I have a temper. Lots of us do. I know it, my kids and husband know it, my neighbours know it, it’s not a highly unusual thing. It is one of the only unwanted gifts my parents gave me, but unfortunately cannot be returned to the shop. During my second and third pregnancies my temper and I were on struggle street, so I went to the counselling services offered at the hospital. Saw a lovely woman who not only provided me with a few insights and the chance to release, but also gave me a few pointers on how to keep my cool and lengthen the fuse.
Some of these seem simple, yet they are very effective. Counting to 10 and breathing – textbook. A couple of times I have done so out loud. The kids look at me a bit funny but when the end result is the desired one, so be it. Deep breaths fill the brain with more oxygen, produce endorphins, and allow the body to relax (my yoga instructor would be proud).
For those of you more Thespian-inclined, acting is also a useful tool. If you can feel you’re starting to lose it, put on a different voice. Impersonate your partner, your mother, a character from a movie, anyone will do, so long as it helps you to change your mood. Think about your physical stance too – get your hands off your hips, and try try try to keep your hands from doing the ‘pointy finger’ the ‘shaking fist’ or the ‘why? why? why?’. Lowering your voice, keeping your hands down, changing the scene any way you can will distract you and break the temper losing cycle.
Other valid issues in this matter are your own basic human needs, which as every mum knows are not paramount in our everyday lives. We often forget to help ourselves because we are so wrapped up in helping and caring for others. If you are feeling tense and likely to lose control, think about whether or not you are simply tired, need a drink of water, something to eat, or maybe you haven’t even gone to the bathroom yet this morning!!! Obviously the lack of sleep cannot be cured without the chance to sleep, so take your chance if you get one, otherwise accept that you are tired and try not to be too snappy. Having a cup of tea, or even a quick glass of water, a little bite to eat if possible can change your whole perspective.
Continue to look after yourself. Probably the most common problem mums and dads face is forgetting that we all still require a little time out for ourselves. At one of my mother’s group sessions just after my second was born, the midwife asked everyone if they had done anything for themselves today, and if so what? To which I answered: I brushed my teeth, did my hair and plucked my eyebrows this morning. Felt very satisfied. It is the simplest of things that we so easily pass over as unimportant, and be that as it may it is VERY important that we all make a little time for ourselves, even if it is just 5 minutes a day. In relation to losing your cool, if you can afford the time then go wash your hair, do a headstand against the wall, put your earphones in and crank it up. Anything. The point is still to shake up the mindset and rewriting the scene.
We are the main role models for our kids and so, when my toddler mimics myself and my husband getting irate I worry that he has seen too much! My husband is a very different person to me and deals with his upsets by having big hugs with the kids, and as he does uses a low quiet voice in their ear explaining to them that he is starting to lose his cool which he finds works well for him. We also have a good tag-team system – a very good tactic for those lucky enough to have a good supporting dad nearby at feral o’clock. When you can’t take it anymore just shout out for the switch. You don’t need to take it on all by yourself.
Losing your temper is never the best option, although sometimes it feels like the only one. And nobody’s perfect, you can’t be Little Miss Sunshine all day long – my GP told me a little while ago that having a good shout at everyone can be good for you so they realise how upset you are and how serious it is that they put their dirty clothes in the basket. While I try to be as evenly keeled as possible, I also accept my anger for what it is, I just try to not to hold onto it. Getting angry can be an addictive feedback loop sometimes, as we scream and shout endorphins are released into the body making us feel good. But you have to know when to cut it off. At times when I have the familiar sense that I am about to go on and on about something as stupid as picking up a towel, I say my piece and then walk away. Job done. no need for the seemingly endless rant that was just avoided. Also breathing out in a very forceful way can have the same effect as screaming the house down, so give it a try.
Of course these are just suggestions, quick fixes if you like, they cannot solve your problems and make everything hunky dory. If it feels like you just can’t get out of struggle street then you need to find support in whichever form you can so that you can get to the bottom of the situation. If there is something underlying that is making you more susceptible to temper flares then sorting it out is the best way to avoid dropping your bundle. At the end of the day we want to be happy and set good balanced examples to our kids right? So keep your temper in check because it’s good for you, and good for the kids.
Emma Eastman 2013