Understanding anger

Your child is still learning and developing. You can stay calm when your child won't listen by understanding your anger, practicing relaxation techniques, breathing deeply, rethinking, using logic, communicating better, and turning to humor.
Your child is still learning and developing. You can stay calm when your child won't listen by understanding your anger, practicing relaxation techniques, breathing deeply, rethinking, using logic, communicating better, and turning to humor.

In order to stay calm when your child isn’t listening, you must identify and understand your own anger. As an adult, it’s important to remember that your child is still learning and developing. They look to you for behavioral guidance. That’s why it’s important to remain calm in the face of frustration.

When you feel anger rise inside you, it can feel impossible to control. There is a wide spectrum of angry feelings, from mild annoyance to full-blown rage. Anger is a natural emotion. It’s healthy when you don’t allow it to take over. It’s OK to feel angry, but not to respond in anger.

Relaxation techniques

The time to control your anger is when you first feel it creeping in. If you find yourself getting angry when your child won’t listen, practice coping techniques. Then, when you feel angry again, you’ll have tools to help you overcome your feelings and help your child.‌

When you begin to feel anger, don’t try to wait it out and reason with your child. This gives your anger a chance to take root and grow, making it more difficult to calm down. Instead, calm yourself down when your child doesn’t listen so you don’t make the situation worse.

Deep breathing

Feelings of anger can trigger your heart rate to increase and your muscles tense, making you feel out of control. When you take deep, controlled breaths, you can slow your heart rate and help your body to relax. By taking 30 seconds to pause and breathe, you can respond to your child in a more thoughtful manner.

Rethinking

Also called cognitive restructuring, this technique is when you look at the situation from a different perspective. You see your child not listening. But, why isn’t your child listening? Are there any outside influences impacting how your child feels?

Angry thoughts tend to be exaggerated and dramatic. When you challenge your mind to see things from your child’s point of view, you can retrain your mind to not respond in anger.

Using logic

Anger is about emotion, not logic. When you insert logical thinking, you begin to break anger down. Think back to another time you were angry. Did being angry fix anything? Did being angry help your child listen and follow your instructions? Probably not.

Remember that “not listening” may actually be something else. Your child may be distracted or tired. Your child isn’t being difficult just to be difficult. There is a reason. It may take some digging, but with a little logical thinking, you can identify the underlying issue.

Communicating better

When you feel angry, you don't communicate as clearly. After you calm down, be more specific with your instructions or explanation. Instead of saying, “Clean up your toys now,” you can say, “Clean up your toys because it is time to eat dinner. We can take your toys back out and play again tomorrow”.

When you remain calm and communicate clearly, it helps your child do the same. Remember, how you say something is just as important as what you say. Be careful not to sound sarcastic or impatient when you repeat an instruction if your child isn’t listening.

Turning to humor

When your child isn’t listening, your instinct may be to stand firm and not give in. Using humor doesn’t have to be the opposite of that. If your child isn’t listening, they may feel angry or frustrated, too. Use humor to calm the situation for both of you.

If you smile and give the same instructions while being a little silly, you may reach your child on their level. You have to be careful not to take humor too far or your child may not take you seriously. After you use humor to reduce the tension, repeat your instruction again firmly but kindly for emphasis.

Tips for getting your child to listen

Keep it Simple

Our modern world is full of stimulation. Children are often faced with too much of everything – toys, technology, choices, and tasks. If your child had a busy day, their brain might be at maximum capacity for input. Your seemingly simple instruction might be too much in the moment. Try to simplify your request by:

  • Removing stimuli like the television or video games
  • Making eye contact with your child
  • Giving a single instruction at a time‌
  • Provide a reason for the request for a better understanding 

Be Consistent‌

When you ask your child to do something and they don’t listen, be consistent in your response. Your child may be testing boundaries to see if they can push your limits and how you will respond. While it seems like they want you to crack under pressure, they really desire your consistency. Respond calmly and overcome your anger. Over time this can lead to improved listening as you establish a foundation of respectful communication with your child.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/1/2021
References
SOURCES:

APA: "Controlling anger before it controls you."

CDC: "Why Are Good Directions Important?"

Child Mind Institute: "The Secret to Calm Parenting."