How to deal with (your own) anger

The following is a guest post written by Charity Hawkins, author of The Homeschool Experiment.

It was a late Wednesday night after church. I had planned to give my three kids a snack then send them immediately to brush their teeth and get ready for bed. My husband was working late, and I was ready to be done with the day.

Then my eight-year-old son asked if he could play “Jingle Bells,” for me on the piano, and I was so thrilled that he was finally excited about piano that I said yes. Then my six-year-old daughter begged to play. Of course, my three-year-old son wanted a turn next.

The minutes were ticking by and I thought, why did I ever agree to this anyway? We were an hour past bedtime already. I could feel my blood pressure rising. Then my son and daughter started bickering—one being bossy, the other whining. Nobody was listening to me.

“Stop it!” I snapped. Like a whip.  “Go. Brush. Your. Teeth. You’re done.”

Eyes wide, the kids stared at me, frightened, then hurried to obey.

I won. But at what cost?

You see, I tend to struggle with anger. I didn’t realize it so much until I had children, until I saw their tender faces crumple, saw tears roll down their cheeks.

As if their hearts were glass, and I crushed them in my furious fist.

I’ve wept many times over the harsh words I’ve spoken to my children, wishing I could take them back. Sometimes it’s like approaching a cliff: I know I’m getting close, I can feel myself beginning to get  “irritated,” or “annoyed,” or “frustrated,” (all code words for angry), and then, before I know it, I’m yelling.

That night at the piano I didn’t yell, but I got too close to the edge. I was speaking and acting in anger, and my kids felt it, and they deserve better.

That night I wrote in my Anger Journal, or renamed in a positive light, my Gentleness Journal. This is one practical tool I’ve found very helpful in understanding why I get angry and how to prevent it in the future.

how to deal with anger2

Here are some questions I ask in my journal:

What happened BEFORE I got angry?

My main triggers:

  1. I’ve let my children wheedle, beg, or argue their way into getting their way, but I am mad that they pressured me into it.
  2. The kids have been disobeying for a while and I’ve been ignoring it.
  3. Things are chaotic, messes are being made, and no one is listening to me.
  4. They are fighting and being mean to each other.
  5. They are embarrassing me in public (like the check-out line at Super Wal-Mart, which I’m convinced was designed by Satan).
  6. General irritation that’s not at all their fault (usually hormonal or I’m just exhausted by life).

What could I do NEXT TIME to respond better?

  1. Give my children LOTS of practice waiting for things in life so they are more patient, less demanding, and don’t expect to get their way all the time. (This might be the number one parenting advice I’d give a mom with a toddler.)
  2. Consistently correct disobedience instead of waiting until I’m mad.
  3. Say no gently but firmly if I really don’t want them doing something. Remember that it’s good for them to get practice at not getting their way.
  4. When things are chaotic, and I feel those bubbles of irritation (anger) at the flour spilled all over the floor or whatever it is, take a break. If we keep plowing ahead, I’m going to blow.
  5. Separate the kids until they can calm down and stop yelling at each other.
  6. Pray. A lot. Try to avoid horrendous situations like Super Wal-Mart during nap time.
  7. EXERCISE. This helps me in every way imaginable. During my husband’s busy season I force myself to go to the YMCA at least twice a week (even though I still sometimes feel guilty about it) because I know it makes me a happier, calmer mama for my kids.

I also have some questions that remind me to be proactive in gentleness too: Did you speak gently but firmly when giving instructions? Did you expect the kids to listen and obey, but consistently and kindly correct them if they didn’t? Did you praise each child for what they did right today?

These have all been helpful as I walk the path to be a gentler mother.

Today my two oldest were begging to help me sort their clothes in the attic, and I acquiesced. But within about three minutes they were driving me nuts. I was trying to focus and sort eight years’ worth of baby and children’s clothes, complete with approximately twenty-seven thousand mismatched socks.

They had promised to be quiet but couldn’t manage to keep themselves from skipping around clutching at all their old toys, grabbing clothes willy-nilly, and incessant question-asking. I began to get annoyed (angry).

I realized I needed to just say no. So I told them, “Thank you for your hearts to help, guys, I really appreciate it, but I just don’t have anything you can help with right now. When I get to the point you can help, I promise I will let you know.”  I held firm, even when they cried in disappointment. But that’s okay. Sometimes I will need to say no to things.

It’s much better to say “no” or “wait” on the front end with gentleness, than to let my children talk me into something and explode in anger later.

