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Mommy Rage: How, And Why, To Cope

Mommy rage. If you’ve never felt it, you can probably skip this article. But if you’ve ever been gripped by the uncontrollable urge to throw a full-scale tantrum of your own in response to a power struggle with a three-year-old, read on.

Dear Sugar, who makes me cry with some regularity, has written a stunning column in response to a mom grappling with her own mommy rages. It’s normal to feel this way, is the message. The trick is to forgive yourself and then do whatever it takes to be the mom you want to be. You know, the one who doesn’t actually implode and scream at her kids.

I love my kids. Being their mom is the greatest gift and joy I’ve ever been given. It’s also the biggest challenge. I have, in the past, lost my temper. It’s been a lot better since I learned to put myself in time out, but it does happen. So I really resonated with the advice given here:

I’ve also behaved in ways toward my children that I regret. Find me a mother who hasn’t.

I don’t say this to let you off the hook, but rather—paradoxically—to place responsibility for change squarely on your shoulders. Parenting is serious business. It brings out the best and the worst in us. It demands that we confront our brightest and darkest selves. Your dear daughters have given you the opportunity to see yourself in full: you are the woman who has the ability to love more deeply than she ever thought possible and also the woman who has intermittent “screaming adult tantrums” directed at two people under the age of 5.

She goes on to lyrically illustrate how the work of controlling one’s anger rests squarely within us. Sure, we all lose it sometimes. The trick is to do more than feel bad about it. We need to genuinely forgive ourselves for losing our tempers with our little kids, and then do the work to change it. We’re not helpless victims of our own mommy rages.

That’s an important message. But wanting to change often isn’t enough. We all need tools to transform our outbursts into something positive. Sugar talks about the power of walking away and taking a deep breath. I wrote recently about my magic trick of putting myself in time out. Here’s a top ten list of things to do when you feel you’re going to lose it:

  1. Take a “time out”. Go sit somewhere quiet for a few minutes, alone.
  2. Take a walk. If you’re not the only adult present, you can leave the house and just walk around your neighborhood till you cool down. If you are alone with your kids, try walking into another room at least.
  3. Drink a glass of water. You’d be surprised how quickly shifting gears to get a drink can calm you down.
  4. Eat something. Some meltdowns come from low blood sugar or hunger. Eat a snack and see how you feel after.
  5. Scream – but not at the kids. Sometimes it feels really good to yell. Go ahead and blow off steam by throwing your head back and doing your very best Godzilla impression; just don’t aim it at your kids.
  6. Laugh. If you can, try to see the humor in the situation. You can turn a power struggle into a giggle fest if you play your cards right.
  7. Get your needs met. When you’re happy in your life, you’ll be less tense with your kids. Grown-up stress spills into our parenting, so deal with money, relationship and other issues as well as you can.
  8. Take time for yourself. Giving yourself alone time to do whatever you want with is vital to keeping a cool head. Getting the alone time you need is a great way to head off grown-up tantrums before they start.
  9. Treat them as you’d want to be treated. Try to put yourself in your child’s shoes for a moment, and imagine being on the receiving end of the anger you’re dishing out. That’s a very sobering thought, and it might just snap you out of your fit.
  10. Say you’re sorry. If you do lose it, take a moment when everyone is calm again to apologize to your kids and let them know that you want to treat them with respect and love, and talk about what you could all do better next time to avoid another confrontation.

What do you do to keep – or regain – your cool when you’re losing it with your kids?

Photo: C Jill Reed

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