Tricks for controlling temper in the moment - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 114 Old 06-11-2009, 02:19 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I have a bad temper. I know it. I inherited it from my father, with whom I had a crappy relationship largely because of his bad temper, spanking, yelling, and ridiculously high expectations.

It is something that I struggle to control, and these days, not always with success. My kids are 3 and 15 months--DS isn't quite at the temper-provoking stage yet, but he's close, and DD at 3 is a master of it. She knows how to push my every button. I am a Larry Cohen disciple and try my best to live by Playful Parenting, but sometimes my temper explodes and I think, "Screw this playful parenting crap, she's driving me CRAZY!"

In those circumstances, I yell. And I can be rough. Like when DD is fighting bedtime for the millionth night in a row, I plunk her back down on her bed hard as I'm getting pajamas on. I hate myself for this.

What I'm looking for is tricks from other parents with true bad tempers--not just people who can lose it once in awhile, since we all can do that, but those of us who really have that killer temper that can take over and leave you acting like a lunatic.

What tricks have you used to control it "in the moment" with your kids? I can make all the holy vows I want during calm times, but when DD is pushing my buttons and I'm seeing red, sometimes it's hard to remember them--or as I've said, I get so angry that I just say the hell with them. I have to come up with real, effective strategies for beating back those impulses. HELP!

Writer, breast cancer survivor, wife to Evan, Mommy to Annika (infant open adoption 2/3/06), Adrian (homegrown 3/11/08), and #3 due 6/17/10!
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#2 of 114 Old 06-11-2009, 02:54 PM
 
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First I would make sure you're taking care of yourself-as in eating right, getting as much sleep as you can and getting a break here and there. What about leaving the room and coming back after you've counted to 10 in another room?

Cathy mom to 13 y/o DD, 10 y/o DD, 7 y/o DS

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#3 of 114 Old 06-11-2009, 03:37 PM
 
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I too can lose my temper easily, and have a legacy of short-temperedness as well.

Some of the things I've done are journaled about what it was like growing up with a hothead, and really gone back, back to that place of being a fearful child, and it's really affirmed my desire to NOT let that legacy taint my relationship with my children.

Other things--really explore that remorse after the fact. Hang onto it. FEEL it, fully feel it. Tell yourself "this is how bad I feel afterwards. I don't want to feel this way again."

Also, recognize when you're about to hit that point of no return and remove yourself, or do something to diffuse the situation. Don't let yourself get pulled into a power struggle with your daughter. My sons are the same age, and one thing that I found works REALLY well is just coming out of left field with something. Like "I feel like having a banana. Would you like a banana?" or "I have to pee; wanna come with me?" It shifts the dynamic and gets the focus OFF of the tense situation, plus it's totally disarming and catches the LOs totally off guard.
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#4 of 114 Old 06-11-2009, 06:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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The problem with leaving the room and counting to 10 is that often my DD and/or DS won't let me. A couple of times, DD has been really provoking me (pushing/pinching/poking) and I've asked her to stop, saying "We talk about how your body belongs to you, well, my body belongs to me and I don't like to be poked." She keeps doing it. I try to step away, she follows. I literally had to go to the playroom and shut myself in there behind the gate so she couldn't get to me, and she of course threw a fit (as did DS because he couldn't get to me).

I like the disarming thing, Betsy. Hopefully I can remember that one! Maybe I can also suggest to DH that he try that one with ME.

Writer, breast cancer survivor, wife to Evan, Mommy to Annika (infant open adoption 2/3/06), Adrian (homegrown 3/11/08), and #3 due 6/17/10!
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#5 of 114 Old 06-11-2009, 06:48 PM
 
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Another one here who has an inherited short fuse. I'll be watching this post for answers - I already like what people have said here.

Counting to 10 never works for me. I spend the whole time thinking about how MAD I am and if anything it annoys me even more that I don't get to 10 and feel all chipper and ready to tackle things cheerfully.

I read somewhere about it being ok to express anger, just not towards the child. And for me that's a good starting point. Wherever I read this said if you feel angry, go into another room and stomp your foot. OK for the kid to see you being angry because you are working it out and not taking it out on someone.

