I never thought I had a temper. I never even really ever got angry. I didn’t have these explosive emotions at all until I had kids. For the most part, I was an even tempered, low stress, laid-back kind of person. Right out of college, I even remember trying to fake anger in the classroom full of 8th graders to get their attention and regain control.
Well, I don’t have a problem expressing my anger anymore. You might even say that I have a temper. People who know me laugh at that notion. “You?” they say in disbelief. Yes, even I can lose my cool.
This seems to be the case for a lot of us parents. Kids can trigger our most powerful and worst emotions. In my case, I tried to figure out why I was reacting with violent outbursts to the typical, continual nagging, impatience, and disobedience of my children.
Sound familiar? You may not figure out exactly why you react the way you do, but for many of us it relates to our own experience as a child with our parents. In my case, here I was serving my children’s needs and I was at their disposal for any wish or whim, and it still wasn’t good enough. This is when I exploded. I was present to serve their needs and my patience was worn thin from placating, problem solving, waitressing, and maid service — and they were still whining or crying. This is when I snapped.
Sometimes I yelled at the kids a little too loud. I threw a toy or two across the room on occasion. Once I splashed water in my son’s face in the bath. Sometimes I gave the kids a spank on the bottom on their way up the stairs to their room. Whatever I did, it was too loud, sudden, violent, or frightening to make me feel comfortable with it.
Of course, intellectually, I realized kids will be kids no matter what you do — but that wasn’t helping me. My needs, especially the emotional ones, were inadequately served as a child. My history was triggering my periodic, explosive outbursts. Anyone with children will tell you that there is a fine line between losing your temper and child abuse. I wasn’t anywhere near the latter but losing control, no matter how periodically, made me feel terrible. I felt like I needed some strategies to control myself and my emotions.
I did a search of the Internet and my search didn’t turn up much that helped me. Most of the information was about temper tantrums in children, or anger management kits for sale. What about adults who only needed to manage their anger when it came to their own children?
For me, just thinking about my temper and its origins helped me. I began to sense myself losing patience and tolerance before the outburst happened at all. Awareness was a start. Sometimes instead of having the outburst, I walked away into another room to calm down. I would still get angry and get myself into a mood, but I wasn’t taking it out on the kids. If my husband or a family member was around, I would tell them that I needed a break. I might go for a walk or go upstairs to my bedroom to read for a little while. This seemed to help get my emotions down from a full boil to a slow simmer. I could face the children again with my patience restored after a simple 5-15 minute break.
I guess that’s the ticket — finding strategies that work for you. For some people, deep breathing, counting to 10, or closing their eyes to shut out the room can help them regain control. For others, self-talk like “I can handle this”, may work.
For me, I am hoping it was just a stage. My temper doesn’t seem to be flaring up as frequently. I am finding the older the kids get, the more I can reason with them. The warning “I am going to lose my temper” seems to work wonders. Or am I just deluding myself? After all, there will be a teenager in the house in less than eight years. Time will tell.
Have you experienced similar situations? What has been your best solution? Share it with our readers by writing to us at: ParentShare/Editorial Dept., Family Communications, 9 East 38th Street, 4th floor, New York, N.Y. 10016. You can also fax us at (212) 689-4958; or email us at: [email protected]