Blowing Up: What You Need To Know About Losing Your Temper At Kids

WE’VE all been there, or will be soon enough. You’re tired, distractable, unfocused and world weary when your kid ties a tantrum on mega-style. You lose your rag and drop an F-bomb or yell. Here’s why you do it, why it’s bad and how NOT to do it again.

by Ryan Heffernan
YOU’RE guilty. Or you’re very likely to be if your kid is over the age of two and metaphorically or literally thrown their toys out of the cot. So that means double tanty. Kiddy Tanty + Man Tanty, all in the same room. That’s one too many tantrums.

I’m no expert which is why I have sought the help of experts at KidsMatter, a mental health and wellbeing framework for kids, for this story. My own experience is that on a few of my no-to-so-spesh days, when I now know I’ve had too much on my plate, I have been guilty of blowing up and using a swear word somewhere in the middle of a sentence directed at my child.

If I were a movie I’d be rated M for that outburst. I don’t watch M-rated movies with my year 1 son so, presumably, I shouldn’t speak to him like I’m a character in one.

I’ve also seen other parents clearly frustrated, yell and occasionally scream directions at their kids, sometimes because they ran away out of site and safety, sometimes for being obnoxious and sometimes because they tried to steal a ciggie from their parent’s pack at the playground. It never looks pretty. It never looks strong and it never feels good when you see a parent yelling uncontrollably at their child _ and especially if you see that parent in the mirror.

So here are the big three questions: Why do we do it? What impact does it have on our kids and what can we do to top it happening in the future?

KidsMatter psychologist, Dr Lyn O’Grady, cuts to the chase with some clearcut answers. Let’s see if we can’t get to the bottom of inappropriate Daddy hissy fits.

“Often an angry response is just the tip of the iceberg,” Dr O’Grady said.
“Many underlying factors can contribute, not just the child’s behaviour. Try to think it through – what might be causing your anger.”

Typically, that could be work commitments and relationships, financial stress, your romantic or marital relationships, issues with your family and friends. None of which are your kid’s fault.

Inside, we know losing our temper is bad which is why we feel guilty afterwards. But Dr O’Grady can actually tell you why it’s bad and what impact we’re having on our kids when we lose our tempers at them.

“Losing your temper can be really damaging to kids because children witnessing angry outbursts can find them very distressing and can have lasting effects about how safe they feel in their family,” Dr O’Grady said.
“Children also look to their parents as models for how to deal with feelings. When parents show anger through outbursts children are much more likely to do the same. This can then cause problems for them within the family as well as at school and with their friends.”

But don’t start panicking just yet. Most kids are nothing if not resilient. And there’s no point going on about what’s bad about losing your temper if we don’t give you tools to make the changes you want or need to.

So that brings us to the point: How Do We Stop Ourselves Losing Control? This is great information from KidsMatter, so listen up and listen up good.

“Looking after yourself in a holistic way is the best way to prevent angry outbursts. That is, be aware of how you’re feeling and if you can, talk about it with your child,” Dr O’Grady said.
“Focus on keeping people safe. Saying things in the heat of the moment can be really damaging. If you do find yourself getting angry, find a way to calm yourself down.”
“Being able to walk away is a strength. Calm down, and then come back and explain what’s happened to your child.
“It’s important to remember that you’re modelling behaviour to your child – they’re watching and learning how to cope with anger. If you’re finding it hard to manage your anger for yourself, do it for your child.”

Here is the KidsMatter anger management list for Dads (and all parents).

  • Find what works to calm you down – this will be different for different people – it could be exercise, time out with friends, better diet, less work and so on.
  • Walk away when you feel yourself getting angry
  • When you have calmed down, talk through what happened with your child
  • Take some deep breaths or count to 10
  • Focus on keeping people safe
  • Look after yourself. If you feel like you might lose your temper, try to think about how you’re feeling and what you could do to prevent an angry outburst.

I hope this helps. If you want more information or you think you have a problem managing your anger you can go and check out this information from KidsMatter on child anger and how to manage that. A lot of this information will apply to you too, so don’t worry about the fact it’s written to manage kids.