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I Lost My Temper, Now What?

Laura Kuehn, LCSW
Written by Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Parenting is a high stakes job. Our emotions, hopes and fears get all wrapped up in it. This level of intensity can have some negative side effects – like losing your temper. If you have ever struggled with anger outbursts, read on to find out what you can do in the aftermath as well as some ideas to prevent them from happening.

Exercising self-control when your buttons are being pushed can be very difficult. It can be all too easy to lash out in anger and issue harsh punishments. What can you do if you have lost your temper with your children? Here are some suggestions:

Walk away. If you have had your buttons pushed and have lost your temper, you need to find a calm and private place to collect yourself. Once you are alone, pray, read, do sit-ups – whatever helps you to re-group. There is no shame in excusing yourself from a volatile situation. In fact, you will be role-modeling exactly what you want your child to practice when faced with feelings that are too much for him. Furthermore, if you ever feel that you might hurt your child, call someone for help right away. Text HOME TO 741741 or call 211 to be connected to a crisis counselor.

Apologize. If you have lost your temper, you will need to approach your child and apologize. This can be difficult – you can read more about apologizing to children here. We need to be good role models for our children, but that does not mean that we have to be perfect all the time or give them the illusion that we are.

Forgive yourself. After your child has extended forgiveness to you (God has given children a remarkable willingness to forgive – we can learn a lot from them), you will need to forgive yourself. Beating yourself up for losing your temper will do nothing to help you become a better parent. Don’t just say, “I’ll do better next time.” You need to . . .

Make a plan. If you lose your temper a lot, it is time to make some changes.

First, take some time to self-assess. Think about the things that are hot buttons for you. What types of behavior make you lose control? Backtalk? Laziness? Sibling squabbles?

What specifically about those situations push you over the edge? A challenge of authority? Chaos and disorder? A lack of control?

Could you be dealing with other issues that are contributing to your volatility like a problem at work? Conflict with your spouse? Financial pressures? Identifying and addressing the underlying cause is an essential step.

Second, if you are the type of person who carries around an underlying high level of stress, you will need to find ways to release that stress and tension throughout the day. Ignoring it will not work. You will simply be adding fuel to an already explosive situation. Find things that relax you and do them. Maybe you like to exercise, listen to music, go for walks, sing a God-oriented praise song, talk with a trusted friend or read the Bible. If you have a high baseline of stress you will actually need to schedule “pressure release” times in your day. You and your family will benefit if you do.

Next, announce your plan to your kids: you will be walking away when they become non-compliant, aggressive or otherwise provocative. You are not walking away permanently, but temporarily until you can get yourself under control.

This can be difficult to do because it can make us feel like we have “lost” a battle. This is because we have an “us versus them” mentality about parenting. We need to stop thinking in terms of opposition and start viewing our relationship with our children as a team sport. If we do so, we will be much less likely to have a relationship in which walking away seems like losing a fight.

Now you have a plan to help you keep your cool. And in the event you lose your temper, you have some steps to guide you. However, if you tend to lose your temper a lot, you may want to consider an in-depth Biblical study with a spiritual mentor on the topic of self-control and temperance.

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This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for treatment from a qualified mental health professional. Cornerstones for Parents is not liable for any advice, tips, techniques, and recommendations the reader chooses to implement.

About Laura

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura Kuehn, LCSW

Laura is a licensed clinical social worker who offers individual therapy to women and parents. Cornerstones for Parents is the place she combines some of her favorite things: writing, parenting and God's word. She is happily married with a young adult son and a teenage daughter.

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  • I’m having such a bad day because I’ve been losing my temper with my kids lately. I’m currently at work beating myself up about it. Trying to figure out what to do about it and I come across this article. It made me feel as if God was talking to me. Reminding me that I’m only human, and to forgive myself. Thank you.

  • I used to lose my temper often and violently with my kids. Try as I might, I could never get rid of the outbursts. For me, the breakthrough came when I realised that I was holding resentment against them : because I had had them, I had given up my career and although this was entirely my choice, deep down inside I was blaming them for my loss of ‘myself’. When I realised this , repented and forgave my kids- and God- for the life change having them had brought, there was no longer an underground lava-lake of resentment ready to burst forth at the slightest stressful moment. I still get cross with them, but much less and more for the right reasons- praise God !

    • Hi Shireen – Thank you so much for sharing your story. What wonderful insight God gave you to help heal your hurts and repair your relationship. Praise God for his grace and love.

      God bless you,