It was a small step, but I’m thankful for it. It’s a long road, this road of motherhood, so I want to  celebrate each step in the right direction.

Do you struggle with anger at your children? What are some strategies you’ve found to deal with it?

About Charity Hawkins

Charity Hawkins is the author of The Homeschool Experiment: a novel. She lives, learns, and has adventures of all kinds in Tulsa, Oklahoma.


  1. So timely for me, sadly! Thanks for the reminder and the great tips.

  2. Thank you so much for this article! I just snapped at my 6yo son for waking the baby up for what feels like the thousandth time. And of course I felt super guilty about it. And this was after yelling at him for not paying attention during homeschooling and getting irritated when he ignored me at the library. I want so much to always be calm and gentle but I feel that anger boiling up inside me. I am definitely going to put your suggestions into practice!

    • Cindy, It’s so hard isn’t it. I was thinking about this last night since I knew this article was running, and thinking how it’s actually been months since I’ve yelled, all by the grace of God. (I’ve had a few moments of being irritated and unkind, but thankfully God helped me recognize it and go exercise or redirect the kids before I was mean.) So the good news is, in my case anyway, the more I work on this area, those habits of gentleness seem to take root more and more. But anyway, I understand. Thanks for sharing. 🙂‘s latest post: Birthday Ideas

  3. I loved Charity’s book so much, so I just had to read this 🙂 And, it was so timely. My daughter entered the terrible twos about six weeks ago, and I neeeeed to get my anger in check! Pinning 🙂

  4.…I am not joking at all when I say that this could have been my post, my life right here and now…I actually felt chills reading this. I’m even from Tulsa, haha! 😉 Anyway, all except the gentleness journal, which I have never thought of and is about to rock my world, I can tell!! I am starting one RIGHT now. Thank you SO much for sharing such an incredibly convicting, inspiring, and definitely God-given for me post!! I am going to pray God’s blessing over you and your family right now. Thank you again, and I thank God for you!

    • Wow Lindsay, that IS crazy! Especially the Tulsa part! I wonder if we have met at some homeschooling thing or another. The journal has REALLY really helped me, and it’s been a long road, but by the grace of God, I do feel like things are better. I very much appreciate your prayers! Sometimes I notice it’s about the time I think I have everything all figured out that I mess up again, just to remind myself I don’t have it all figured out yet! 🙂 Thank you for your prayers and honesty!‘s latest post: Birthday Ideas

  5. I look at my three month old son and keep thinking, “Isn’t this great? I haven’t lost my temper with you yet.” The same cannot be said for my big kids. I really like the idea of having them practice waiting; patience doesn’t come easily to my six year old. Usually the only time he has to wait is when I’m busy, which is also usually when I’m more likely to snap. I really want to practice making him wait when I’m not already at my wits end.

    • Rachel, that’s funny! I remember thinking that in the hospital w/ my 3rd–I haven’t messed you up yet! And you don’t even argue with me yet when I say it’s time to lay in your bassinet! 🙂
      Okay, the patience thing is like the best kept secret ever. I heard it explained like that in this book Bringing Up Bebe about French parenting and thought –this is brilliant! And it is! I realized my kids were quite bad at it. 🙂‘s latest post: Birthday Ideas

  6. Thanks for your very honest post.

    I think that we all have that struggle at some point, the getting irritated, frustrated and angry with our family. I once told a friend (that was not a mother yet) “I use to have patience, then I had children” But the reality is that I still am a very patient person (been blessed with those high energy, outside-the-box, wired differently little girls) it’s the constant irritant that if I am not careful to filter, to give myself grace, and allowing myself to take a short break and renew my energy (introvert here) that is when patience for me is fading away.

    Funny things that will be a git irritant for me is poop, we are in the potty training my last baby girl, and cleaning it on the floor many time a day drives me nuts lol… so maybe I will be my normal patient self after she is fully potty trained…. or maybe they will find new creative way to test my patience, but then I will have to put your lovely tips into action. Thanks for sharing 🙂
    Renee’s latest post: Tiny Talk

  7. Charity,
    Thank you for being open and honest about this struggle which so many of us face. I have been through so much with anger and we have found a great book: The Anger Workbook for Christian Parents, which even has sections for helping your children deal with their anger (it’s contagious!). I have come so far, and the bad days feel really bad when I see their faces after I “blow it.” One thing I can say about the grace of homeschooling is that since we are all together so much they get to work through things with me in ways we just couldn’t if they were out of the home six hours a day (not that I don’t dream of those six lonesome hours on certain days!!). I so love my boys, and I am so grateful that God is merciful and persistent in healing the places that lead to anger. I am learning to tend to my own needs and just to take space sometimes or “start the day over.” I wish it were just that easy — I have the tools and viola, I never yell again. But, it is a process and we have to be so mindful of all that leads to anger in ourselves (fears, perfectionism, unmet needs, etc). I love your gentleness journal! Good stuff.

