The issue with anger is that it escalates. I yell, they yell back, I take away something electronic, they storm off crying. It doesn't solve anything. It leaves everyone in the house, even the innocent bystanders, feeling wounded and alone. It is the exact opposite of the home I want to create for my children.
And yet, there are times when anger serves a purpose. This passionate emotion can show that we care. It can stop people from taking advantage of you. It can relieve stress. It proves we are human. And in some cases, getting angry gives us an opportunity to model how to apologize. Last night, was just such a night.
It started like any other, with a child complaining about too much homework. Mom trying to help with homework while making dinner and getting other child ready for cheer. Homework child was stopping at every problem to complain about hard it was and that it would never get done. I agreed that if she stopped to moan after every problem, it was going to take a very long time. She managed to get one subject done and I told her she could take a little break.
Dinner was ready five minutes later and I asked her join us at the table. Simple request, right? This resulted in instant tears about how tired she was. And I exploded. Something like "You've done nothing but complain since you got home. Now get your butt over to the table before I spank you every step of the way." (I don't spank, this just fell out of my mouth.)
She made it to the table and sat there with her head down picking at her plate. We finished eating and she went back to the couch without clearing her plate. I asked her to clear her plate and there were more tears. She said something like "You're not listening to me" and I said something like "That's right, and I won't listen to you until your clear your plate." Sufficient to say anger escalated. In fact, it escalated to the point where I was yelling "Don't worry, I'll write your teacher a note and explain that you could not get your homework done because you were too busy throwing a fit." and she was packing a suitcase to run away.
That's when I realized that I had seriously screwed up. I shoulda took that left at Albuquerque. I shut myself in my office and took a few deeps breaths - more than a few - and then went up to her room. She would not even look at me. I rubbed her back and told her I screwed up. That I lost my temper and should not have. I told her that I loved her and felt horrible about upsetting her so. I told her that no matter how mad I got, I would always love her and never wanted her to run away. We sat in silence for moment and then she wrapped her arms around me and told me that "maybe she has lost her temper too." We cuddled a little longer and then went downstairs to work on that homework together.
It's okay to show our children that we are not perfect, that we make mistakes. Just make sure you follow that up with showing them how to apologize and how to learn from our mistakes. It's good for them to learn that we get mad, but we glad again. Even when we are mad - we love. We will always love them, no matter the sin, unconditionally.
- Know Your Triggers: Prepare for them. Tell yourself I can do this without getting angry. Tell yourself anger won't help and just make things worse.
- Don't Try To Do Three Things at Once: You are setting yourself up for disaster. Especially when dealing with children and difficult or unpleasant tasks, give them your full attention.
- Ask for Help: Ever get mad because you are doing all the work? Did you actually ask your family for help? Now if you ask, and they don't help consider a new family! Ha!
- Take a Time Out: Not just for children anymore. Just walk away. A bubble bath and a glass of wine can be a great time out.
- Catch it Early: Watch that internal dialog. Are you overgeneralizing? "No one ever cleans up around here." "I have to do everything myself." Recognize having those kinds of thoughts means you are about to lose your temper.