The Ministry of Lisa Copen

Lisa Copen, Founder of Rest Ministries which serves the chronically ill, shares about mothering, illness, ministry and more.

How Not To Be An Angry Mom Who Lashes Out

babyblues1[You can read the cartoon here too for Sunday, June 12, 2009]

“I have a question for you.. When your having a high pain day, but you can’t take a “bed day” how do you keep your emotions in check?  I find myself so much more easily brought to anger and frustration… especially with my daughter and husband.  I’m sooo testy and impatient on high pain days and its just not fair to them.  Any suggestions?”

Dana recently posted this question to me on Facebook and I thought I would answer it here so I could also receive your answers too!

Simple question, but a complex answer, right? And let’s hope my husband doesn’t read this and think… “Dana is asking my wife for advice?”

I generally think of myself of someone who is controlled and doesn’t deal with a “temper.” I get impatient, in fact, when I see other family members lose their temper when they could so easily maintain just a bit of self control and the entire situation so much less emotional.

God may have given mothers secret eyes in the back of their heads, but for some reason, in order to spiritually refine us parents, He gave our children the knowledge of what our secret buttons are that only they can “push.” In less than 30 seconds they delete all our self-control and sometimes sanity, and persuade us to play on their playing field–one filled with emotions and loud voices; sometimes tears and dare I mention (shhh) throwing things.

I remember last fall when I was recovering from a bad infection. I’d spent a week in the hospital, was exhausted beyond belief, and was still coping with the emotions of understanding that I could have lost my life. My husband and son were getting ready to go to the park. I thought my son was in the car. I got frustrated over something and my husband said something like, “I don’t know if I can deal with all this.”

Admittedly, he had every reason to say this. He’d been through a great deal too, but my response was, “YOU don’t know how YOU’RE going to deal with it? It’s happening to ME!” (I never said to use me as an example).

He was standing in the garage. I was… well… I was mad and I needed a physical release and so I looked around and grabbed 3 hanging tote bags and threw them. Well, that didn’t give me any satisfaction. A tote bag hardly makes a sound when it falls. So I looked to my right at a shelf of pantry items. I’m a reasonable person, even when mad, so I didn’t grab the jar of spaghetti sauce. I grabbed a tub of Splenda-enhanced frosting. It landed on the floor and rolled. I threw another one. Thud. My husband just looked at me like, “She never throws things, so I know she’s lost it… but, frosting?”

About that time Josh walked around the corner. I’d thought he was waiting in the car. “Mommy,” he said, actually shaking his finger at me. “You are losing your temper! You need to go take a nap.”

I tell you that story so you know that the rest of what I write are tips that I use, but not always as effectively as I would like. I make mistakes too. I try so hard not to lose my temper, but I’m not perfect.

Use music to create a mood. The other day Josh had misbehaved and lost a privilege and was not happy with me. I was frustrated that he’d ruined a fun afternoon of plans and instead we were sitting at home. Both of us were grumpy and my husband was due home soon. I told Josh we were both grumpy and we needed to change our mood before daddy came home.

I casually went to the kitchen and turned on the CD soundtrack from Top Gun and blasted it and grabbed his hands and we started dancing around and pretending we were airplanes landing. Soon we were making mac and cheese and I told him stories about the special stool he was sitting on. In less than 15 minutes a few choices I’d made had changed everything. Music is one of the best tools I’ve found for diffusing a negative mood.

When you lose it, use it. Very few kids make it through their life without seeing a parent have a temper or lash out. But most kids only see the anger and not the remorse. When you lose it, use it as an opportunity to show your child how to say, “I am sorry. Mommy lost her temper and it was inappropriate. I need to ask you for your forgiveness and I also need to ask God to forgive me.” It gives a child a great sense of relief to hear you pray,

“Dear God, please help mommy to be a good mommy. Please help my child know that I love him no matter what, even when I act angry. When mommy gets mad please help me find ways to get rid of my mad energy without being hurtful.”