  8. Charity,
    Great post!
    I too sometimes struggle to keep my anger in check with my kids. I think it’s really brave of you to be honest about it-its not usually the side of our selves we want to share. Thanks for the tips, I’ll be keeping them in mind today as the inevitable kid madness erupts around me!

  9. Wow, what a great post! Thank you so much for this!
    Kari Patterson’s latest post: God is looking for losers

  10. This is about the best article I’ve read in months! All your questions are key and really hit home with me and for the moms I work with as well. We are not perfect moms, but when we can examine situations and look for new ways to approach those that are frustrating for us, it can make a big difference. I am going to grab a journal and start writing down my list and keep your questions close at hand. Thanks so much!
    Susan’s latest post: Become the Mom You Want to Be

    • Thank you so much Susan. It’s amazing how that act of going to a journal after I have lost it really helps me figure out what the triggers were and avoid them the next time. Whoever said that quote about “thoughts getting untangled as they flow through the pen” –that’s me. Thanks so much for your kind words. 🙂

  11. Also, for me, a perfectly timed post! My 5 1/2 and 20 month old have been home with the flu for 1 week while husband is out of country on business. Now that my son is better he is bugging the little one and I lost my cool a couple of times. What breaks my heart is that he gets angry like me. He’s learned it from me. I’ve used a bracelet that I switch wrists when I feel myself getting angry to remind me to respond kindly and gently. Some days it feels I am the only one with a super strong willed son and daughter entering tantrum phase. Thanks for your honesty and the honest comments. Helps to know we are not alone in our struggles. And, I gleaned a lot from the French book too. I regularly let my 20 month old wait she sort if has to for some things. First born not do much!

    • Deborah, I love that bracelet idea. Also, yes! I see the anger in my kids and recognize myself. When I am calm, for the most part they are too. We’ve all memorized Pr 15:1 about “a gentle answer turns away wrath” but I think it’s benefitted me the most! 🙂

  12. This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing it. I struggle with this as well, and have had the same experience of not realizing I have anger until having children. I used to be so calm and patient and unflappable before I had children… What happened?? I try to use pretty much the same strategies as those you mentioned to keep myself from “blowing.” I do lots of self talk. I try to avoid getting into situations where I need to hurry. I try to remember to get down to their level when asking them something (they’re all under 5). I try to get enough sleep and eat well (I’m a real bear when I’m hungry). And I try to stay away from being too self critical. I could beat myself up a lot about this, but it doesn’t help. When I act in an angry way towards my kids, instead of just berating myself, I apologize to them, which I hope models humility. I keep a Gratitude journal, but I might need to add some specific writing about gentleness and kindness as well. What a great idea. I really love this post and your honesty about this subject.
    Amy’s latest post: Someday Sisters

  13. Thank you so much for this post. I have struggled with this a lot, and these are some great ideas and things to think about. You mentioned prayer, and I strongly believe that prayer, along with reading scripture every day, has truly changed my life. I have verses written on cards that specifically speak to my current situation, and I try and pray them or read them through them frequently. I am trying to offer my mouth daily to the Holy Spirit and let Him use it for good and not evil. I still have really bad moments, but thankfully, they are fewer these days!

  14. Thank you so much for this post and it’s honesty. This is one of my biggest challenges. The kids are away at school all day and I am home with the baby so when they come home I want some quality time with them. What I want and what ends up happening are two very different things. With homework and chores to do and everyone complaining and whining, I end up angry almost every day. Then I wonder if the kids really know how much I love them when I am rushed to put them to bed. I sometimes even rush the hugging and goodnights with hurried “GET TO BED, I love you!”. I grew up not know how to control my anger and now I see it in my kids, especially the 21 month old. I love the journal idea, but have never been a journal type person. I really want to start one so maybe I will start by doing what you do. I also have been collecting articles and posts from other moms about anger issues and plan to add yours to it. Thanks again!

