Are You Still Mad? How to Get Over a Grudge

Has this sort of thing ever happened to you?


Your toddler throws an epic tantrum that totally stresses you out and ruins your mood, and the next minute she’s sweetly singing to herself.


Or your teenager spews venom at you over breakfast and then asks for a favor after school.


Your child appears to have moved on and forgotten all about an incident, and you’re still smoldering like a volcano.



My father used to hold long grudges. He would stay mad at me for days, weeks, months, even years. He gave me the silent treatment. He withheld affection. He made snide remarks. My apologies to him were always too little, too late. I felt there was nothing I could do but wait until he got over it, so I went about my business until the storm eventually passed.


As a child, I thought this treatment toward me was undeserved and unreasonable. I felt abandoned, powerless, and unloved. I would think: What did I do that was so horrible? Why is he still so angry with me? When will he be loving again? Does he even love me at all? There were times I thought we’d never speak to each other again because he clung to his resentment so tightly.


Mine is an extreme example, but it begs the question: how long is too long to stay mad at your kids, and at what point do you forgive? How can you avoid holding a grudge? Here are some things to consider:


You’re responsible for your emotions

While it’s normal and acceptable to feel angry and upset from time to time, your kids can’t make you feel that way. Only you are in control of your emotional responses and behavior. Changing your thoughts about a situation can help you change the way you feel about it.


actions have CONSEQUENCES

It’s not necessarily a bad thing for your child to see you angry or hurt; it can be important for her to realize the impact of her actions. If her behavior warrants a consequence, then it’s your responsibility to enforce one so that she can learn from it. As I wrote in this post about logical consequences:

“The duration of a consequence should be proportional to the behavior.  Many parents who think punitively assume that a longer sentence teaches a better lesson.  This is irrational.  Lengthy consequences wind up being harder for parents to enforce and make children angry and resentful, rather than motivated to change their behavior.”



Author Bonnie Harris says that when your child’s acting out, he’s having a problem, not being a problem. Your role is to figure out what that problem is and help him solve it. (Hint: It’s usually not about you.) Instead of staying angry and continuing to fight, problem-solve together as a team. Everyone wins!



Recently, my dad and I chatted about how much he’s changed with regard to his anger. He said that at some point, he noticed that other people didn’t hold grudges the way he did. He found it interesting how those people were able to let go and move on with life and how much happier they seemed.


He said he began looking at things from other people’s perspectives and realized that it wasn’t always about him. Instead of taking it personally when someone didn’t call him back, for example, he thought of all the other possible reasons they hadn’t called: they were under a deadline at work, they had a family emergency, or maybe they just forgot.


He also admitted that whenever he reacted out of anger, he brought about the very outcome he was trying to avoid. If he sent a nasty e-mail to someone who didn’t return his calls, he pretty much guaranteed that person didn’t return his future calls. I’m happy to report that these days, he just picks up the phone and calls again when he doesn’t get a response.


In the comments below, tell me: When do you find it difficult to let go of anger with your kids? How do you get past it and move on?


If you often feel angry, resentful, or irritable, click HERE to schedule a FREE mini-session with me and get some relief. ​​​​​​​


Showing 5 comments
  • Beth

    Is there anything one can do when someone else is holding a grudge against you? Other than sending a certain teen your article (which he wouldn’t read), how can I help someone else let go of resentments? Is it just something he’ll learn with time?

    • Pam Howard

      Great question, Beth. Relationships are like see-saws. The more one person does, the less the other person will do. As hard as it is, it sounds like you may need to back off and give him space and time to find his way back to you. Remember: if what you’re doing isn’t working, do something different. Good luck…I’m here for you if you need further guidance. xoxo

      • Beth

        Thanks, Pam. I think you’re right, and though it’s hard, I’m trying to back off. It makes perfect sense that if what I’m doing isn’t working, why do I keep trying the same thing again and again? So I’ll keep your advice in mind the next time I feel that urge to push forward and I’ll do my best to step back. : )

  • Helen Butler

    A great, thought-provoking post Pam!

    I’m finding it hard to answer your questions! Yes I get angry/upset/frustrated as a mother but it’s on a very rare occasion that I yell at Mr 8. I have many other strategies I use before I resort to yelling (I blame the teacher in me!).

    So given my level of anger with Mr 8, I don’t think I get to the point where I’m so worked up, so frustrated, so upset that I don’t know what to do.

    I hope that doesn’t sound like I have a Brady Bunch Family because I don’t. I just think that I learnt lots of strategies teaching other people’s children for ten years that I know I need to move forward constructively.

    Holding grudges for me is living in the past. And that just doesn’t feel right. xx

    • Pam Howard

      Yes, Helen! You said it – holding grudges is living in the past! I love that. One of my favorite mantras is: Be Here Now.

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