When Mom Has a Temper Tantrum
By Melanie Howard
Each month, my five-year-old son's kindergarten class compiles a "book of days," in which the children share their daily home experiences with one another. The next month, the book gets circulated to all the parents. Imagine my chagrin when James brought last month's book home, and there-between "Mollie and her mom made brownies" and "Jeremy helped his dad take out the trash"-was "James's mom was angry with him this morning." My temper, in writing, laminated and distributed for all the world to see.
Worse yet, I realized that almost all our recent mornings had degenerated into Mommy screamathons over seemingly minor matters-dawdling, misplaced gloves, sibling bickering. I felt terrible, and obviously James did, too. How could we break this angry pattern?
"Yelling is usually a sign that a parent has no strategy," says Thomas Phelan, a clinical psychologist in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and the author of the popular 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12 (Child Management, Inc.). At a loss for what to do, moms may resort to yelling out of anger or frustration. But the end result is that parents feel guilty and children get the emotional message that they are bad.
It's because we love our children so dearly that they are able to provoke such strong feelings of anger in us, according to Nancy Samalin, a New York City-based parent educator and the author of Love and Anger: The Parental Dilemma (Penguin Paperbacks). But that doesn't make expressing that anger through hollering or put-downs appropriate-or effective. Samalin, who has conducted workshops for parents of toddlers through teens for more than 25 years, says the key is to feel and acknowledge your emotions but not let them control you and make you act irrationally.
Samalin and Phelan recommend drawing on these following strategies when your kids are driving you up the wall:
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