    • Darcey,
      I pray right now that the Lord would guide you into the best ideas to help you. I just started writing down each time I got mad, what happened, why and how to avoid next time. It really helped me process. Also, the scripture memory/meditation idea and bracelet idea above are great. Maybe there’s a way to cut down on what needs to be done at night so the routine can be less hurried? I know (just like someone mentioned above), when I am in a hurry is one of the times I’m most likely to get angry, so I try to not be in a hurry or remind myself, as Ann Voskamp says, “There are no emergencies.” That helps when I get irritated, but I know if you’re up against a clock for bedtime it’s stressful. I don’t have the answers but pray God would give you just the right ideas to try to help and just know –you’re not alone! 🙂

  15. Thank you for this post! It is always nice to know I am not the only one who has problems keeping my anger in check when it comes to the kids. Some things that really help me with anger:
    1. Peace bell: this is a bell in the kitchen that makes a beautiful sound when you strike it. Whenever I (or the kids) are starting to feel grumpy, frustrated, or irritated, we can ring the peace bell. The idea is that, when the bell is rung, everyone else will be quiet for a moment and take a nice, deep breath. My 6-year-old daughter, especially, likes to use the bell, especially when she notices that I am getting grumpy.
    2. Daily afternoon quiet time: I absolutely could not survive without our daily quiet time. Each kid goes to a separate room with some quiet toys to play with, and I do a short 10-minute breathing exercise/meditation and some yoga stretches. This has made an immeasurable difference in my attitude during the rest of the day.
    3. Paying close attention to my own emotions to see when I am starting to get irritated (just as you described). It is amazing how hard it can be to recognize the signs in myself that it is time for a break, and to be willing to actually take a break. *Fortunately*, I get plenty of opportunities to practice this every day!
    4. Limiting my screen time. I find that I am more likely to snap at the kids when I’m trying to read something or “just finish one more thing” on the computer, yet they keep interrupting me. We are all happier when I can impose restrictions on my own screen usage.
    5. Warning the kids. When I am having anger issues, I tell the kids I’ve reached the “red zone”. They know this means that an eruption is imminent, but they can help prevent it by playing nicely and being polite instead of whining. I also declare “quiet zone” in the room I am in whenever I start to get overwhelmed by the constant kid noise; anyone in the “quiet zone” has to talk in whispers and be very quiet. They are allowed to stay in the zone with me if they can abide by those rules, otherwise I ask them to go to another room. The kids have gotten so used to this now that they will often happily run along together to play somewhere else whenever I declare quiet zone.
    Sarah Smith’s latest post: One Ingredient Face Moisturizer – Healthy and Effective!

    • I love the idea of a “peace bell,” Sarah! Thanks for mentioning it!

    • YES to quiet time!!!! The youngest one(s) nap and the non nappers have 1 hour of quiet play. I’ve done this every day with almost no exceptions, since the beginning of motherhood. Its a sanity saver and I wish more moms would realize its okay to do this!!! At first they tend to fuss with the transition from napping to non napping quiet time but stick with it and insist on it and it pays back a million times over!!!

    • Me too! Where did you get the peace bell? Can you give a link to a similar one? It sounds so nice! I love your other ideas too. Thank you for sharing.

    • Sarah-
      Thank you for the Peace Bell suggestion. I just ordered 3 – one for my family and for 2 friends that struggle with anger as well. This tool seems like the perfect way to keep us all mindful of the fact that we are falling into the same old cycle and the we need to STOP before we reach the crescendo.

      I am so happy I read this post. I love your idea – a Gentleness Journal. I am struggling with my anger as a mother and feel as if I am actually making some progress lately largely due to journaling. I am going to implement your idea of journaling about the triggers behind my anger. I grew up in a very dysfunctional home where anger abounded and I want so desperately to show my children that there is a better way.

  16. Such a good article! I am the same way. I’ve always had the most success when I say “no” on the gentle front end, as you described, rather than waiting until I’m totally angry. Then I’ll still say “no” but it won’t be gentle. It’s hard because we treat adults so differently. We say “yes” to adults and they see the social cues that things are frustrating us and then they back off (generally). Since kids don’t see social cues, they totally miss that you’re about to blow and it genuinely surprises them. I don’t think it’s my kids’ job to read when I’m annoyed. I think it’s my job to take breaks, make realistic choices and control myself. It’s hard though!
    Rachel at Stitched in Color’s latest post: {Tutorial} Patchwork Journal Cover

