Even if you understand the importance of building your child’s self-esteem, and try to consciously use effective communication techniques, it is still easy to say things you wish you had not said in the heat of the moment. Why? Because you get angry. Anger is a part of life.
Anyone with young children knows that for tempers to have flared several times before breakfast is even served is not unusual. Children express their anger often and loudly, and children’s behavior can easily provoke their parents’ wrath. Anger is a normal, healthy emotion, and its expression can be a tremendous release. Far more constructive than bottling up anger–only to express it indirectly through slammed doors or sarcastic remarks–is the ability to air strong emotions and hurt feelings in the open. When two people can listen to each other in anger and work through a conflict, their relationship is stretched and strengthened.
DEFUSE YOUR ANGER
To avoid making hurtful remarks, however, you need to keep your temper from getting the best of you. Here are some steps to take next time you feel yourself about to blow up at your children (or your partner), from Kathy Collard Miller, author of When Love Becomes Anger:
- Recognize the early warning signs. Think back to what happened the last time you lost your temper. Did you feel tense and hurried inside? Were you gritting your teeth? Were you on the verge of tears? Had you just had a confrontation with your spouse? Learn to identify when you have reached the end of your rope, so that you can take steps to avoid lashing out.
- Recognize the cause of your anger. Before you overreact to something your child just did, take a second to think about why you are really angry. Chances are, something else is bothering you, and your children do not deserve to bear the brunt of your wrath. You may need to step back from your emotions before you can think clearly enough to recognize what is really bothering you.
- Take a time-out. When you feel yourself about to lose control with your children, you need to remove yourself temporarily from the situation. Try taking several deep breaths, counting to 10, or taking three steps backward. If you need more time to cool off, call a friend to watch the children while you take a walk or a shower.
- Verbalize your anger. Once you have figured out why you are angry, you can go about expressing your anger in an appropriate way. Confront the source of your anger–your spouse, your child, perhaps yourself–and explain how you feel. Be sure to use “I” messages–“I feel…” or “It bothers me when…”–to avoid putting the other person on the defensive. If you are too emotional to talk about it immediately, you can take time to calm down, or write your feelings in a note. You may find that you do not even need to send the note; the mere act of writing down your feelings can be cathartic enough.
Peggy O’Mara is the editor and publisher of peggyomara.com. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011 and founded Mothering.com in 1995. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four and grandmother of two.