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I need help controlling anger

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
I was raised by a very gentle mother and a father with a terrible temper. He spanked and yelled, a lot, and I hated it. Unfortunately, I have inherited my dad's terrible temper. I struggle constantly to control it, as I do not want to be the parent my father was. But it is incredibly hard, and I fail...a lot. From a rational distance, I can say "It's worse to spank or scream at your child for XYZ than it is to 'let them get away with it' while you take a moment to calm down."

But when my 4.5-year-old is being her naturally strong-willed, defiant self, and has refused to listen to my calm requests, and my slightly raised-voice requests, and is still acting up or shrieking hysterically or whatever after being placed in time out and spoken to about why she was in time out, and stomping off and mouthing off to me and giving me the attitude of a 14-year-old...I lose it. And what I told myself from a rational distance is gone, as the adrenaline rises and the anger builds and my thinking is dominated by "She can't think she runs the household. If I walk away she's gotten away with this behavior." So...screaming. Or a spanking.

I HATE THIS. It happened again this morning as we were heading out the door, and then I went through the drive to day care feeling like the worst mother in the world. My 2.5-year-old son said, "When you angry at Annika, it hurt my ears. Bam! Bam!" I almost had to pull the car over and cry.

So far, it's only been with ODD, because my youngest is still a baby (4 months), and DS, for all his terrible two-ness, is incredibly verbal and eager to please. Though he clearly has inherited my temper, sadly, he also listens remarkably well and can be talked down from most tantrums. ODD, however, just knows how to push my every single button. I'm afraid that I'm destroying my relationship with her. I'm afraid that I'm becoming my father rather than my mother, which is the exact opposite of how I wanted to be as a parent.

How, how, HOW can I control my anger in the moment? How can I put my rational mind in charge and let it shout down the voice that says "No, you can't walk away and take a moment, she has to learn that she cannot get away with XYZ, if you drop it for now and deal with it later she'll have won the battle and she'll think she runs the house..."
post #2 of 23
Here is what I have found works for me:
1. Make sure mama is well-rested and well-fed (as much as you can be with three small kids and night-waking with the baby, anyway). If you are on a short fuse due to lack of self-care, you are starting from a deficit in the patience dept. It helps me to have easy-to-eat foods like a bowl of almonds, dried fruit, or bread and peanut butter for sandwiches easily accessible.

2. Think of the situation in terms of child-development and needs, rather than "who is winning and in control." Think of how to get everybody's needs met creatively, and/or how you can shift the energy from anger/defiance to silly or helpful or anything other than power struggle.

Put yourself in her head for a minute if you can - is she involved in playing and doesn't want to shift activities? Is she shy and leaving the house to go out in public always hard for her? Is she craving extra attention because she's got new competition in the house? What can you do to help - set a timer to go off when you have 5 minutes to go before we need to get ready to leave, break things down into smaller steps, ask for her help because she's such a responsible girl and you need help with X? My son will always come with me if I need "help" because "the door is too heavy for me!" If she's competitive, can you have a race to see who can put shoes on first, you or her? It's amazing how just getting silly can stop the kid in his or her tracks and get them on board with your agenda.

Remember too that their brains are still myelinating at this age, so they literally process things more slowly than an adult, and they are not good at multi-step processes. "Get ready to go to the library" means: go pee, find your socks and shoes, put them on, get your coat, put it on, get your library books, put them in the book bag, and stand by the door. That is a lot of steps. Kids need help with sorting through the steps and staying on task.

3. If I don't get compliance immediately, I go to the child and guide him. No raised voice, just "We need to get ready to go in a few minutes. We need to go pee first, then get shoes on. Let's go together!" I take his hand or have him stand on my feet and do a Giant Robot walk into the bathroom, but physically guide him. I don't like yelling, and I don't like repeating myself, so I ask one time, then move to assisting. It takes more energy, especially with multiple kids, and there are plenty of times when I drag the baby along clutched under my free arm or strapped to my back in a carrier, but it's better than speaking to a child who appears deaf to my commands.

4. Acknowledge that the transition is hard for the child. "I know you don't want to stop playing, but it's almost time for dinner, so we have to leave the park to go home in a few minutes. I'll tell you when there's one minute left."