I've been trying to do that. The other day I went into the hall and slammed the closet door about five times in a row. It helped get some aggression out... but I'm not sure what message I was sending to DD in terms of it being ok to slam doors when you're raving mad! :

I'm a work in progress.
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#6 of 114 Old 06-11-2009, 06:59 PM
 
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I'm another one with a nasty temper and an instinct to do things I would regret. I don't know anyone IRL who is like this, so it's hard to figure out what to do. My husband has absolutely NO idea what it feels like. NONE. It must be nice!

After my son was born, I saw a counselor for a while (not for anger, but for depression and frustration). She said that sometimes, taking out your aggression on something else (pillow, door) makes you feel even MORE aggressive. That's definitely the case with me. Plus, whenever I slam a door or scream in an empty room or something, Toby imitates me at some point. He's been doing it for a long time now, well over a year. I don't want to teach him that that's a proper way to deal with anger, but I'm inadvertently teaching it anyway.

Anyway, I haven't found anything that really works yet. I try a few little things here and there. Right now, I'm listening to the Hypnobabies home study course, so I try to imagine my "bubble of peace" when I'm about to lose it with Toby. I also tell him that if I threaten to spank his hand, he needs to tell me that he needs kisses and hugs, not spanks. The other day when I threatened that, he walked right over to me with his head down, hand out. I snapped out of the fury right then and there. It broke my heart to see him like that, so willing to accept physical punishment. Ugh. But now I have that image in my memory and will try to recover it the next time I lose my temper.

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#7 of 114 Old 06-30-2009, 04:57 PM
 
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Sadly, I do know what you are facing and you have my sympathy. Here is what I have been doing with some actual success…

Once I “see red,” it is too late; even if my mind says to stop, my mouth keeps going. So I try really hard to catch myself before I hit that point. Changing the dynamic by pulling either myself or DS the moment is what works. Different things work at different times, so I need a grab bag of ideas – 1) singing to engage DS, 2) singing to block out DS, 3) getting down on DS’s level and telling him in a very serious but calm voice whatever it is that I’m trying to communicate, 4) becoming very quiet and ignoring DS after telling him that Mama is getting upset and needs quiet time in her head, 5) going into a different room (we have a few that the kids are never allowed in) and breathing or sometimes reading even if DS is having a fit about my disappearance, 6) suddenly whispering – this has never worked to change DS’s mind, but he will eagerly whisper back “no I don’t want to” and the dynamic changes, 7) doing something different – like hopping around the house – it distracts long enough for me to pull myself together, 8) not saying anything but rapidly setting out some food and drink for DS.

At first there was no way to keep all of this in my head. We butted heads and my default took over. So I posted little notes around the house, so that I would see them as the red haze was descending. Then I could think “oh yeah – there is another way. I should ….” After a while I internalized this and don’t need the notes anymore. And as I react less, DS also lessens the things that drive me nuts.

For me, the key is to do whatever I need to calm down, since it takes two to tango and if I am not engaging, then it’s a lonely dance for DS.

Also on bad days I give myself a “talking to,” reminding myself why I don’t want to be that kind of parent, what want wrong, what I should do next time, and then forgive myself. I find that wallowing in the sadness of being a “bad mom” doesn’t help. I screwed up today, but tomorrow I have another chance to do it right. (This isn’t meant as a license to be mean to DS, but is a part of moving past that behavior.)

Heather, veg*n mama to A (4), S (2),and Shiso the Cat
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#8 of 114 Old 06-30-2009, 05:02 PM
 
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Naomi Aldort recommends visualizing yourself saying and doing all the awful things you're about to say and do. I find this plunks me straight into the remorseful stage, without actually yelling, snapping, or being rough. It's like getting a second chance without screwing up.

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#9 of 114 Old 06-30-2009, 05:48 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Sasharna View Post
Naomi Aldort recommends visualizing yourself saying and doing all the awful things you're about to say and do. I find this plunks me straight into the remorseful stage, without actually yelling, snapping, or being rough. It's like getting a second chance without screwing up.
lurking.

