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On Teaching My Kids About Anger

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I hate how I feel when I yell at my kids. Stop it! Hurry up! What did I just say? It sears my own ears to hear myself raising my voice at them when I get stressed or just plain sick of them acting their age. (Have I mentioned I have a 2-year-old?) I don’t want to yell at them—they are defenseless and looking to me for guidance and an example of how to deal with anger. I’ve tried to stop, but in the heat of the moment, I slip up. My blood pressure, temperature and voice rise despite all my best intentions.

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But sometimes it feels like expecting me not to yell is analogous to swallowing my anger, which is not what I want either. I want to show them how to deal with anger, not swallow it. After all, anger is an appropriate response when they are ripping up a library book or bickering over who gets the green spoon.

If I had perfect command over my emotions and could stop yelling, would I be teaching them that expressions of anger are bad and should be shoved down inside? I’m not prepared to serve as a model for how to stuff anger. The question is, however, how can we express anger in a way that honors it as a natural human emotion without hurting other people?

I’ve tried a few different things in the hope of setting an example for my kids about how to deal with anger when it inevitably comes up. My vision is to involve them in the process by acknowledging my rage, and then inviting them to share the process with me so when it’s their turn to express anger, they will feel empowered by the choices I’ve modeled for them.

No one is yelling at anybody else; we are yelling together.

Here are my top three methods for dealing with my anger in the presence of my children:

1. Give myself a time-out. Right before I bellow, I stop myself. I take a deep breath. I tell my children that mommy needs a time-out because she feels really angry and needs a moment to collect herself. Then I leave the room. Once alone, I text a fellow mother or my husband to report that I haven’t yelled yet, but I am this close. I take a few breaths. I pray for my perspective to change. I get in touch with myself and figure out what’s going on. Usually, my temper is shortest when I am tired and hungry.

2. Punch the couch. In my house we aren’t allowed to hit each other, but we are allowed to hit the couch. When I find myself at the brink, I invite my kids to join me over at the couch. I get on my knees and together we punch the couch. It’s a great way to get the negative energy out in a way that includes the kids.

3. Group scream. This technique is like a group hug, except instead of hugs, everyone screams. At the top of their lungs. If you have neighbors or if your partner is on a conference call in the house, you should do this in the car. We count to three and then all of us scream like maniacs. No one is yelling at anybody else; we are yelling together. Everyone ends up laughing and asking for “one more scream,” and these are the good kinds because they don’t make me hate myself.

RELATED: When Moms Lose Their Cool

How do you express anger around your kids? Are you a swallower or a yeller?

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