5. I try to reserve this for rare use, but I do also tell my son, "I am really tired and hungry. My patience is the size of a lentil right now, so I really need for you to cooperate with me. Can you do that? Do you want a nice mama, or do you want a grouchy mama?" I suppose this is a little manipulative, but it helps me know that I am REALLY close to a breaking point, buys me a little time to keep breathing and assess the situation, and often he will say, "OK, I will cooperate." Again, I would't use this as a first line, but if it's 9:30 at night and I am just about DONE and don't want to brook any argument about brushing teeth or going to bed, I warn him that the patience juice is about used up for the day. And in this setting, frequently I start doing a review of the day, talking about all the fun things we did and how we had such a good day together.
post #3 of 23
What I read in your post is that you don't have a lot of tools yet. You'll have to go looking and start seeing your child differently. Your child isn't "getting away with anything." She's doing exactly what she's supposed to be doing. That's the hard part to start to realize.

When I get angry, I remind myself that being angry is a very self-righteous feeling. I'm assuming that I have the right to be angry about the behavior of others. My kids are just trying to grow and learn and that's it. I have to be gentle and lead them.

Some stuff that helped the "unconditional Parenting" video by Alfie Kohn. Or read anything by Alfie Kohn. I read "How to talk so kids can Listen and that was a huge help." Lots of articles and now, having 4 children, I know what to expect and when to expect it, so there aren't that many surprises.

Even now, I'm not perfect and I do yell or show anger...mostly when they fight with each other or cross my personal boundaries, but it's so much better now that I've found some good tools.

Here's a good article for starters...apparently by one of our MDC moms.
http://lisarussell.org/blog/bullying...log-post-ever/

My thinking is that if you want your children to learn to say "no" you have to let them practice with you. If they can't say "no" to peers, it's because they've not been taught that it's ok to say "no." You don't want your "yes" children to grow up to be "yes" teens and then "yes" adults. It's sometimes difficult to let them assert themselves and assert their will, but it's good for them in the long-run.

Think of your oldest child as the one least likely to give into peer pressure and put up with a nasty boss or an abusive partner or manipulative friends. She's got "character." There's nothing wrong with letting her "get away" with something while you re-assess the situation. Were you wrong to request what you did? Is there another way to get the thing done and preserve her/and your integrity? Can you ask her for her ideas on how to get this thing done? Can you look at her as a real person, not this little child who knows how to push your buttons and must not think she can run the house?
post #4 of 23
Thread Starter 
This is all great advice, and a lot of it is stuff I already do--when I'm thinking rationally. It's not so much that I need more tools to use with my DD, as I need some tools to use with ME--to snap myself out of the rush of anger that makes me turn into my father.

I am a big believer in Larry Cohen's "Playful Parenting," for example, and in my rational mind I know how well those techniques work. I've seen them work, time and time again. But when I'm exhausted (which as you pointed out is a lot of the time lately, kcparker!) or frustrated or overwhelmed, or all of the above, or sometimes just at random moments, I'm vulnerable to letting my angry brain take over and saying "The hell with all those techniques, she just needs a spanking!"

I need something that will help me step out of that anger and de-escalate it long enough to step away, calm down, and use my better tools. Some strategy for breaking the loop of escalating anger. Some thought-stopping technique. Not sure if I'm making it clear what I'm looking for?
post #5 of 23
check out this thread from the personal growth forum

Parenting and Rage

I found it suuuperrr helpful! There's some really good practical advice in there.. it's long but worth the read...

best wishes.
post #6 of 23
Thread Starter 
Seventy, thank you so much! This is going to take me a long time to read, but so much of it is soooooo familiar. I'm sure I can find some strategies in this thread.
post #7 of 23
I definitely recommend the book"How anger hurts your kids" I know exactly what you mean about knowing what to do but being unable in the moment.(((hug)))
post #8 of 23
These are all great tips....but if the OP's child is like my daughter this is how the tips work in my house:
Quote:
Originally Posted by kcparker View Post
Here is what I have found works for me:
1. Make sure mama is well-rested and well-fed (as much as you can be with three small kids and night-waking with the baby, anyway). If you are on a short fuse due to lack of self-care, you are starting from a deficit in the patience dept. It helps me to have easy-to-eat foods like a bowl of almonds, dried fruit, or bread and peanut butter for sandwiches easily accessible.

There is no well-rested (I have pregnancy nightmares) and well-fed......well if I get a chance.