  17. Thanks for the great post. I appreciated how you broke down the anger code words (annoyed, irritated, frustrated). I tend to use these words, when the real issue is definitely anger. I have been taught in my Biblical counseling classes that when we encounter anger, in ourselves or others, a good question to ask is, “What do I want that I am not getting?” or “What do you want that you are not getting?” And then, with that thing identified, we can explore: is it necessary? Can it wait? Is it good for you? etc. I really appreciated your list of practical ways to approach angry situations. Thanks for being so honest.
    Linda’s latest post: Home ~ A Song

    • ooh, Linda, you hit the nail on the head. Those are great questions to ask. Usually my answer is, ” I want to get my way quickly, with no hassle of children interrupting/derailing my plan.” Usually when I get mad the root is really 1) selfishness or 2) pride. Ouch.

  18. I think this is great, thank you. What a great idea for the gentleness journal so you can see your triggers. I am going to do that. For me, Its when I am tired and I just want some time alone. Today I was feeling it coming during after lunch dishes. Two of the kids were helping and singing made up songs. It was nice…but I was done with all the noise. I felt I could just yell at them to PLEASE STOP THE NOISE! Instead, I said, okay, one more dish, and then Mommy is going to finish while you go find your quiet time things! In a nice voice and I finished the dishes and they went for quiet time- no anger involved! Yay!

  19. This is timely for me to read! I just broke down this past week after yelling at my 5 year old son because he wasn’t listening. Sometimes I feel like the only mom who struggles with anger. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone, lol. I love all of the suggestions and the gentleness journal, I’m going to start one. I also sat down with him and we both memorized Galatians 5:22 on the fruits of the spirit and went over the meaning of each “fruit”. It was helpful (for the both of us!) to go over patience and self control. Thank you for writing this!

    • Damariz,
      You are definitely not alone! (Since God has opened my eyes to this in my own life, it’s amazing how many parents I see at the park or whatever who are being downright mean to their kids. They are angry and frustrated, and the kids feed off of them, and everyone’s just mad. I understand how it gets that way, I’m just saying, there’s a lot of parental anger going on out there!) Beautiful idea about Gal 5:22. Memorizing scripture (and forcing myself to say it inside my head to myself when I’m getting “annoyed/irritated/frustrated”) has really helped.

  20. This post I’m convinced, was an answer to prayer. Was tearfully pleading with God to give me practical ways to apply His word in regards to my anger. We currently live in a townhome with thin walls and am often wondering when the neighbors will turn me in for being world’s worst mom for my infamous yelling matches. Love the idea of the gentelness journal. Thank you for yur transparency and making me feel a little less alone.

    • Praise the Lord. Stefani, He is faithful and will give you ideas and help you when you come honestly, as you have. I pray right now that some of these ideas would connect and give you some practical strategies. Praying for you. 🙂 P.S. You’re a good mom.

  21. I was having one of those days. You know them. My head has been hurting cause all I have been is screaming and dealing with the children ALL DAY LONG. I have been praying. Opening up Facebook-first thing on my newsfeed.
    I love the journal idea. I feel calmer. Like everyone tells me-it is always nice to know I am not alone.

    • Okay, God is so awesome. It’s a bit terrifying to tell everyone what an awful mother I am at times, but I felt like He wanted me to write about this, as scary as it was. Jamie picked this one article out of about 10 I sent her, and clearly God had a plan. I’m glad it connected with you.

  22. Wow! Great post, thank you for opening up so profoundly. It’s true, we don’t often talk about it because we feel so much guilt! But it is human, and I think us even pondering it and wanting to discuss it makes us great mothers. I have been struggling with how to open up about my struggles with patience, thank you so much for giving me so much to think about!

    • Ana, Well, from the looks of these comments many of us deal with this, so you have many friends. This online community is a great place to encourage one another and build each other up, and I bet within your group of homeschool moms, you’d find others to talk about your struggles with. Todd Wilson (he wrote the foreword for my book and published it) has a great book called “Lies Homeschooling Moms Believe” which is great and deals with the whole idea of being REAL with each other. You might enjoy that one. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  23. I needed this today. I’ve been snapping left and right and it’s really not their fault.

  24. Thanks so much for your honesty and practical tips. It all sounded like something I could say about myself. I have found that regular exercise (especially the all out heart pumping kind) keeps me sane. It’s like a pre-emptive time out for mom. I burn off stress and frustration and get a little space at the same time.
    Jessica @ redeemingthehome’s latest post: Meal Plan to Nourish

    • Jessica,
      ME TOO. Exercise is really preventative for me. The other day I was “irritated” and being grumpy for no reason and (thankfully) I felt the red flag/warning signs. We ditched our plans and I told the kids “Mama needs some exercise to feel better.” We went to the YMCA and an hour of someone else watching the kids while I ran did wonders. Totally agree!

