Anger – it sounds like a dirty word, but the more we try to avoid it, the more we feel it. Is anger so bad? Is there a positive way we moms can learn from our anger? Better yet, can we model productive ways to express feelings for our kids?
There is nothing wrong with anger. Anger, like all emotions, is merely a messenger.
Don’t add insult to injury by engaging in mommy guilt when you experience anger.
Anger is there to alert you to something wrong in your environment. It often means that your personal boundaries have been disrespected.
Perhaps you’ve been ignoring your feelings of frustration, annoyance, or burden far too long. Anger is likely to be the result.
Psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott once said that “Humans can be a little nicer than they feel, but not a lot.” I totally agree.
So if you feel anger welling up, what can you do to avoid exploding, especially on someone nearby (likely, your beloved children)?
Here are some anger management tips that have worked for me. I don’t do any of these perfectly by any means. And sometimes the only thing I remember to do is take deep breaths. Perhaps these strategies will be helpful to you, and typing them out will help me remember too!
Anger Management for Moms
1- Leave the situation
As soon as possible, take your leave for a moment. Explain to the person you’re with that you need a moment, but don’t ask for their permission. Walk away.
If the person you’re angry with is a very small child, you might not be able to leave them alone. Turn around and remove your attention for a moment. It might help to go to the bathroom for a minute. Or put on head phones and listen to your favorite happy music while minding your child.
While you’re having your “timeout”, do something productive.
2 – Practice deep breathing. When we are angry, we often stop breathing, or we breathe in a very shallow manner.
Breathing deeply helps you get into a different state. Sometimes when we get angry, we’re reacting to an illusion. Breathing can stop the reaction.
Deep breathing is especially helpful when you cannot take a break from the situation, such as when you’re in the car and the kids are trying to kill each other in the backseat. Learning deep breathing, imagining the breath coming up all the way from the bottom of the spine, can transform your entire life.
Take a walk. Pray. Rehearse what your next words will be so you have more control over your response.
No matter what, don’t dwell on your negative thoughts and feelings, find something positive you can do to restore your emotional balance. Ruminating is NOT helpful and will only keep you stuck in your negative patterns.
3 – Laugh
Humor can diffuse a situation like nothing else. So if you are steaming, think of something amusing. Your favorite line from a funny movie, something silly your child did, whatever it is. Laughter helps put things into perspective and can turn around your mood quickly.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve been blessing out my oldest son and suddenly I realize how utterly stupid I sound and look, and I burst out laughing. It’s incredibly helpful!
Parenting is serious work but it doesn’t have to be serious all the time.
And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you laugh at yourself, your child won’t respect you or take you seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your child won’t respect you when you’re raising your voice, flailing your arms and spinning ’round on your eyebrows. On the other hand, seeing you model healthy communication skills engenders respect.
4- Decide on your response ahead of time
It’s helpful to decide ahead of time what you’ll do when you feel yourself getting angry. If you’re a yeller, make a pact with yourself that you’ll whisper when you get angry. If your kids are accustomed to you raising your voice when you get angry, they will stand up and pay attention like nobody’s business if you whisper.
I’ll never forget the last time I had laryngitis. I think my parenting skills went up a huge notch because I was forced to communicate effectively. Try it.
If you’re dealing with a manipulative or verbally abusive person, rehearse a phrase like this: “That deserves consideration. I’ll think about it and get back to you on that.” to put yourself back in control.
Or write your feelings in a note. This works really well with children.
For example, if your teen promised to clean the kitchen but never got around to it, tape a note to the fridge that says:
A Dirty Kitchen Makes Mom Start Witchin’
Signed, The Management
Be determined to focus on the behavior that triggers your anger, not the person, and inform them what they can do to make things right with you.
Instead of saying: “You are so lazy!” say things like:
“I am so angry that you decided to play video games instead of clean up your room. In the future, I expect you to keep your promises to me. When will you be starting on this room?”
5- Analyze your anger
If you lose it and blow up, try to explore what led to it. It might be helpful to write down what was happening in the hours leading up to the explosion.
Was someone really pushing your buttons and instead of setting a boundary, you let them continue? Has it been way too long since you’ve had some time to yourself? Had it been many hours since you and everyone else had eaten? What could you do differently next time? Is there an area where you could change your routine for everyone’s benefit?
Every mom loses her temper from time to time. It’s not helpful to wallow in guilt or beat yourself up. Anger isn’t an unacceptable emotion. What’s unacceptable is how it’s sometimes expressed.
Anger as a Secondary Emotion
It’s helpful to keep in mind that anger is what psychologists refer to as a “secondary emotion”. Meaning you often feel something else underneath the anger, but anger is safer to express somehow.
Your 5 year old runs into the street to chase after a ball.
You feel your heart start to beat out of your chest, your blood pressure soar and your face get red. So, you start yelling at them and chastising them.
What’s really behind this anger?
You were terrified for a split second that your child could have been in grave danger, and the first thought that automatically popped into your head was
“Some idiot could come around that corner too fast and take my baby away from me forever.”
Get in touch with that feeling. And then express that feeling to your child. It will have far more impact on your child’s future behavior if you do.
Notice that nowhere in this article did I say trying to vent your anger. Decades ago psychologists thought that “letting it out” was healthier than keeping it in. You know what?
They were wrong.
And they have been admitting it in recent years after years and years of study. “Expressing” your anger is bad for your physical health and leads to increased heart disease and other ailments. Not to mention the damage to your relationships!
6 – Give up or reduce caffeine
Especially as we age, caffeine can produce uncomfortable physical sensations (such as palpitations or chest pains). These mimic how we feel when we’re angry, leading us to interpret our feelings as anger. Caffeine can even produce a feeling of rage in some people. It also makes us quicker to overreact. Reducing or giving up caffeine altogether may help us calm down and think more rationally.
7 – Take care of yourself.
Changing hormone levels in perimenopause can cause moms to lose patience more easily and become angry faster than they used to. It’s wise to take care of ourselves so we can be at our best emotionally.
Exercise goes a long way towards helping a mom manage her emotions, process things that are going on in her life, and practice self-care. Taking time to relax, pursue things we love, enjoy beauty and spend time with friends can help us stay balanced when we’re doing the hard work of mothering children.