2. Think of the situation in terms of child-development and needs, rather than "who is winning and in control." Think of how to get everybody's needs met creatively, and/or how you can shift the energy from anger/defiance to silly or helpful or anything other than power struggle.

When I calmly ask my three year to stop shredding paper everywhere....or to help clean up she smiles and does the shredding FASTER, or makes a bigger mess...just to spite.

Put yourself in her head for a minute if you can - is she involved in playing and doesn't want to shift activities? Is she shy and leaving the house to go out in public always hard for her? Is she craving extra attention because she's got new competition in the house? What can you do to help - set a timer to go off when you have 5 minutes to go before we need to get ready to leave, break things down into smaller steps, ask for her help because she's such a responsible girl and you need help with X? My son will always come with me if I need "help" because "the door is too heavy for me!" If she's competitive, can you have a race to see who can put shoes on first, you or her? It's amazing how just getting silly can stop the kid in his or her tracks and get them on board with your agenda.

Sometimes when she is playing I have to do something, I can't imagine how awful my life will be with number three, timers don't work AT ALL, I can break things down, beg and plead....she is not going to cooperate, she slows down when asked to race me.

Remember too that their brains are still myelinating at this age, so they literally process things more slowly than an adult, and they are not good at multi-step processes. "Get ready to go to the library" means: go pee, find your socks and shoes, put them on, get your coat, put it on, get your library books, put them in the book bag, and stand by the door. That is a lot of steps. Kids need help with sorting through the steps and staying on task.

3. If I don't get compliance immediately, I go to the child and guide him. No raised voice, just "We need to get ready to go in a few minutes. We need to go pee first, then get shoes on. Let's go together!" I take his hand or have him stand on my feet and do a Giant Robot walk into the bathroom, but physically guide him. I don't like yelling, and I don't like repeating myself, so I ask one time, then move to assisting. It takes more energy, especially with multiple kids, and there are plenty of times when I drag the baby along clutched under my free arm or strapped to my back in a carrier, but it's better than speaking to a child who appears deaf to my commands.

I never get any cooperation....and I have broken things down and dd2 will REFURE to do the first step. she will scream and kick and throw herself.

4. Acknowledge that the transition is hard for the child. "I know you don't want to stop playing, but it's almost time for dinner, so we have to leave the park to go home in a few minutes. I'll tell you when there's one minute left."

I do give 15, 10, 5 minute warnings....soemtimes they work. Most of the time....they don't

5. I try to reserve this for rare use, but I do also tell my son, "I am really tired and hungry. My patience is the size of a lentil right now, so I really need for you to cooperate with me. Can you do that? Do you want a nice mama, or do you want a grouchy mama?" I suppose this is a little manipulative, but it helps me know that I am REALLY close to a breaking point, buys me a little time to keep breathing and assess the situation, and often he will say, "OK, I will cooperate." Again, I would't use this as a first line, but if it's 9:30 at night and I am just about DONE and don't want to brook any argument about brushing teeth or going to bed, I warn him that the patience juice is about used up for the day. And in this setting, frequently I start doing a review of the day, talking about all the fun things we did and how we had such a good day together.
I often tell dd2 that I am losing patience or that she is physically hurting me and I would like her to be nice....doesn't matter she continues to do what she is doing, or hurt me, or she SCREAMS every time I try to speak to her.

So...OP I hear you. It is frustrating. I try to remind myself that three year olds soon turn four and it will hopefully get better. HOPEFULLY.

MY dd2 is a handful. She screams so much. And makes so many messes. I have to clean the house EVERY day. Sweeping, mopping and vaccuuming. The mess is unreal.
post #9 of 23
Wow, I was just thinking about posting something very similiar to this. I've been suffering from PPD for awhile (I guess its probably turned into prenatal depression now since I'm 24 wks preggo) and it comes out in the form of blind anger more often than I'd like to admit. I know how heartbreaking it is and then all the worry that comes along with it. Will DD hate me? Will she grow up, move away, talk to her dad and never call me? Will she resent me in the same way I resent my mother? I work on doing better (counting to ten, screaming into a pillow) and some of it works, but a lot of the time, I just can't control it and...well...you know. I don't really have any solutions for you, but I wanted you to know you aren't alone.
post #10 of 23
I wish I had time to write more but I have to go to bed. This is such an important issue. I had the same family dynamic growing up and wished for something different for my son. The previous poster said it: seeing your child differently and seeing the situation differently is KEY.

