When Miss H was a baby, I thought there was no way I could ever get angry with her. Then she got older. If you’re like me, you’re usually a super nice mommy. Until a switch is flipped. Suddenly, I’m a raging beast, and all the fruits of the spirit have shriveled up and died (temporarily). This doesn’t happen on a daily basis, but I think a few times a week would be a safe guess. After I lose my temper, I feel guilty and apologetic. The angry me is not my best self, and it sure doesn’t reflect unconditional love. That’s why I listened intently when I heard a speaker discuss anger at MOPS a few weeks ago. I decided to treat this like any other habit, and come up with a plan to stop angry outbursts.
First, some Thoughts About Being Angry
Anger is not necessarily a bad emotion, but how we react to it is. We can get in the habit of exploding when we’re angry, or learning how to control ourselves. Since we use the Charlotte Mason philosophy, I don’t want to damage the important relationships I have with my children. I learned from the speaker that the fight or flight reaction has changed. It used to be a physical response, but now our reaction is to spew words. Our words can have long-term, negative effects on our children, and that’s not how I want them to remember me.
It seems like our culture justifies being angry. You have so much on your plate. Everyone explodes at their kids. While I think we need to give ourselves grace, I don’t think that we should use these excuses to choose irrational, anger-driven behavior over kindness. (And just a quick tangent: The “Angry” button on Facebook always gets me thinking what people could possibly be angry about. I mean, how does that adorable little puppy picture tick off 37 people? I don’t get it. It seems like we’re angry all the time in our society!)
Paying Attention to Your Anger
When Do You Get Angry?
I get angry when we’re heading out the door, or when Miss H interferes with her brother’s sleep. Knowing that these times could be bad for my anger, I can prepare myself ahead of time.
What Does Your Self-Talk Say?
When we get angry, we have messages that go through our heads. The speaker asked us to identify these messages. It might be, “I’m a terrible mother!” Or “I’m treated like the maid.” We were asked to analyze these phrases to see if they are true all the time. Maybe you feel like a terrible mother when your anger is in control, but are you always a terrible mother? Is your only job as a mother to clean…always?
The phrase in my mind when I’m angry is usually, “I can’t do everything by myself!” This phrase pops up when I’m trying to get everyone loaded up in the car, the baby decides to poop, and the dog runs out the door all within 30 seconds of each other. Is this true all the time? Yes. I can’t do EVERYTHING by myself. Recognizing this phrase let me realize that I need to be a little gentler with myself. Maybe I’m trying to do too much. Maybe I need to give myself more time to get out the door. We might be late.
When I’m angry, a few things help me:
Exercise- By elevating our heart-rate, the speaker I heard said that we can calm ourselves down physically.
Counting- Counting uses a completely different part of our brains, so it also tends to calm us down. This is a trick I learned and used in the classroom!
Positive Self-talk- I read Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions by Lysa Terhkurst a few years ago, and one thing I use regularly from that book is asking myself, “What do you want from this?” This reminds me to focus on my ultimate goal. When we’re running late and I’m tempted to yell, I stop and think, “What I really want is to be on time. Is yelling or losing my cool going to help with this?”
Don’t Say Anything– Since our “fight” mechanism is to say hurtful things, I can just stay silent until my anger passes. This one is hard for my husband to understand!
Have a Visual Cue– When forming any positive habit, having a visual cue is helpful. I read about a woman who wore a specific color each day to remind herself. Maybe it’s a note or Bible verse on the fridge.
Prayer or Meditation– Since I’m a praying person, this really helps to anchor me and cause change. If meditation is your thing, that could help you calm down.
I’m committed to changing this habit into something more positive for myself and my children. Since children learn so much through modeling, I want to be sure I’m modeling healthy anger management skills. Do you have a strategy that works for you?