  25. Wonderful article! I have struggled with my temper for many, many years. I prayed to God for patience. Honestly, I thought God would “fix” me. That was what I wanted. But God always seems to have other plans. He wasn’t going to sprinkle “patience dust” on me while I slept and I would wake up a new, better, calmer mommy. Things in my life tried my patience, daily. I was a mess between anger and the terrible guilt that follows. But I kept praying. Finally, I realized God wasn’t going to “give” me patience. I realized the things in my life that were breaking my patience and driving me straight to anger were not going to change overnight. It clicked in my head. Maybe God was leading me through so much stress to build my patience. It’s hard to explain but I realized maybe this was training for patience, life long training. I needed to change my approach to stress and focus on one thing. What kind of legacy do I want to leave? What memories do I want to give my family? I certainly didn’t want them to remember an angry mom always losing it. It took a lot of prayer and deep reflection on my part. I think a Gentleness Journal is the perfect way to do that. I start everyday with these thoughts, “What happiness can I share with my family today? What memories can we make? What is really important today? If this is the last day I have, how do I want to spend it?” I still have my moments but they are far less often. I thank God for opening my eyes.

  26. Thank you for being so candid about your mommy anger! I struggle with it too. I find myself exhausted and frustrated 99% of the time, and I only have one child (a VERY strong willed 4 year old). I love your idea of figuring out what started the frustration in the first place, and as I read your post, I could think of three or four times today alone that I allowed my son to get away with something that made me angry simply because I was too tired to fight it. But then I ended up yelling and angry…And feeling terrible. So thanks again for your honesty and for the suggestions. 🙂
    Kat’s latest post: Kitchen Table Classroom: Art Appreciation, Preschool Style

  27. This post is timely for my own life and spiritual journey. Thanks for your honesty and transparency in posting it! Looking forward to trying to put some of your wise ideas into practice.

  28. Great post! I’m really diggin’ the Gentleness Journal. It is something I will be implementing into my days. Thanks!

  29. Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this…my husband was out of town this week, and one of the nights was hard. My son wanted me to read a book during the time when I felt I should start supper, but reading books is a good thing, right? So I did it. Then he asked for another. And another. And supper got on the table late, and then bedtime got off to a terrible start. Yelling, screaming. Sad. I read David Walsh’s book about saying no, and he said something about how if there’s something you feel uncomfortable with, as a parent, your answer should be “no.” I struggle with feeling like I shouldn’t say no to something just because “I” have some adult reason for saying no, including “I don’t feel like it,” but I’m seeing the wisdom in this approach (and thank you for validating it) more and more!

    • Steph J,
      That could have been our house. My kids come up with these ideas, and plenty of them are good ones, just not right then. I have to remember that “Mommy doesn’t have energy for that right now” or “Nope, not now.” is a fine answer too. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • No is a perfectly acceptable answer and children do need to learn to accept a simple no. However, I also like to offer another positive alternative. No, I will not read the book right now. Would you like to help me stir the bread dough or match up the socks or sing a song or whatever? I only have a 2.5 year old and many times he just wants attention from me, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be whatever he’s asked to do.
      Also, my 2.5 year old has entered the “why, mama? but why?” stage. I try to keep explanations very simple for his age, but sometimes there is no why. There is simply “No” and a change of subject.

  30. What an excellent post! You sure hit the nail on the head with the list of “triggers”. I would love for you to share this on my Tuesday blog link up party at:
    I know this would be a help and encouragement to my readers!

  31. Michelle says:

    Thank you Charity for sharing your story and ideas. I am digging the Gentleness Journal Idea…
    I know the biggest thing that sets me off in a yelling state of anger…have even yelled it out to my oldest (9yrs) this week…it is when he hits/kicks at younger brother (7yrs) and younger younger brother (3.5yrs) when he doesn’t get his way with them. At the moment, I am only disciplining after the undesirable behaviour has happened, what I need desperately is to know how to help him so that he doesn’t act out in anger. Of course, if I am within earshot, I try me best using diversion tactics (and now I think I will add something equivalent to a “peace bell”) , but sometimes I would only be alerted to what had happened when the cries of the younger ones reached my ears. Any suggestions will be much appreciated. I get angry because I feel that at 9, he should already know what we’ve been teaching him from day dot that it is not right to hit, I get angry that he is not setting the right example for his younger brothers, and I get angry because the younger ones were hurt.