I found this Hand In Hand Parenting site immensely helpful:
http://www.handinhandparenting.org/articles

Be sure to click "Browse All Articles" so you get the whole big list. Some of these articles will melt your heart and make you grateful you read their ideas. Best of luck, and I'd love to talk more, as I've been where you are and I am no longer there. You can write offline if you like and I'd be happy to. But it's late and I am sleep-deprived as it is. Just know that this IS solvable. It's just a way of seeing. Gotta run for now....
post #11 of 23
double post~!
post #12 of 23
You need a happy place or a mental xanax.

One thing that's helped me is to kind of come to terms with my anger.

I get angry. I have a temper. I do have boundaries that even my child can't cross.

But, it's up to me how I express that anger and temper. I'm a human being. I'm entitled to that emotion. But, I'm not entitled to hit someone else, or be cruel.

When I lose my temper, I might yell, but I try not to make personal remarks like "you are bad, you are brat, xyz..." instead I try to yell what I want to say and be heard. "I need you to do xyz, please LISTEN to me. I will give you ONE MORE CHANCE!" It sucks to yell, but afterwards I'm not terribly ashamed and my regrets are few.

The next step is usally walking away. I don't hit. I might leave the room and walk away for a bit if I find myself still yelling like an idiot. If I feel myself getting ungentle, I hit the bathroom and take some deep breaths.

I think I am a gentle person, but I also have a temper. I had to find a way to live with it, because I don't think it's going away.
post #13 of 23
Another thing that helps me...most of the time...is actually planning what I will so if situations arise. So if you have a recurrent problem, act it out in your mind how you would like it to play out. Ex-"If she refuses to leave this am, stop count to ten, go get a drink of water" Whatever helps to get through the initial reactive moment. Also- regret kills me but one thing I've used to help is in the moment trying to remember a particularly sweet thing about my child. Ex- When my 7 yr old was just starting to walk, he used to run around the house gleefully pushing his little walking toy. My 5 yr old- who is really tough - I picture him swinging on the swing for the first time by himself and how sweet and proud he was. It's hard to be so hateful towards them in those moments.
post #14 of 23
Tactics to handle the anger when it comes up are useful in the short term, but I maintain that looking at the assumptions UNDER the anger and questioning the worldview that makes us angry is better. In other words, get to a place where the child's quite normal development and challeging behaviors don't even trigger anger in the first place, because we see them differently.
post #15 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Another thing that helps me...most of the time...is actually planning what I will so if situations arise. So if you have a recurrent problem, act it out in your mind how you would like it to play out. Ex-"If she refuses to leave this am, stop count to ten, go get a drink of water" Whatever helps to get through the initial reactive moment.
Deir, this is a great strategy. I need a specific plan for exactly what to do in the moment, not just "don't get angry, don't yell." Thank you!

Nellie, I love the articles on the hand in hand site...will be reading a lot of those. I have to say, though, that I'm afraid that for me at least, it's not realistic to expect that I'm going to get to a place any time soon where I just "don't get angry" when my children are challenging, because I see their behaviors differently. I can read and learn volumes and volumes about child development, and I have, but I think for some of us with quick and volatile tempers, all the knowledge we have sometimes goes out the window in the moment of confrontation.

It's unrealistic to say "I'm not going to ever get angry," and really sets us up for failure. It's much more realistic to try to work on strategies to recognize and control that anger and not let it affect how we interact with our children.
post #16 of 23
Well heck it would be normal to be angry if they did something awful. And yes, I agree coping strategies are very good. I had to try a whole bunch of them. One of them for a while (while I was working things out) was to (a) flop down on the nearest surface, chair, floor, whatever and say "I am a limp blade of grass"....that sounds INSANE but with me, when my son would hit me, my immediate reaction was HUGELY physical. My body would tense up, I wanted to fight back. (My attitude was "I haven't been hit since my dad hit me when I was young, and I am NOT about to let anyone do it now"). So to counter that, I'd go limp and that would help me to regain my composure. Even now, if he hits me (which is very rare) and I feel that trigger being pulled, I don't do the blade of grass thing, but I sometimes will put my arms around him in a bear hug and say out loud, "I will not respond with violence, I will not respond with violence...." (and by that I mean "I will NOT do what you just did; I will NOT show my angry feelings with hits") until the moment passes. It's not that I would hit him, but truth be told I am not that different than him...when I feel fiery inside, I want to put hands on someone. If someone's attacking me I want to push them away, or haul them off into timeout, or scream loudly....all very nasty things. So I put the hands-on in a bear hug instead, and rock him until the temper passes. And I am always sure to vocalize what's going on. If I have to remove myself from the room when he was trying to hit me, I'd say "I am going somewhere to be safe from your hitting." or "I feel a bad temper coming on and have to get away right now". He has to SEE me fighting the impulse and rechanneling it, so that he has a model for doing so.

