I lose my temper a lot
March 9, 2012 8:30 PM   Subscribe

Please help me control my temper and my anger

I get mad and too often raise my voice and sometimes yell at my kids. I need to become more patient. Can you advise? or perhaps recommend a book to help?
posted by hollyanderbody to Human Relations (21 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Something I found helps on occasion: the 30-second rule. Lots of coaches use it for their players. "Before you Tweet or Facebook, wait 30 seconds and see if you still want to say what you were going to say." Kind of keeps them from getting into trouble cause of their attitude. I use it when I'm angry...wait 30 seconds or 30 minutes, depending on the situation. If I'm still angry about something, I am calmed down and can talk reasonably. Or am usually calmed down altogether and have realized it's something not worth being upset over.
And also...just taking a few deep breaths helps me as well.
posted by PeppahCat at 8:36 PM on March 9, 2012 [2 favorites]

Standard anger-management tools work well.

If you need to take a break from your kids, feel free to do so - leave the room for a little bit.

Count to 10, then count backwards to 1 if you're still feeling angry.

Remember to breathe deeply.

Consciously choose to let tense muscles relax.

I am not a parent! But I am an uncle that assists sometimes with young children. They definitely totally do stuff to test boundaries and try to assert their independance.

When I have to go get a kid that just straight-up ignored an instruction ("you need to put on a jacket to play outside, it's cold") I'll go after whichever one. I will restrain, but I don't grip with a lot of force or anything. Just gentle restraint on the shoulders.

I squat so we're face to face, rather than me yelling from above.

I speak in a calm, low (sometimes angry-low) voice and explain clearly why a thing has to be the way it has to be. I also explain what's going to happen if they continue to ignore me (usually a time-out, loss of a snack, loss of some other privilege).

Getting angry is alright! In fact I don't know how you could never be angry. You just have to choose to address the issue in the right way.
posted by kavasa at 8:39 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

A "book" is probably not the solution you need.

There's a reason that you're expressing yourself in that manner. You'll find it helpful if you can dig down and find out what buttons are being pushed and why. You might want to consider entering into some sort of individual or group therapy to explore this. I suspect that the root of your responding this way is more complex than you suspect.
posted by HuronBob at 8:40 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Anger is a secondary emotion which, for me, almost always comes from fear, hurt, or helplessness. So, if I am afraid, I face my fears and know that everything will turn out as it should. If I am hurt, I should approach those who have hurt me and talk about my feelings. And if I feel helpless, I need to ask for help.
posted by Debaser626 at 8:46 PM on March 9, 2012 [12 favorites]

I used to ask myself, when I found myself coming unglued, "What would the parent I want to be do here?" In my case, I had a specific person in mind. No, not Jesus -- a friend I thought had it going on as a mother.

And then do that thing, even if it feels fake and unnatural, even if a hint of sarcasm sneaks into your voice. Young kids won't know the difference, and it becomes more natural in time to react that way. Fake it til you make it.

It's still love, if your actions are loving, even if your heart is full of black rage.
posted by pH Indicating Socks at 8:56 PM on March 9, 2012 [14 favorites]

This is a weird, counter-intuitive thing that helps me stay calm with my kid:

When my kid is being completely annoying and I want to scream at her, I go over to her, look her in the eyes, and then give her a big, long snuggle.

Obviously this doesn't work every time, but it's a surprisingly effective intervention for many of those moments when I think I'm going to explode.
posted by latkes at 9:16 PM on March 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

Where do you live? Are there parenting courses you can take? Ask at a local school or community centre or perhaps your children's doctor can make some suggestions.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 9:18 PM on March 9, 2012

Anger is a secondary emotion which, for me, almost always comes from fear, hurt, or helplessness.

When I was a kid, my dad was really angry. It took me a long time to realize that he expressed every emotion, hurt, confusion, stress, EVERYTHING as anger. I did the same thing for a long time. When I realized I had picked that up, I started to work on it. I'm still working on it in therapy, but I'm so so so much better.

So I understand how other emotions can be expressed as anger, but this is so toxic. It's hard to tell from your question how bad it is, but I think it would help to see a therapist and start to work through why you're yelling at your children and how else you can express your feelings in front of them. There's nothing wrong or extreme about therapy as an option. It can only help you.

