I don’t know any mom who doesn’t deal with anger on some level. Not a single one.
Children are the most demanding, relentlessly needy, stress-inducing people I know.
Whether you come home to them after a full day of work, or if you are with them for most of the daylight hours, the constant wrangling can be exhausting. It’s no wonder we can blow up on a moment’s notice!
Acting out of anger is one of the things I feel the most ashamed about in my parenting when it strikes. And it’s one of the hardest things to fix.
Brittany has a great post about How to Prevent Mom Anger Before It Starts, and that is where I recommend you start if you find yourself repeatedly dealing with mom anger.
However, even if you’ve got some great prevention strategies in place, you’ll probably still have instances when you lose your temper anyway.
But don’t worry! You’re not perfect, and all hope is not lost. Here’s what to do when, despite your best intentions and efforts, you blow up at your kids.
1. Remove and Redirect
I’m sure you’re familiar with the “mom with the screaming child in the grocery cart” scenario. Even though pretty much everyone has been there, it can be so embarrassing—and anger provoking! Whether it’s the grocery store or somewhere else, get yourself and your child out of the situation as quickly as possible. Maybe you already blew it, but by removing the anger triggers you can prevent further damage. Give yourselves the space to cool off.
It might be incredibly inconvenient, but let’s face it, “convenience” isn’t what you signed up for when you became a parent. Even if you’ll be late somewhere or miss a deadline, give yourself grace—because learning how to handle your anger in a mature way is probably the priority.
As Brittany mentioned in her post, Four Ways You Can Prevent Mom Anger Before it Starts, sometimes a little redirection or distraction can work wonders in diffusing the tension. So if you can’t remove yourself completely, make a slight adjustment so that the anger triggers aren’t as pronounced.
*See Also: 25 Ways to Speak Your Child’s Love Language
2. Take Long, Deep Breaths
Deep breathing is practical, in-the-moment tool for cooling down your anger quickly. Anger is one of your body’s physiological responses to a stressor. It’s not a bad thing in itself (Ephesians 4:26 says to not sin in your anger). It’s harmful when it gets out of control and hurts someone else as a result.
Deep breathing slows down your body’s acute response to your circumstances by forcing your heart rate to slow down and signaling your stress hormones to cool it. Your brain switches from instinctive decision-making (like wanting to throw things and yell) back into more rational processes. Try doing it with your kids!
I’ve had to practice to get good at this. I try to do deep breathing when I’m not angry so that it’s more of a natural habit when my temper flares. I’ve found that it is natural to work it into my prayer time each day. When anger strikes later, I’m better practiced.
To learn more strategies about how to better manage your anger and other reactive emotions when you’re under stress, check out my free email course, StressLESS.
*See Also: Six Essential Ways to Increase Your Patience
3. Assess Your Expectations
Once you calm down and take a step back from the situation, ask yourself, “What was I expecting?”
Were you getting angry because your two-year-old was acting like a two-year-old? Or because your older child hasn’t mastered certain life skills like cleaning up after himself? Do you expect my kids to act like mature humans when they’re not?
Once I recognize that my expectations were unrealistic, I’m immediately a lot more patient and gracious. Then I can implement some much more effective parenting strategies other than yelling.
Brittany has some great tips if you sign up for her Positive Parenting Challenge.
4. Do Damage Control
Our kids expose the worst in us sometimes, don’t they? I just try to remember that I’m going to fail in my parenting, and that is more than okay.
Kids don’t need perfect parents, but they do need parents who will demonstrate humility and love in the wake of their mistakes.
I apologize after I speak or act in anger against my kids and ask for their forgiveness (they’re very gracious!). Sometimes I’ll pray with them. Depending on the situation and their maturity level, I might try to explain to them why I blew up. Not only does this mend our relationship, but I also demonstrate how to handle anger in a godly way.
5. Hit the Reset Button
Lamentations 3:23 says God’s compassion is new every morning; in fact, it’s new every moment! When you blow it, it’s never too late to get a fresh start.
In our house, we like to hit “reset” or try a “do-over” whenever one of us is off. I’ve found it very helpful to have some of my favorite scriptures handy either on notecards or on my phone, to help redirect my thoughts.
(Check out these 10 Bible Verses for the Grumpy Mama if you need some ideas.)
Whatever you do, try not to wallow in guilt, which will probably prolong your lousy mood and lead to more anger episodes. Be strong in God’s grace, and move on.
Now it’s your turn: do you struggle with anger? Which of these strategies do you think will be the most helpful for managing your anger in the moment?