Your kids need to see you go to the Lord and ask for help and forgiveness.

Use their tools. My son has a set of books called, “Dear God, I Need to Talk to You About…______” and one is temper. Amazingly, when he loses his temper, afterward he will ask me if we can read that book. It calms him down, gives him an understanding that losing tempers happens and no one is perfect, and how to ask people and God for forgiveness. When you lose your cool, ask your child if he wants to read the book with you because you need to read it.

I recently heard a great review on a book called William Battles the Anger Squiggles by Dr. Laura (read it here). My son was in the car and said he wanted the book and I recently ordered it (haven’t received it yet). The funny thing is Dr. Laura emphasized just how good of a book it is for any age – adults included. Reading a book like this, especially after an episode, can be a great tool for teaching your child how to cope with angry emotions. And I think it’s important that you use tools that they can imitate and use too.

Know the signs and avoid anger. Just because you have a justifiable reason to get angry, doesn’t mean you should get away with expressing it. Pain and chronic illness can give us a million excuses to feel angry and last out. But we can’t give into it. Learning to take care of yourself should be one of your priorities, so do what you have to do to control it.

Do you need emotional or spiritual support? Perhaps a support group for your illness or a Bible study would help. Do you need to get out of the house and go have two hours by yourself a couple times a week just doing something fun? Would the support of other mothers help? Consider joining a Christian moms group or a playgroup where you can discuss what sets you off and find out how others cope. Take some time to find out what you need to be a happier person to be around.

My son is just 6, but I can already see that it’s not the big events like going to Legoland that he will remember, but the every day patterns of life. What kind of mood am I in when I pick him up at school every day? Does my face light up when I see him? Do I show him how much I love him? We get so caught up in trying to make sure we are in a “good mood” and light-hearted for a day at the fair, but what it really comes down to are our day-to-day habits and how they impact our child.

Confront it! Anger happens. Even the Bible says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”  Anger happens. But we are responsible in how we deal and cope with these emotions.  It tells us how to respond to anger! (Ephesians 4:26)

Identify if you have anger issues and work on them. Don’t hide it because “good Christian moms never lose their temper.” One of the best Christian mom books I’ve read on this is She’s Gonna Blow! Real Help for Moms Dealing With Anger by Julie Ann Barnhill. Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages of Children, tells readers that Julie Ann Barnhill “has learned from her journey, and so will you…You’ll identify with Julie’s open, honest approach.” The description says it is, “Straightforward and easy–to–read, She’s Gonna Blow! is for every mom seeking here–and–now hope and help to… (1) find healthier ways of expressing anger; (2) let go of “control” issues and be more positive; (3) draw closer to the God who created moms and mothering.

There is no such thing as a perfect mom, but I think that expressing our emotion of anger around our child (whether directed at him or her — or not) is one of the most scarring things we can do to them. It is simply not acceptable. Even when someone in my house is mad at a situation, or mad at themselves, it impacts my life and emotions a great deal. Being “angry with your illness” creates a mood in your house that will change your child’s entire life–and not for the better. And one of the greatest gifts I believe we can give our children is the ability to learn to cope, express and control their emotions.

I try to not say, “Don’t get angry!” or “You shouldn’t feel angry,” but rather. “Yep, I can see why you would be angry about this. What can we do to get it out in a good way? Do you want to go outside and kick your soccer ball?”

I’m looking forward to your answers to Dana’s question too. How do you cope?

{The following are some articles that were in the Christian Work at Home Mom newsletter just last week! Seems a lot of moms are ‘bursting’ this summer!}

From One Angry Mom to Another: An Interview with Julie Barnhill, author of She’s Gonna Blow!

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2 Comments»

  Young Wife wrote @

Thanks for sharing. I don’t have kids, but it is easy to lose control with my spouse. And thank you for being honest. Sometimes it helps knowing I’m not the only one out there who feels like throwing things.

  Jen wrote @

This was a great post and something I realllly needed to read today. Thank you.


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