Kids with angry yelly parents grow up to be anxious adults, sometimes equally yelly adults but even if not, very anxious adults. I don't mean to make you feel bad, but I think overall my parents were great parents, like really great, but my dad's anger has a lot to do with my problems with anxiety as an adult.

This is why I insist you get a handle on this, for your own sake as well as your children's. Thanks for asking this question and recognizing this problem, and good luck to you.
posted by sweetkid at 9:23 PM on March 9, 2012 [19 favorites]

How's your blood pressure in general? Is it possible that you have a health issue that is causing your BP to spike and manifest itself in anger? Sounds random, sure, but getting BP in check via has helped this issue for at least four adults I know.
posted by mochapickle at 10:24 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Meditation can do a lot for tempering anger.
Try to aim for a daily practice, preferably with a lasting relationship with a teacher. (a weekly class, perhaps)
If you want to try meditation and have trouble finding a teacher, you could try Mindfulness in Plain English, accompanied by How To Train A Wild Elephant (they complement each other: what to do while sitting, and what to notice during the day--which also gives feedback about what it should feel like to sit)
posted by spbmp at 10:32 PM on March 9, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every suggestion above is GREAT!

- Give yourself a time-out and leave the room or walk away.

Surprisingly, I find to implement this I must consciously give myself permission to walk away when I am feeling triggered. This is definitely a skill + self-psychology. Showing yourself this kindness keeps you from boiling over - it has to do with the mindful acknowledgment that you are getting angry, yet you take control of that anger instead of the anger taking control of you.

- Health is EVERYTHING when it comes to managing your temper.

Are you taking vitamins regularly? Have you had your thyroid checked? How is your sleep? Are you iron deficient? Do you exercise?? Go to the doctor and get a full blood work-up. Change diet or exercise habits to maximize health.

Wanna know when I am at my worst? When I feel crap. Full stop. In fact, being stroppy is how I can always tell I am coming down with a cold or similar - my patience goes right out the window just before a cold hits.

- Speaking of sleep...

Did you know it is normal to wake up in the middle of the night, and that that is how humans are truly meant to pass the night? Science (sleep studies) backs this up, as does history and cultural anthropology. In fact, there are isolated tribes that still live this way. For Westerners, this natural sleep pattern artificially altered about the time of the Industrial Revolution. The truth is you are supposed to sleep about 4 hours, wake up in the middle of the night for 30 min to an hour or so, and then sleep solidly again for another 4 hours.

This "in-between" time was/is an important time to meditate, like, just be mindful or reflect. Because we don't do this anymore (or freak out when we do wake up between sleep cycles, so we take sleep aids, etc. to keep from experiencing this important time) it makes a regular meditation practice crucial...

- Meditation.

Google for info. So many studies proving benefits. YES, I know how hard it is to meditate when you have kids. Duh! That's why I mentioned the sleep pattern fact, above.

Instead of waking up and feeling stressed because you can't fall back asleep, use that time to lay there and meditate. You'll be back to sleep in no time, and your psyche will be stronger for it.

Google "mindfulness meditation" to get some good tips. But really, if you can only pull it off for a few minutes during the night before falling back asleep, that is enough. In fact, that is exactly what you are supposed to do!

- Fear creates anger. No doubt about it.

Explore your fears and get comfortable with them. See mediation suggestion, above. When you have a handle on what triggers you, it is so much easier to stop the trigger. Really.

- Emulating someone you admire DOES help with the mindfulness and de-activating triggers. It's that simple.


Good on you for writing this question. I struggle, too. I'm much nicer now. You can be the person you want to be. You are on your way just by writing this question and posting it.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 11:34 PM on March 9, 2012 [5 favorites]

How are you on self-care? Are you eating good food, getting enough sleep, getting some exercise, drinking enough water? I've found when I let things like that slip, I go from my ordinarily not-so-grumpy self to one of the divas from the Snickers commercials.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:25 AM on March 10, 2012

There is an important difference between being angry and expressing/acting out of that anger. If you can learn to be angry without having to do anything, you can be successful, while if your only way of handling the situation is to try and get rid of/ignore the feeling, you will fail.
posted by Obscure Reference at 12:59 AM on March 10, 2012

Two book recs:

Mindsight by Daniel Siegel
How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk by A Faber
posted by rosa at 3:56 AM on March 10, 2012

My kids are one and three years old, and drive me crazy sometimes. I have a formula for speaking to them when I'm frustrated. I name the negative behavior, name the behavior I want to see, and then name the consequence.

