I remember the day when I knew I needed to come up with an anger management plan for my parenting journey. I had several young children at home, I was exhausted from lack of sleep, I was teary, I was emotional and I was having trouble coping with every day tasks. My daily routine consisted of changing nappies, cleaning up one mess after another and of pushing myself physically and emotionally just to get through the day. My temper was raging out of control, not so much from things that my children had done (although, they did drive me crazy on many days!) but more from sleep deprivation and I knew that things were not going to get any better.
I also knew I would continue to feel tired in the future, I would continue to feel teary and emotional and that I was going to continue to have more children at home with me. Therefore adding more stress and moments where I would feel exhausted and frustrated. I needed a plan on how to cope better and a way to deal with the frustrations I was feeling.
Feeling angry is a natural emotion. It is normal and as a mother of many children, I was being realistic in accepting that I would have many moments where I would lose my temper. Trying to pretend that I was always going to be patient and loving and kind was just not real in my eyes. Sure it would be great to be able to hold myself together like that every day but even the nicest, most patient people have moments where they are pushed to the limit and kids sure know how to push our buttons some days!
So I came up with a few simple strategies that helped me stay calm:
Mum Time Out: If I feel that I am starting to get angry I send myself to my room for some time out. When I had little children the only time I could safely and realistically snatch was to simply close the door and enjoy about 30 seconds to myself. Most days during that time just knowing that I was alone in the room by myself was enough. I would take a few deep breaths and then go back out and tackle the situation again. Now that my cherubs are older I can take a little longer to calm down and to brace myself to deal with what ever is going on.
Music: I have always found that listening to music is a source of inspiration and relaxation for me. I found a list of songs that either relaxed and calmed me or helped me to release some energy by dancing around in my kitchen. I simply explained to my children that it was time for Mum to play her song and then soaked up those tunes until I started to feel better. Some days those songs were stuck on repeat for a long time!
TV/DVD's: When my children were young I tried to save tv/dvd watching for when I needed it the most as a mother. It was when I needed my children to sit still, to stop destroying the joint and to watch a show to try to give me a few moments to catch my breath. Often all I did during this time was to quickly clean up an area or to blankly stare out the window and to repeat over and over again...this too will pass...this too will pass.... :)
Sharing how I feel: I have always felt that it was important for my children to know that I am a person and that I have feelings as well. I simply tell them if I am having trouble controlling my temper and am feeling angry. I might say something like this, 'I know you want me to help you right now but I am feeling angry and I need to calm down first. Please give me 5 minutes by myself to calm down and then I will come and help you." I have found being honest and upfront works really well and once my children could see that I did want to help them and that it was best to wait, then they would give me some space.
Ask for a hug: Often when I am losing my temper it is because I am feeling over-worked, un-loved and under-valued as a mother. Normally all I need at that time is a loving hug and a kind word. With young children you don't often get it when you need it and they are too young to read the signs. So I started simply asking for a hug. I would announce that I was feeling a little sad and that Mum needs a hug. My children would always give me one and I would soak up that cherubs goodness and feel so much happier. The wonderful turn of events that has come from this is that my children now come to me at times and tell me they need a hug as well. I am always happy to give them one.
The Announcement: In extreme circumstances when I totally lose it, I yell out a family announcement: "For your own personal safety...go to your bedrooms right now!" Then my children scatter to their rooms and know to stay there and be quiet until I have calmed down. I then go to my room, lay down, shed a few tears, punch the bed, scream in a pillow, even read a chapter of a book, put on a new necklace, play a song loudly and say a prayer. These situations have occurred in such moments when two boys decided to pull all the keys of my laptop, when two boys got into my food storage and covered the whole rumpus room floor with spaghetti...then stomped on it with their little feet and broke it up into pieces, (did you know you can't vacuum up spaghetti!) or when two boys (are you sensing a theme here?) decided to pour a large container of honey over their heads...whilst standing on the carpet...in my lounge room.
Obviously being calm, loving and kind as a parent is the ideal we are all striving for. Daily loud yelling and extreme violence or anger is not the type of parenting that I am endorsing in any way. Having a plan for how to keep yourself calm I have found has been worth while. I know if things get out of hand that I have a way to calm myself down. My children also know my routine of how to calm down and can see when I need a break. Often they will suggest that I go take some time out in my room! I always willingly oblige. I am a much happier mother because I know and accept my limits. I also find that staying calmer brings a much better feeling to our home and that is worth the deep breathing I often have to practise!
Do you have a plan for when you feel angry?
What do you do to calm down?