower or listen to calming music to distract yourself from what's making you angry.
  • Think about what happened from someone else's point of view.
  • Repeat a calming mantra in your mind, such as 'I can deal with this'.

Avoiding getting angry

If you find yourself getting angry a lot, you can learn to change your thought patterns and react to difficult situations in a healthier way. A psychologist can help you with this.

Strategies that can help include:

  • reducing stress with relaxation techniques, getting some exercise or taking regular breaks
  • learning how to communicate better, and really listen to other people
  • making changes in your routine to avoid situations that make you angry
  • setting aside time for hobbies or fun activities
  • getting help, using cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)

When should I seek help?

It's important to seek help with managing anger if:

  • you get angry a lot
  • you have trouble controlling your anger
  • you have physically hurt yourself or someone else out of anger
  • anger is affecting your work or relationships
  • you turn to alcohol or other substances when you're angry
  • you drive dangerously when you're angry

Resources and support

If you feel you might hurt yourself, your partner or your child, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you're having trouble with anger, talk to your doctor. They can refer you to a psychologist or counsellor, if needed. They can help you work out a plan to manage your anger.

If you are male, you can visit MensLine Australia or call 1300 78 99 78 for free counselling over the phone or online.

Speak to a maternal child health nurse

Call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby to speak to a maternal child health nurse on 1800 882 436 or video call. Available 7am to midnight (AET), 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

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