I have problems with my anger. I frustrate easily and with two young children, I get frustrated often. I’m probably not alone that there are times that the anger wins and I yell or throw a tantrum right alongside them. But it isn’t healthy and I don’t want to raise my voice or lose my temper. It’s something I am actively working on with my therapist and in DBT (a type of skills training/group therapy). In DBT I’m learning skills to combat angry outbursts.
The first step of course is realizing I’m angry before I yell or say something hurtful. For me, this is difficult since I go from normal to furious seemingly in an instant. But it’s not really an instant, there are signs. There are also triggers, Evelyn screaming, Nate being defiant, Jacques being short fused as well. Recognizing when I’m starting to get agitated is the first step. There are also times, especially during hypo-mania symptoms where I’m just more irritable. Calming myself before it becomes too much to handle is key.
I have a few different skills to use now that I lacked before. The first is simply taking a time out. To be honest this is the least helpful. Taking a break is important but at the same time the things that usually gets my anger up are when the kids are being disobedient or mean to each other and I can’t just leave the situation every time. I need to be able to discipline but I can’t do that if I’m angry. Walking away for a few moments may help me, but it won’t stop the behavior. It’s a last resort for me right now.
I’ve found more success with a few other skills. Just being mindful of my anger has a way of making it easier to manage. The other is acting opposite to how I want to act in anger. This means instead of yelling, I start hugging or tickling. Tickling usually dissipates both my anger and whatever frustration that is causing an outburst in my children. Double duty.
Deep breathing also helps. Not only in the moment, but anytime I’m starting to feel agitated, I take a few controlled breaths (in for 4, hold for 4, out for 8) making sure to count and focus. This also helps with my anxiety.
I’m still new at using these skills to help control myself when I feel like I’m losing control but I’ve already seen the fruits of change. While there are still the same amount of outbursts from the kids, the length of each has decreased rapidly because of my reactions being different. Power struggles still remain, but if I’m not losing my temper, I can control the situation rather than let the situation control me. I’ve seen a change in how my children react to me when I stay calm. I take any outbursts not as personal but rather as a cry for attention. Instead of giving them negative attention for their behavior, I’m working on correcting it and then giving them the loving positive attention they crave after their consequence (which is usually a short time out in their room to calm down themselves.)
I’m hoping that modeling how I deal with myself when I’m angry will rub off on the kids. Nate’s own anger seems to be more easily dissipated when mommy is calm herself rather than angry in response. It’s remarkable to see changes in them after only a week or two of trying to change myself.
All the rest I can do is pray for strength and keep implementing the skills I’m learning. My ultimate goal is to be able to discipline and act calm around my children no matter how the circumstances are making me feel. The next step for me is dealing with the guilt I feel for taking this long to get a handle on it. It’s hard to teach them how not to act when angry when Jacques and I have been such a bad example. I’m hoping that change, real change on my part will work a change in the hearts of my children. I’m not expecting them to become perfect angels who never misbehave or get angry themselves but rather to give them the example of how to handle explosive emotions before they explode.