Recently, my husband had a brilliant insight into the notion of anger. There was somewhere that our family needed to go the next morning, and it wasn’t a place my children looked forward to. We told them about it the night before. We gave them the details and the timeline and asked how much time they needed to get ready in the morning.
When we woke them to get ready,they were sluggish. They were whining about the need to go. They were not cooperating. Does that surprise you?
I had fallen ill the night before and asked my husband to take responsibility for getting our children ready. That meant waking up a bit earlier to begin arousing and prodding our children awake. That morning, I had stayed in bed while he began getting everyone ready.
I saw time passing with no energy to do anything about it. I knew that they were going to be late. I nudged my husband to get them going.
To make a boring story short, it took anger to motivate them. In frustration, my husband raised his voice. When he growled at me for pushing him to yell, I told him not to take it out on me. We had set clear expectations the night before, and our children should not be able to whine their way out of it. So, what was the problem?
The problem - it turns out - was that he did not want to feel as angry as he did. He did not want to use anger to motivate his children to do something. And, he was angry with me for being angry that he wasn’t doing what he said he would do.
After he left, I considered what he had said. Rather brilliant - and quite obvious and simple - all at once. Why would anyone want to use anger or feel anger in order to motivate others to do something they want or need them to do? Moms, I’m sure you can relate to this - recalling mornings of trying to get out the door with uncooperative children, trying to intervene in brawls between siblings, or feeling exasperated during a toddler tantrum.
Where is the line between enforcing stated expectations and becoming angry when those expectations are not met? Perhaps, it is not the act of becoming angry but what is done with that anger. What is it that puts you over the edge?
In that abyss between enforcing your boundaries, rules, and requests and that place of anger, impatience, and frustrations lies our answer - and our challenge.
Anger is a swirl that disconnects us from our Self. We feel entitled in that space. We observe ourselves in that moment and simultaneously think that it is wrong and that our children “deserve” it.
Anger is harmful and hurts all parties involved. The behaviors of our children do not cause our anger. It is our reactions, our history, and our belief in our feelings that cause anger. Do we feel like a failure? Again? Do we have childhood scars that continuously erupt? What does it take to get through those moments without losing our cool, raising our voice, or regretting our behavior?
Here are five simple steps for overcoming anger:
Examine the causes. Anger often rises when we feel we have no control, when we are already vulnerable from pain or loss, or when we are focusing on the “wrong” thing. Spend some time thinking about what is happening when anger is triggered within you.
The psychological reactions and emotions we experience impact us physically. These physiological responses to stress impact our adrenal glands, digestive, immune systems, and more. Being aware of this will help you manage and redirect your feelings.
Create a simple practice. Pause. Take a deep breath. Count to ten. Start singing or call a friend. Form a habit that will benefit you during those moments.
Leave the scene. If the immediate situation is uncontrollable, step away from it. Regroup and try again. You probably won’t lose any more time than if you stay and respond with anger. An adult time-out is the perfect way to regroup and gain control of your emotions.
Take care of yourSelf. Believe it or not - by eating right, getting enough sleep, and participating in your own self-care, you will become better able to manage and even avoid those out-of-control moments.
Anger management is not a one-day solution. It is a process and takes your commitment. Don't give up and keep working on it. It is doable and there are plenty of moms who have gone before you on this path. Know that you are not alone and speak to other moms to create a network of support for the change you want to create.