But as far as not being angry about stuff, I'm referring to things that I used to see as "being bad" or "misbehaving" when Whoa there was something SO different going on! There were SO many instances when he was just not being heard, or he was feeling lectured or whatever, and since he hadn't learned good coping skills of his own, he would just act out. To me it was "oh, he's defying my authority as a parent, bla bla bla, he just NEEDS to learn how to behave" But kids are not the only ones who need to learn how to behave and show respect. Once I realized what *I* had been doing to feed the crazy, things changed around here REAL fast.
post #17 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
There were SO many instances when he was just not being heard, or he was feeling lectured or whatever, and since he hadn't learned good coping skills of his own, he would just act out. To me it was "oh, he's defying my authority as a parent, bla bla bla, he just NEEDS to learn how to behave"But kids are not the only ones who need to learn how to behave and show respect.
Oh, this is so absolutely true! The problem is the part where I know that 90% of the time--but then certain behaviors trigger the release of the part of me that turns me into my father. And then I throw all of what I've learned, and all of my understanding, out the window. It's a total Incredible Hulk transformation--"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." I constantly strive to not let that part of me control how I think and act. For me, it's about finding ways to exert that control until the "screw all this attachment parenting crap, she's asking for a spanking and she deserves it!" monster is back in its cage. Seriously, it's like my dad just suddenly shows up in the room in my body. It's freaky.
post #18 of 23
This post is so very much where I am tonight. I had an episode with my son tonight that destroyed all the illusions I had about myself as a mother. After he hit me (the first time ever), I grabbed him hard by his arms, made him fall back and hit his head (not dangerously hard but enough to hurt) on the floor, then picked him up and roughly threw him down on our guest bed. Horrible. I was spanked as a child, and I've been able to hardwire it into my brain that I never hit, but what I did instead is just as bad. I'm going to look at all the resources here. I also called my pastor tonight and talked with him about it. He is going to refer me to an individual therapist to help me deal with this issue. I will not be this mother. But I feel absolutely helpless in keeping this violent rage from happening. Even when I can feel myself getting stressed and I'm telling myself, "don't do this, don't do this," all of a sudden I'm yelling, or throwing something, or slamming a door, or in tonight's case, hurting my child. Afterward, I feel like I just checked out of my head and someone else did those terrible things. I need to find a way to diffuse that energy effectively and nonviolently. And I'm going to start this week.
post #19 of 23
I would add that I hear alot of guilt over big feelings.

Often a huge temper is a sign that you are trying to hard to control those big feelings, rather than expressing them appropriately.

When I was first switching to gentle parenting I would have these moments of just mind-blowing fury. I was trying so hard to do things "right" and always be sweet and lovey...it isn't natural.

The kids would just keep pushing and I would EXPLODE. I started trying to at least make my meltdowns less scary, and would yell things like" I'M SO MAD THAT THE TOYS ARE EVERYWHERE!" or whatever.

I always felt awful after for losing my temper. Then one day my dd had a meltdown, and instead of the usual throwing and hitting and nasty words, she stood in place and yelled "I'M SO MAD YOU WON'T LET ME XYZ!" It was the most mature expression of anger and frustration I had ever heard from a 5 yr old. And I realized that it is important for our kids to see our anger and frustration, appropriately expressed, so they can learn to express theirs!
post #20 of 23
I noticed from your signature that your ODD is adopted. I may be WAY off base with this but that relationship could be explored. I have worked with many children whom were adopted and I think there is something to be said about the relationship that the child comes from and enters into. I'm not make sense here (12:16 am) but I would check out Heather Forbes www.beyondconsequences.com/. It helps take the immediacy away from the behavior and look at the long term effects.
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