Family Arguments: 6 Steps of the Parent Anger Cycle

The Players: You (mom/dad), older teen kid, younger tween kid

7:53am  If you want to be on-time for the bus, you have to get the kids out the door, shoes on, finish putting sandwiches in baggies and run them to the corner.

7:55am  Your son did not pack his backpack.  You are furious that he will make everyone late as you and your other child run around trying to find his cleats, glove and water bottle for sports camp.

8:03 am   You are so angry they forgot again and yell at them all the way out the door (and definitely no time for a kiss goodbye).

9:36am  You just cleaned up the kitchen and cleared morning emails.  What was it that I said to him on the way out? That he was lazy? That he made everything difficult? That he was unappreciative.  Did everyone on the bus see me yelling? The guilt starts to sink in.

10:40am  You are at the grocery store and see Son’s favorite ice cream and chocolate sauce.  You feel really bad, remorseful and want to make it up to him for yelling.

2:30pm  As you are making his favorite sloppy joes you realize that none of the other mothers would yell like this at their kids.  You are embarrassed and angry at your self for losing control and not thinking about packing the backpack she night before.

3:06pm  Kids are home, you apologize about yelling and tell them about sloppy joes and they do not seem phased about the morning incident, saying “no worries, it’s always like that.” You wonder if it is always like that, then why doesn’t he just pack his backpack the night before?

5:45pm Dinner, kids come down late, complain that the sloppy joes aren’t sloppy enough and asked to be excused to play video games.  You realize that it is your son who should be sorry for not packing his bag and feel resentful you have to do everything.

8:00pm  You make them eat dessert by themselves and make them clean the kitchen.  When they ask you about going to a movie this weekend you say no, you can’t and play mommy martyr and do the laundry.

7:53am  Did he pack his backpack?…

Anger “Mommy Rage”
Anger at self

Recognize this cycle?  I see it all the time with parents and the cycle seems to repeat itself over and over again.

1) Does this happen to you?
Examine your own patterns, maybe for you it’s anger, guilt, resentment and remorse?

2) Identify Triggers
Not cleaning the dishes? Feet on the table? Not calling home enough? Find your trigger zones and tip-offs.

3) Tell Other People
Tell your kids and spouse that you are trying to identify these areas, do they have any ideas? Any trigger areas of their own to break?

4) Change a Habit
Whatever you can do to change a trigger.  Get Up way earlier, go for a walk before breakfast.  Studies have shown that any break in pattern can off set all of the rest of your triggers.

The most important thing is to be aware of your actions and that this is a common cycle you are not alone!

No Responses to “Family Arguments: 6 Steps of the Parent Anger Cycle”

  1. Jamie |
    July 29, 2008 at 9:02 am #

    I don’t know about any other parents that read this, but I can certainly relate as I’ve been in this cycle before. In my house it’s typically the backpack that we can’t find as the bus is pulling up and we’re all trying to get out the door. My wife and I have often dealt with these types of issues using the “natural consequences” approach. The natural consequence of having to catch the bus without your backpack results in a bad day at school (ouch!). It’s amazing how quickly the cycle can get broken by natural consequences – the backpack is suddenly ready by the door most mornings after one lousy day at school without it.

  2. Vanessa
    July 29, 2008 at 9:06 am #


    I could imagine leaving your backpack would not be a good start to a school day, but can I just tell you it happens a lot of everyone, my dad once forgot my sister = )..but took her backpack


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