Aha! Parenting Blog

Practical solutions for real parenting problems

When You Get Annoyed at Your Kid

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead to an understanding of ourselves.”  --  Carl Jung

Have you noticed that when you get angry there’s something else under the anger? Anger and Annoyance are always a defense against other emotions that we don’t want to feel – usually hurt, fear, sadness, or disappointment (which is a form of grief).

What's behind your annoyance at your kid?  Sure, she broke your favorite dish, and he's picking on his sister again. You have a right to be annoyed. 

But that doesn't mean acting out of your annoyance is the most effective approach to eliminating such behavior in the future. She already feels terrible that she broke your dish; what she needs is a way to make it up to you so she can redeem herself. (As in, doing something nice for you, not punishment.) And there are lots of ways to heal sibling rivalry (click here), all more effective if you aren't annoyed. (It's hard to convince him you love him just as much as you love her when you have that edge in your voice.)

To be an inspired parent, you need a way past your annoyance.  Want the magic key? When you address the underlying feeling, the annoyance vanishes. That's true any time you're angry.

Try noticing this weekend each and every time you feel irritated, annoyed, impatient, frustrated or angry toward your child.

Now go a step deeper. What thought is under the anger? What emotion is that thought causing?

  • Are you hurt that your kids don’t appreciate all you do? Start by taking responsibility for taking care of yourself. It isn’t your kid’s job to do that. In fact, you owe them the best of yourself, not what's left of yourself. Now, make some changes so you don’t feel taken advantage of.  Can you train your kids to do their own laundry?  Make peace with their rooms being a mess?  Finally, notice that your hurt is almost certainly older than your kids.  Were you not fully appreciated as a child? Grieve that, and you’ll find yourself empowered to address any hurt in your parenting.

  • Afraid that your kids will never change, that they’ll mess up their lives? Whatever your kids are doing, at least half of it is immaturity, which by definition they’ll grow out of.  The other half, you can change by addressing the underlying need that’s causing the misbehavior. Time with you?  A chance to vent his fears? More sleep? Some structure from you to learn a new habit, like remembering her homework?

  • Grieving because life, or maybe parenting, isn’t everything you hoped?  Go ahead and grieve.  Life is full of loss.  When we don’t cry the tears we need to, we end up hopeless and bitter, ready to lash out.  Your kids don’t deserve your bitterness.

  • Afraid that you’ve messed up your kids and there’s no way to turn things around? Kids are resilient, and however they may act, they always want to reconnect with you.  They just need to see you making steps in the right direction.  It’s never too late to turn things around. Start now.

Each time you feel even mild annoyance at your kid this weekend, stop and acknowledge the thought and emotion behind it.  You'll be amazed.  Once you recognize the trigger, you have a choice about how to respond. Best of all, your annoyance will melt away.  That's what I can win-win parenting.

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