Slammed door, yelling, and stomping feet. These are the sounds of the moody teenager, right?
Sometimes. But sometimes, they are Mom or Dad.
I was taught to control my emotions as a child, but I didn’t have to really practice it until I became a mother. We love our children. We want the best for our children. And yet, our children are the people who can sometimes disappoint us, anger us, challenge us, and bewilder us the most. To a great degree, this isn’t THEM. It’s US. We expect more. We hope for more. We demand more. And when they can’t meet our high expectations, or they falter as all humans do, we often take it as a personal issue. They are defying ME. They are disobeying ME.
Me. Me. Me.
We have to have proper expectations. To a degree we all know that. But getting more to the point of this post, we have to know not only when we have overreacted (or taken some other issue in our lives out on our kids), but we have to be able to apologize. And we need to apologize in a way that also creates a teachable moment.
After all, are we not all sinners? Are we as faithful Catholics not all seeking forgiveness? When we wrong another person, especially those closest to us, are we not called to demonstrate repentance? Losing your cool can be made fruitful instead of simply a sour apple if you follow a few soul-growing steps:
Always Repent: When you have overreacted, or simply plain reacted inappropriately, acknowledge it. Tell your child, no matter how young, that you are sorry. That you overreacted. If you screamed because your child dumped their juice out on the floor willfully, you are still on the hook for your reaction. “Johnny, I am sorry I yelled. It was not an appropriate reaction. You absolutely cannot dump your juice on the ground. That is unacceptable, but I am sorry for overreacting.”
Brighten the Mood: Switch gears! If you are frustrated, angry, emotional, and negative, it will rub off. Help to create an atmosphere that reduces your chance of having to apologize again. If your kids are rowdy and knocking stuff over, and that is setting you off, send them outside, get them playing twister, or find another activity that can keep them from destructive tendencies without putting you into Mean Mom Mode.
Combat the Source: Why are you frustrated, angry, negative, etc? What is causing you to blow up? For most of us, a single kid accident or misstep is a trigger for existing stress or a personalization of actions where personalization doesn’t exist. Jenny down the street said “oh, poor you!” when you announced your fifth pregnancy. Your husband is out of town for the 11th day in a row. Your house is messy. You feel like you are a horrible housewife and there is so.much.to.be.done. And then….Johnny dumps his juice on the floor. Suddenly, all those stressors which have built up to a breaking point are unleashed in that moment. Realize that those are the things stressing you out. Johnny’s misstep of dumping his juice is the behavior of a child learning the boundaries of the world. You still have to set those boundaries, but he is not liable for the burdens you carry.
Pray for peace.
Consecrate yourself to Mary.
Hide in the bathroom for five minutes to calm yourself.
Work towards recognizing when you are losing your cool.
I recently attended a homeschooling conference where Ray Guarendi spoke about anger. One thing he said jumped out to me. He said that there was a single practice we could all take that, if we could do it, could dramatically cut the number of apologies we have to make for things we say in anger. His advice? When you hit the peak emotional state of anger, wait twenty seconds before saying a word. Simply say nothing. In his words, “you don’t have to apologize for what you didn’t say.”
To pray on further, here are a couple passages from the Bible to reflect on when feeling bouts of anger:
Proverbs 29:11 — A fool gives vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.
James 1: 19-20 — My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
What other ways do you have to control your anger, frustration, and negative emotions? Please share with us in the comments!