I've done this SO many times! It's so great. I have so many temper stories where I wish there was some kind of "undo" button at the top of the room like on a computer screen. Or the backspace key after I've said something mean. (Can you tell I spend too much time on the computer??) So I've tried completely flying off the handle inside my head and then watching it like a movie and realizing how it looks and how out of control I really am. And then yeah, I get a second chance! No harm done.
I've also done pushups to get rid of that extra adrenaline coursing through my body that tempts me to be physically violent (usually with objects, but definitely happened with siblings growing up). I need the release, and my body could always use the extra workout. It's more constructive for me than slamming stuff or screaming into a pillow.
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#10 of 114 Old 06-30-2009, 06:46 PM
 
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: this is a timely thread for me... I had a blow up just a few minutes ago...

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#11 of 114 Old 07-01-2009, 11:09 AM
 
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I am so here right now too... will be watching this thread for ideas
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#12 of 114 Old 07-01-2009, 12:59 PM
 
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Thanks for starting this thread. I could have written the OP - it is so true for me too, verbatim (except I have sons).

I had a bad flip out two days ago

BUT, on other days when I easily could have lost my temper, I have had some success (and need to remind myself - I like the PP's idea of post-its around the house) with visualizing myself as a ball of love - that will dampen, rather than amplify, my kids' negative emotions (this is the #1 best state of mind for me to solve the problem. I just need reminders!!!!!). Silliness doesn't always work for us, because the edge and tension of agitation is still there, under the surface, and just rears its head soon after. Sometimes, I can soften my building anger by thinking about the big picture, as in "can I let this go? will I think it's funny someday in the future?" or I think about the consequences, as in "is getting angry going to help? will it cause my kids to do what I am asking them to do?" The answer to that is NO every single time. They do not respond to anger *at all.*

So if I were going to write post-its, like YasaiMuraLife suggested (loved her post!), they would say:

"Be a ball of love. Absorb the anger and reflect back love."
"Getting mad just doesn't work. It's a bad strategy."
"Does it really matter that much? Can you loosen up for five minutes and see what happens?"

I also can't walk away, or seek a moment of solitude to pull it together, though for me I know that would be ideal. DS1 will follow me, poking, yelling, pushing. If I close myself in a room, he pounds the door so hard it nearly breaks. He gets really anxious about being left alone - even in the house - even for a minute. So I need to have tools to diffuse the anger in the moment, just like the OP.

I really think a support group where I could talk about this issue from time to time with others would help keep these strategies uppermost in my mind and reveal new ones to use as well...

aran .......... Mr. aran .......... DS1 .......... DS2
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#13 of 114 Old 07-01-2009, 01:09 PM
 
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I have a terrible temper, and I was abused as a child so my instinct is to hit and hit hard. I sometimes have to go to my room to calm down or I would definitely spank or something even worse. Which thankfully I haven't ever done, but that's largely because I remove myself from the situation when it gets to that. I have always just told dd, "I have to go to my room and calm down" when I'm about to flip out, and I sit in there and try to calm down, or cry, or whatever. And no, when I first started doing it she didn't like me going to my room, and I felt bad about that but it was definitely preferable to me hitting her or screaming at her.

My dd now does the same thing - when she's really angry, she'll say, "I need to go to my room!" and go and calm down for a bit. She has a terrible temper too. And I think that's something to think about - you are modeling how to behave when angry. Anger is not a bad emotion. It's part of life and your kids will have it too. And if you have a temper like that, it's possible they'll inherit it. IMO we do our kids a disservice when we hide our emotions. I think it's good for them to see us handle them in a constructive rather than a destructive way.
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#14 of 114 Old 07-01-2009, 01:53 PM
 
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Another short fuse here..although I find it easier to be patient with children.

I haven't read all of the replies so sorry if I repeat something that has already been said.

I usually have to do some deep breathing in order to calm down in the moment. It was a really good skill for me to acquire bc I also used to suffer from anxiety attacks and I can almost always talk myself down from them now.

Just expanding your rib cage can make you so much calmer because when you are upset you tend to breathe really shallowly which makes you tense up even more.

Also, I find that in the moment when I am upset/angry I feel that if I act out it will make me feel better somehow, but it never does. I just end up feeling guilty for the mean/agressive thing I said or did so I focus on one or a couple of those times and how bad I felt afterward to remind myself not to give into the temptation to loose my temper.