    • Boy, Michelle do I know what you are saying. I have twin 9 year olds and they have always seemed older. Looking back, they were really easy kids growing up, not the usual toddler behavior, quiet, shy. My other two are much more “active” if you know what I mean. Anyway, I expect alot more out of them and get really angry when they act their age or younger. A friend of mine gave me an idea, she took a jar and filled it with water and then added a bunch of glitter. When someone is angry or frustrated, they are supposed to shake it and watch the glitter fall. They should calm down by the time the glitter is at the bottom. Now, I will tell you that we tried it and my 6 year old refused to use it, so it sits on our kitchen counter. But, my friend uses it and it works great for her almost 7 year old. The other thing we do is if my boys fight, they do sit ups or push ups. This usually calms them down and it is not a spanking out of anger. I just read about another great idea when you trace the kids on paper and cut it out. Every time you hurt your sibling you go up to the traced siblings paper cut out and tear a piece off. Kind of like you are tearing them apart. Might help for our 9 year olds. Would love to hear if anyone else has any ideas.

    • Michelle, I like Darcy’s ideas and I don’t know that I have too much to add. One thought is if one of my kids is having issues, I’ll try to keep them close to me so I can hear and intervene immediately if there’s a problem. I tell them, “You just need to sit near Mom a while.” It seems to click that when they can act better they earn the priviledge of being out of earshot. I do notice too that when I am more peaceful and calm in how I answer that it helps everyone calm down; when I respond in anger the anger in the home grows. But I get what you’re saying about being mad because they should know all this by now! Oh, one other thing I did is tape up a piece of paper to the inside of the bathroom cabinet of each of my kids at their cutest toddler stages. I try to make myself go into the bathroom (because the door locks! ) when I’m getting angry and pray and look at those sweet baby faces. I have verses on that sheet too that I force myself to repeat and pray. Something about seeing their babyness and remembering they are doing the best they can and my job is to shepherd them gently helps.

  32. I love this! I have a two year old and a one year old, but my temper has been very short lately because I am extremely sick pregnant with number three and I find myself taking everything so personally.

    I have been blessed with a built in check when I get angry because my two year old will tell me, “you scared me” or “you yelled at me” and I’m always glad she does because it gives me a chance to apologize and talk about how we could both make different choices. I love the reminder that standing firm up front is so much better than losing it to resentment later; I’m filing that one away!

  33. Thank you SO much for this article. I have so many times when I just feel like a horrible, horrible mom because I just get so overwhelmed that I just snap at everyone. I always apologize and let my daughter know mommy’s just frustrated but I still want to make sure she doesn’t end up thinking that being an angry person is a good or normal thing. Thankfully my husband is wonderful and can normally tell when I’m getting close to my limit so he takes her out to the store or just gives me some alone time to decompress which really helps.
    Sara Carbaugh’s latest post: Happy Pi Day!

  34. Hi,
    I have an almost 4 year old boy and a 12 month old boy. My 4 year old wants constant attention. I give him as much as I can but somedays I’m so tired after being up all might with baby my patience runs thin. He likes to goof around, try to climb on me, and is often resistant to certain things. Staying calm can seem impossible. I am very creative and redirect him a lot but sometimes it doesn’t work. That is when I lose it. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Melissa,
      Your son sounds like my oldest. I think back to how I would be nursing his sister and he’d be climbing all over my back! I should have set better limits, but I didn’t. I’m interested to see what others say, but my first thought is to get that book “Bringing Up Bebe,” about French parenting. I found many of the principles in there to be sort of like how Americans used to parent 50 years ago, before everything got so permissive and child-centered. For example, when you are rested, you could work with your son on
      1) waiting – like for mom’s time and attention, at first 1 minute, then lengthen. He needs to learn how to not be the center of attention (my son acts goofy a lot as a way to get attention)
      2) sitting still and being quiet at the right times – this is an important skill for life, for consideration of others, and for you. At four, he’s probably quite capable of learning how to do this. Again, I’d work with him when you are rested and have a plan of having him sit still for 1 minute, then lengthen to 10.
      3) learning to accept “no.” Again, do this when you have an hour to kill, at home so you can’t be embarrassed. For example, you pick the cup. If you pick blue and he demands red, you can tell him sweetly, “No. Mommy picked blue. When you are ready to be thankful, you can have your milk in the blue cup. Just let me know when you’re ready to be thankful.” If he throws a fit, don’t give in! Just repeat that when he’s ready to be thankful he can have it. Again, it might be an hour the first time, but you are teaching him this valuable lesson –that he won’t always get what he wants. That REALLY cuts down on tantrums/being resistant.
      Obviously, this is just my opinion of what I’d do, so take it all with a grain of salt and with prayer.
      I think that French book would be very helpful to you, especially the parts on parental authority, waiting, and structure.
      Because I agree, when our kids aren’t listening, are wild, climbing on us, and not obeying, it’s natural to get mad. Maybe when you start to feel that madness creeping in, ask yourself, “Is my child obeying right now?” and if the answer is “no” then you can correct him and feel absolutely right in doing so. That beginning anger can be a red flag that they need to be corrected, but if you can start working on some thing proactively before you’re in a crisis situation or out in public, it’s easier to train him in some new habits. Does that make sense?

