A reader asks:
Do you have any advice for curbing one’s temper? I’m a stay athome mom of an almost 2 year-old very good little boy. I sometimes feellike “NO!” and “STOP!” are all I say. My husband is terrificallysupportive and understanding, but works pretty long hours. Some days Ifeel like I’ve morphed into the Wicked Witch by bedtime. How do Idevelop the virtue of meekness, when, as a Mom, I shouldn’t always bemeek? How does a virtuous mother avoid anger & cultivate meekness?I read your last post about learning patience and thought, “Holy cow, Iwould have been yelling my head off at all of those interruptions!”
Though we all have different temperaments and some of us willnaturally have shorter fuses than others, nothing has the power tobring out the worst in the best of us quite like parenting toddlersdoes. Those little people can be so darned demanding and unreasonable.Mix that with possible sleep deprivation and long hours spent alone andyou have a recipe for some full blown grown up tantrums too.
While I am not at all perfect at controlling my temper with mylittle ones, I do think it gets easier with time and experience. Thefirst time a 2 year old shouts “No!” and kicks you in the face whileyou are trying to change his diaper is devastating and infuriating.Once you have experienced this same scene (or something similar to it)hundreds of times over, you do gain some perspective.
While you are waiting for that perspective, however, I would suggest you try some of the following:
1. Count to ten (or as high as you need to) before responding to behavior that is angering you.
Breathe deep. Say a Hail Mary asking for her help. Or say prayer toyour child’s guardian angel asking him to protect your child from youranger and frustration.
2. Use a quiet, calm voice to get your child’s attention.
Easier said than done? I used to think so, but when I tried it afew times, I discovered that it actually worked. A misbehaving childwill even cross the room sometimes to hear what I am saying if I lookhim in the eye and speak very quietly. Even when it doesn’t work, usinga calm voice gives me a sense of peaceful control of the situation.
3. If you feel out of control (or close to it) separate yourself from your child for a few minutes while you calm down.
Put him in his crib or another safe place. Lock yourself in thebathroom and take the time you need to feel controlled again. It’s okayto do this. Knowing your limits and respecting them is part of being agood parent.
4. When you are tempted to yell, pretend someone is watching and listening.
For our own sakes, most of us manage to control our tempers withour children in public situations. Pretend that nasty old judgmentalcashier from the supermarket is standing in the next room just waitingto criticize your parenting techniques. See if that doesn’t motivateyou to use a time out instead of a shout-out.
5. Get a blog.
Okay, I am only partly serious about this one, but I must say thatdaily writing has been good for my parenting. It forces me to step backon a regular basis in order to see the big picture. It helps me keep mylife and my relationship with my children in perspective. There havebeen many times where in the throes of an unbelievably frustratingsituation, I see through the frustration to the funny and I think tomyself, “Won’t this make a great column/post?” Keeping ajournal or just making a mental note of “funny afterwards” stories toshare with your husband or girlfriends could accomplish the same thing.
So what do the rest of you wise women think? What advice can you all offer to help struggling mothers control their tempers?
***Bonus Question: Do you cook your Thanksgiving stuffing inthe bird or not? I have always been an old fashioned in-the-bird kindof girl, but since I am cooking an extra large turkey this year, I’mleaning toward out-of-the-bird just so I don’t need to cook it quite solong. But I did note that Martha Stewart stuffs her turkey.