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#15 of 114 Old 07-01-2009, 06:47 PM
 
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My kids follow me when I try to walk away and it escalates things

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#16 of 114 Old 07-01-2009, 07:43 PM
 
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I have my moments as well...and I think that we all will experience it at least once. I mean we are only human.

For me if I don't let myself get caught up in the moment praying works. I will say a Hail Mary, or the St. Michael the Archangel prayer. Oh, sometimes I even say,"Precious Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ wash over me." That really seems to help.


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#17 of 114 Old 07-01-2009, 07:56 PM
 
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I'm struggling with this and my poor DD is only 13 months old.

She has always been a high-needs baby, and I have to admit, that made me angry. I have no tolerance for screaming. Crying I can take, it makes me feel like helping a child ... screaming is a different story. It makes me want to just shut. them. UP. And she has been a screamer from Day 1. Even when I was wearing her, nursing her, bouncing her, and getting nothing for myself, she screamed constantly.

As long as I can hear her screaming, I can't calm down. I've locked myself in the bathroom before, but she bangs on the door and screams the whole time. CIO would be a joke if I wanted to do it! She doesn't EVER get it out and use it up and calm down. She works herself up even more. And I just can't calm down as long as I hear her screaming at me.

I remember my parents fighting and screaming at each other. One would scream, and the other would scream louder. I would lie in bed trying to block it out, thinking "JUST SHUT UP!" because I wasn't allowed to express negative emotions ... how unfair is that?

I have told her to "just shut up" before. And once when she bit me hard while I was asleep, I smacked her. I felt so horrible when I had woken up completely and realized what I had done.

I don't have any answers for anyone else ... but I totally identify with this! I just wish it was easier.
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#18 of 114 Old 07-02-2009, 12:01 AM
 
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Ugh. Just tonight I allowed myself to acknowledge the deepness of my anger. I really have a temper. And I never really knew it before.

Counting to 10 and leaving the room are bad choices for me. I just get more riled up thinking about it all. I come back 10 times more mad.

This is a lame thing, but it sometimes works for me. I pretend that someone is watching me or I'm on a camera or something. This week we've been in a hotel and I know that I can't yell because the adjoining rooms (which house colleagues of my husband) will hear us. It's been good. When DS or I is getting into it I just say "you need to run up and down the hallway twice", or "we need to go take a walk around the hotel together". That said, one of my worst parenting moments was in front of a whole playgroup of moms/kids and it's the only time I've popped my guy on the bottom ever --

I've used this "being observed" trick in other areas too. Like if I need to concentrate on driving I pretend that I am in drivers ed with an instructor there. Or if I'm cooking I make it more fun by pretending that I'm on a cooking show .

I think I need the list of reminders around too. My son will almost always do something if I pretend he's someone else -- i.e. I will say "Hey baby squirrel, can you put on your shoes?" then he will do it, but he won't if I say "Hey DS, can you put on your shoes?". Weird, eh? But sometimes I forget that baby squirrel is a good listener even when my son can't be
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#19 of 114 Old 07-02-2009, 12:27 AM
 
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Oh yeah count me in here.

Right now I'm reading the book called When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and What You Can Do About It by Bonnie Harris. It has these exercises in there and it really, truly helps to do them. It helps to write out what my triggers are. Then I can see if I need to learn a new parenting technique for a specific problem (not just telling myself OH NO! I'LL NEVER BE GOOD AT THIS PARENTING THING!). Also it's a chance to reexamine some of my beliefs and expectations, and adjust them. Very healing. She also focuses on empathy being the bridge between you and your child, and then communication skills. I have found improvements in ways we deal with conflict in our home when I apply these techniques.

A huge one that works for us right now with dd1 (age 4) is when I start off yelling, triggered, losing it, etc... once I realize what I'm doing I'll stop and say, "I don't like how this is going. Let's try this again..." and I'll say what I wanted to say in a better way. Or if dd1 is really rude to me and it triggers me, instead of freaking out at her, I say, "Hmmm, let's try that again." Then I model *how* I would like her to speak to me. It works for us!

It's a journey.... sometimes small steps make a big difference.