"You can't write on the walls. Write on this paper. If you write on the walls I'll take away your crayons."

"Don't put that spoon in the toilet. If you want water I'll give you a cup of water from the faucet. If you put the spoon in the toilet again I'll take the spoon away until you can use it appropriately."

I've also noticed that I get the angriest when the kids interrupt me from doing something, like cleaning or answering questions on Metafilter. In those instances I take a ten minute break from what I'm doing and just focus on managing their behavior...both correcting the bad and praising the heck out of the good. There's nothing in my life that I can't put aside for ten minutes.
posted by christinetheslp at 5:06 AM on March 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

I'd like to favorite the previous post x a million. Consequences are a good way to really stop the behavior that causes the anger. Otherwise lots of nagging happens with no results.
posted by dawkins_7 at 7:19 AM on March 10, 2012

People who don't like themselves sabotage relationships. Your yelling is self-sabotage.

People who don't accept themselves have big problems accepting others and loving what is. Normal kid behavior might get under your skin because you judge yourself harshly. When you can be easy with yourself, you'll go easier on others.

When you value yourself, you will notice that you are less anxious and angry. You'll show them how it's done instead of barking orders and expecting the impossible.

There are a lot of books out there on anger and the family and books on learning to love yourself. Explore those but also realize that books can't work for everybody.

I had a lot of anger, too. Here is a comment explaining some of that.

Therapy helped me, and is still helping me.

Good luck.
posted by Fairchild at 7:30 AM on March 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

I'll support meditation as well. Tibetan Buddhist monks have been shown to be able to modulate amygdala function, and recent work by UMass's Sara Lazar show that new meditators put through an 8-week meditation programme show decreased grey matter in their amygdalae, in addition to other benefits.
posted by Dodecadermaldenticles at 7:40 AM on March 10, 2012

I received the book Mommy Mantras as a gift, and originally thought it was fluff, but it turned out to be really helpful. It is what it says - affirmations and insights. When I feel myself getting short on patience, remembering what's behind mantras such as "surrender to the goat" is what works. The first chapter is about managing anger: Knowing when the pump is primed, dealing with it in the moment and remembering how to get through it. The second is about the blues, which goes hand in hand with anger sometimes. It changed my wiring quite a bit.

I've also never forgotten Madamina's great "What would a robot nanny do?" advice. Sometimes it's quicker and more efficient to detach and just plain function on a very simple level than it is to work through a system, especially in public. If you need an on-the-spot tool, and that's one of the best.

And, quite honestly, for a while I sought help from my doctor. I was stressed; anxious because I don't have an "easy" kid; sleeping poorly (always); and as it turns out, dealing with depression. Medication helped me, and I called it patience in a pill. It smoothed the rough edges, so I could then think my way through instead of merely reacting.

I was yelled at as a kid. I never learned anything else. I tried to learn parenting from books, and found it doesn't always work that way. You learn about parenting by parenting, but you improve as you study yourself.
posted by peagood at 10:10 AM on March 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

A series of questions to ask yourself, breathing between them:

Will this matter in a day? Will this matter in a week? Will this matter in a month? Will this matter in a year?

If the anwer to any of these is no, then treat the issue with the mentality it deserves.
posted by lalochezia at 10:35 AM on March 10, 2012

Do you get angry at everything? Like if someone said you have a great haircut. Think about it. Your anger level might be different for different triggers, which should be your clue to what triggers you the most, which in turn will point you to your issues. Some e.g. are individuals who have low sense of self and they get ignored in a conversation without reason (or so they think) they sense anger welling up inside them.

Same for you. Find out what gets you the most angry and you will then need to work on those issues.
posted by pakora1 at 8:11 PM on March 10, 2012

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