Anger Management – How Do You Do It?

October 24, 2008

Creative Commons License photo credit: Melle_Oh

Anger – it sounds like a dirty word, but the more we try to avoid it, the more we feel it. Is anger so bad? Is there a positive way we Moms can learn from our anger and model productive ways to express feelings?


There is nothing wrong with anger. Anger, like all emotions, is merely a messenger.

Don’t add insult to injury by guilt tripping yourself when you experience anger.

Anger is there to alert you to something wrong in your environment. It often means that your personal boundaries have been disrespected.

Perhaps you’ve been ignoring your feelings of frustration, annoyance, or burden far too long. Anger is likely to be the result.

Psychologist Dr. Haim Ginott once said that “Humans can be a little nicer than they feel, but not a lot.” I totally agree with that statement!

So if you feel anger welling up, what can you do to avoid exploding, especially on someone nearby (likely, your beloved children)?

Here are some things that have worked for me. I don’t do any of these perfectly by any means. And sometimes the only thing I remember to do is take deep breaths. Perhaps these strategies will be helpful to you, and typing them out will help me remember too!

1- Leave the situation
As soon as possible, take your leave for a moment. Explain to the person you’re with that you need a moment, but don’t ask for their permission. Walk away.

If the person you’re talking to is a very small child, you might not be able to leave them alone, but you can turn around and remove your attention for a moment. It might help to go to the bathroom and lock the door for a minute, or put on head phones and listen to your favorite music.

While you’re having your “timeout”, do something productive. Practice deep breathing. When we are angry, we often stop breathing, or we breathe in a very shallow manner.

Breathing deeply helps you get into a different state instead of reacting to an old pattern, usually created due to an illusion or totally unproductive, unhelpful pattern.

Deep breathing is especially helpful when you cannot take a break from the situation, such as when you’re in the car and the kids are trying to kill each other in the backseat. Learning deep breathing, all the way from the base chakra, has transformed my entire life. I mean that!

Take a walk. Pray. Rehearse what your next words will be so you have more control over your response.

No matter what, don’t dwell on your negative thoughts and feelings, find something positive you can do to restore your emotional balance. Ruminating is NOT helpful and will only keep you stuck in your negative patterns.

2- Use laughter
Humor can diffuse a situation like nothing else. So if you are steaming, think of something amusing. Your favorite line from a funny movie, something silly your child did, whatever it is. Laughter helps put things into perspective and can turn around your mood quickly.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been blessing out my oldest son and suddenly I realize how utterly stupid I sound and look, and I burst out laughing. It’s incredibly helpful!

Parenting is serious work but it doesn’t have to be serious all the time!

And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you laugh at yourself, your child won’t respect you or take you seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your child won’t respect you when you’re raising your voice and flailing your arms and spinning ’round on your eyebrows. :-) On the other hand, seeing you model healthy communication skills engenders respect.

3- Decide on your response ahead of time
It’s helpful to decide ahead of time what you’ll do when you feel yourself getting angry. If you’re a yeller, make a pact with yourself that you’ll whisper when you get angry. If your kids are accustomed to you raising your voice when you get angry, they will stand up and pay attention like nobody’s business if you whisper. I’ll never forget the last time I had laryngitis. I think my parenting skills went up a huge notch because I was forced to communicate effectively. Try it!

If you’re dealing with a manipulative or verbally abusive person, rehearse a phrase like this: “That deserves consideration. I’ll think about it and get back to you on that.” to put yourself back in control.

Or write your feelings in a note. This works really well with children.

For example, if your teen promised to clean the kitchen but never got around to it, tape a note to the fridge that says:

A Dirty Kitchen Makes Mom Start Witchin’


The Management

Be determined to focus on the behavior that triggers your anger, not the person, and inform them what they can do to make things right with you.

Instead of saying: “You are so lazy!” say things like

I am so angry that you decided to play video games instead of clean up your room. In the future, I expect you to keep your promises to me. When will you be starting on this room?

4- Analyze your anger
If you lose it and blow up, try to explore what led to it. It might be helpful to write down what was happening in the hours leading up to the explosion. Was someone really pushing your buttons and instead of setting a boundary, you let them continue? Has it been way too long since you’ve had some time to yourself? Had it been many hours since you and everyone else had eaten? What could you do differently next time? Is there an area where you could change your routine for everyone’s benefit?

Every parent loses their temper from time to time. It’s not helpful to wallow in guilt or beat yourself up. Anger isn’t an unacceptable emotion. What’s unacceptable is how it’s sometimes expressed.

It’s also helpful to keep in mind that anger is what psychologists refer to as a “secondary emotion”. Meaning you often feel something else underneath the anger but anger is safer to express somehow.

Here is an example.

Your 5 year old runs into the street to chase after a ball.

You feel your heart start to beat out of your chest, your blood pressure soar and your face get red. So, you start yelling at them and chastising them.

What’s really behind this anger?


You were terrified for a split second that your child could have been in grave danger, and the first thought that automatically popped into your head was

“Some idiot could come around that corner too fast and take my baby away from me forever.”

Get in touch with THAT feeling. And then express THAT feeling to your child. It will have far more impact on your child’s future behavior if you do.

Notice that nowhere in this article did I say trying to vent your anger. Decades ago psychologists thought that “letting it out” was healthier than keeping it in. You know what?

They were wrong.

And they have been admitting it in recent years after years and years of study. “Expressing” your anger is bad for your physical health and leads to increased heart disease and other ailments. Not to mention the damage to your relationships!

So, what are you tips for controlling your anger so you can parent effectively?

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2 Responses to “Anger Management – How Do You Do It?”

  1. CaraM - TheHouseholdHelper on October 26th, 2008 7:48 am

    When my toddler throws a temper-tantrum, I put him in time-out until he calms down. Now when I get angry, I put myself in time-out. My son knows to leave me alone until my time-out is over. Time out allows me to gather my emotions and analyze the situation/problem.

  2. Sarah Zeldman on October 26th, 2008 3:14 pm

    Here’s a deeply personal blog post about how I stopped chronically yelling at my children:

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