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#20 of 114 Old 07-02-2009, 12:30 AM
 
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Oh yeah, another one is realizing what the emotion is that you feel BEFORE the anger.

for example, dd1 pushed 18 m.o. dd2 off the livingroom chair and she fell to the floor. Grrr! I Mama Bear-ed over there and roared: "Go up to your room!" But dd1 was just starting to get down off the chair and said, "I was just going to pick her up and see if she was okay and say I'm sorry!" Dd1 started to cry and I picked up both crying girls, sat them on my lap and hugged them. I apologized and said, "I'm sorry, I was scared when I saw dd2 fall down because I was worried that she was really hurt. I asked you to go to your room so I could see if dd2 was okay and to calm down before I spoke with you again. I'm glad you were going to see if she was okay and to apologize." Repair.

Just some thoughts! Good luck to us all on our journey!

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#21 of 114 Old 07-02-2009, 09:15 AM
 
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This is a lame thing, but it sometimes works for me. I pretend that someone is watching me or I'm on a camera or something.
YES! I totally forgot about this! Thanks for the reminder!

And I am adding When Your Kids Push Your Buttons and What You Can Do About It by Bonnie Harris to my wish list on amazon now...

aran .......... Mr. aran .......... DS1 .......... DS2
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#22 of 114 Old 07-02-2009, 03:50 PM
 
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This is a lame thing, but it sometimes works for me. I pretend that someone is watching me or I'm on a camera or something.
Not lame! Wonderful!

Sometimes I sort of pretend I'm taking care of someone else's child, and they'd be upset if I yelled.

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#23 of 114 Old 07-02-2009, 06:13 PM
 
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I pretend that someone is watching me or I'm on a camera or something.
I had this same thought today! We had a couple of guys working on the house, but my son was driving me INSANE. I managed to stay calm and quiet most of the day, thinking that I didn't want them to hear me being mean or hear my son crying. I realized that I should act like I have an audience all the time.

It didn't work after they left though.

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#24 of 114 Old 07-02-2009, 10:18 PM
 
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I too have done the "pretend others are watching" thing.

Another book: When Anger Hurts Your Kids by McKay et al.

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#25 of 114 Old 07-03-2009, 05:45 PM
 
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I like the visualizations, too. Validating my anger, planning what I want to do, and then going "OMG, I'm going to do that to my DS??" really helps me diffuse.

Also, and I'm going to sound SO vain, but what I've done is get LOTS of mirrors (started out for a totally unrelated reason). Put them around the house, and when I get angry, I look at myself in the mirror. We are UGLY when we're angry and about to blow. Oftentimes, just seeing myself at my ugliest will diffuse my hot head.

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#26 of 114 Old 07-03-2009, 10:48 PM
 
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I am so glad that I found this thread! I have a temper and I HATE it .

I have been able to reign it in-but ugh I am a yeller . I find it worse while in a stressful moment and someone decides to be disagreeable, difficult. Thinking back to those moments when I really lost it really have me thinking, really, seriously-I acted like that/did that? I so don't want to be this type of mother. I always wonder how others do it and remain calm. And of course when I hear about another mother who is the same way, it makes me feel a little bit less crazy.

Anyone have any tips on how to handle the DH's? He so knows how to push my buttons and then remains calm as can be while I go over the edge-all the while looking/acting like I am crazy.

~*Heather*~
Wife to J 9/00 Mama to K 12/05
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#27 of 114 Old 07-04-2009, 06:19 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ainh View Post
Ugh. Just tonight I allowed myself to acknowledge the deepness of my anger. I really have a temper. And I never really knew it before.

Counting to 10 and leaving the room are bad choices for me. I just get more riled up thinking about it all. I come back 10 times more mad.

This is a lame thing, but it sometimes works for me. I pretend that someone is watching me or I'm on a camera or something. This week we've been in a hotel and I know that I can't yell because the adjoining rooms (which house colleagues of my husband) will hear us. It's been good. When DS or I is getting into it I just say "you need to run up and down the hallway twice", or "we need to go take a walk around the hotel together". That said, one of my worst parenting moments was in front of a whole playgroup of moms/kids and it's the only time I've popped my guy on the bottom ever --

I've used this "being observed" trick in other areas too. Like if I need to concentrate on driving I pretend that I am in drivers ed with an instructor there. Or if I'm cooking I make it more fun by pretending that I'm on a cooking show .