  35. Perfectly sums up many things I’ve been thinking lately – thanks!!
    Adrie’s latest post: Knitting & Reading – Fair Isle & Bebe

  36. These is great advice for learning and practicing paying attention to one SELF enough to stop the train in its tracks. My #1 strategy for practice is to ALWAYS apologize when I blow up, yell, grab someone, etc. This is also a great way to set an example of how to apologize for kids — I say what I’m sorry for, acknowledge how it affected them, and state what I’d like to do better in the future or how I wish I’d handled the situation instead. It’s powerful.
    Becky’s latest post: Inside My Fridge – Jan. 31, 2012

  37. This was an excellent and practical post! This is the exact thing God is working out in me during this season of life! I have an almost 3 year old and a 1 1/2 year old. I am so often disappointed in myself when I get angry. I loved the idea of looking for triggers and then learning how to handle those triggers. Right now, I am realizing that I need to discipline more consistently which is harder in the present moment, but so worth in the long run. Thank you for posting this! (oh and I live in Tulsa, OK, too!)
    Katie May’s latest post: Life as Worship: Amanda Dykes

  38. Thank you. This was wonderful and much needed. Last year I, too, realized that I was getting too angry with our kids. I yelled at my daughter and she began to cry. She looked up, absolutely heart broken and said, “Mommy, why do you have to yell at me? I’m only a little kid.” Even typing this, I feel like I’ve been hit in the gut. My five year old said exactly what I needed to hear. I’ve worked at living more mindfully and trying to avoid creating situations that I know will trigger anger.

    By the way, I apologized to her and told her she was right. Mommy should not have yelled and my heart was incredibly sad that I had hurt her. Guilt can crush a spirit so I pray that God will help me to be a godly mother and remind myself that my kids learn from my good choices AND my mistakes. I certainly give them plenty of fodder in the latter category.

  39. Two great resources for dealing with anger that have really helped our family: Hal Runkel’s “Screamfree Parenting” and “Celebrate Calm” cds by Kirk Martin.

  40. Thank you so much for this article! It was amazing and while it hurt to read it (because I am aware of how often I fail in this area), it was also tremendously encouraging. Thank you for the helpful tips!

  41. I know the feeling. I too struggle with an anger management problem. I’ve lost it so many times and done damage to my children’s tender spirits. My regrets could fill a novel. I read Grace Based Parenting by Tim Kimmell and it’s done wonders at putting this issue in the proper perspective. If I have been shown much grace by God for MY problems, how sad is it that I can withhold grace from the children he’s gifted me? I still get it wrong at times, but I’ve noticed a marked increase in Grace being shown in our home. Especially as I’ve taken the time to apologize to my children for my sins against them and to ask their forgiveness. I love seeing their joy when I’ve done it right–by God’s grace! 🙂
    Sarah Peloquin’s latest post: You are cursed …

  42. Rebecca Emerson says:

    Just wanted to say that this post was a blessing to me. Many of the reasons listed are those that move me toward anger as well, esp the wheedling and begging. I cave to often and have my own problems with being assertive with my own needs and limits, but I am working hard to get better because I want both to be kind to my kids and also to set an example of good boundaries for them. I want them to see me caring for my own needs in a healthy and respectful way. I printed this out to reread. Thanks much!

  43. Thank you, this was wonderful. I am very aware of how big an issue my anger is. My kids don’t cry when I get angry, they get angry too! We’re all angry! This is my biggest prayer need. Your article has some helpful ideas I plan to put into practice. Thank you!

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