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.
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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