I think I need the list of reminders around too. My son will almost always do something if I pretend he's someone else -- i.e. I will say "Hey baby squirrel, can you put on your shoes?" then he will do it, but he won't if I say "Hey DS, can you put on your shoes?". Weird, eh? But sometimes I forget that baby squirrel is a good listener even when my son can't be
I so needed to find this thread today. I've really been struggling with my anger, my dad had a big temper and hit out of anger, and I'm now starting to acknowledge that I have that tendency too. I'm getting a lot of useful tips from everyone. My problem is to remember them in the moment! I would put post-it's up, but I think DP will think I've gone mad.

I think the 'being observed' thing might work for me too - yesterday I actually WAS observed when I was changing DS's nappy and he was fighting it to the hilt, really a huge tantrum, and I was getting annoyed with him and being rougher than strictly necessary. A friend was coming round and I didn't realise she'd been at my door for several minutes and I'd not heard her knock. When I did, she said she'd peered in the window and saw what was going on. She said 'Are you OK?' I felt very ashamed. I don't know this woman very well. It was just the kind of thing I needed though, to remind me just how unacceptable my tendencies and temptations are.. I also like the suggestion of reflecting on how one felt as a child, with a violent/abusive/angry parent, and how frightening and destructive it was, to give me motivation to NOT do this to DS. It's so hard though.
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#28 of 114 Old 07-04-2009, 06:50 PM
 
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Thanks for starting this thread. I have no tips yet - but I'm definitely one who struggles. DS#1 is highly explosive and every behavioural outburst seems to push my buttons. I thought I had dealt with my anger issues but since my children were born, I realize that was a delusion on my part. I hope to have some good advice to offer in time.
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#29 of 114 Old 07-04-2009, 11:03 PM
 
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Ugh. I'm a yeller. I have a temper. And I didn't inherit it, I've just always been this way.

So many of these things don't work for me. DD1 (33 months) has always pushed my buttons. We butt heads daily. She does not listen to things I say until I yell, sometimes. DH says she was put on this earth to push my buttons.

Sometimes I ask her "Would you behave like this for Daddy?" And she'll smile and say no. So I'll ask her to treat me like I'm Daddy. This seems to work, so long as I can keep my cool, like DH always can. Very little she does phases him.

I hate feeling like others are watching or can hear us (And we're in a condo, so I know others can hear us). It doesn't help me to be a calmer parent. Not sure why. I think in part because guilt is not a motivator for me.

What helps is for us to get out of each other's space, together. If that makes any sense. We'll be having a difficult day, or I can sense one brewing, and I make the executive decision to get the heck out of the house. She is a social butterfly and she loves the stimulation of being out. So we go out.

Other times, I think "What difference does it make if I go to her or she comes to me?" Because that's one thing that seems to get my goat daily, she doesn't listen when I say "Come here." "Come here so I can comb your hair." "Come here and talk to me about XYZ." It's not that she's unwilling to do these things, she doesn't get why it has to be on MY terms, in my arbitrary location. And it is arbitrary. 99% of the time, it's no big deal for me to go to her instead of vice-versa. I want her hair combed now, so I need to go to her to do it.

I get that she's 2.5 and testing boundaries. I just wish once she found my limit, she'd stop pushing so hard. I feel like everytime I try to do something fun for her, like story time at the library, she "ruins" it. She won't sit down, she won't leave the other little kids alone, she has huge fit when it's time to go or heaven-forbid some other child dares to so much as touch the Clifford the Big Red Dog doll. No matter what I say, how I say it, how much I discuss things before hand, or praise her afterwards on good days, etc. So it makes me not want to take her. But then we're cooped up at home and I certainly know that's no good for her/us either.

She's always been an intense child. It's the defiance that's really getting to me right now.
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#30 of 114 Old 07-07-2009, 10:30 PM
 
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Great ideas in here. I'm prone to yelling and grew up with yell-y parents. Sometimes there is absolutely nothing I can do to stop myself from yelling, but I can manage to yell crazy nonsense stuff and start jumping around and waving my arms, and then get the girls involved jumping around and acting like crazy people, and we end up laughing, totally defusing the moment.

Sometimes.

Betsy, mama to beautiful, strong MZ twins Lillian and Kate, born 11 weeks early on January 10, 2006.
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