6 Ways to Stop Being an Angry Mom
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When you became a mom for the first time did you feel an overwhelming sense of joy? I remember those first few days with my newborn and I felt like my heart was really going to explode! The love and happiness I had was supernatural! At that time I couldn’t imagine that I could ever be an angry mom, but it’s something so many mothers struggle with.
Mom’s get angry, but it doesn’t make them happy. It doesn’t feel good to carry around frustration, angry thoughts and stress. It doesn’t feel good to be an angry mom.
Have you ever watched Malcolm in the Middle? The mother Lois is definitely what you would consider an angry mom, she explodes at the children quite often and always turns to screaming, harsh punishments and manipulation to get what she wants. In some episodes there are flashbacks of her in her first few months as a mother and she was very gentle and timid even. But as time went by her anger came out and started to define her.
It’s just a TV show of course, but do you feel like you can relate?
Before having kids you were a happy and peaceful woman, and now as a mother you feel constantly frustrated and angry? It’s like something gradually changed inside of you and now you can’t control yourself.
I don’t want you to be an angry mom, so we’re going to look at why it happens and how we can stop it.
Why Am I an Angry Mom?
Believe it or not, a lot of moms struggle with this. I know it can be hard to believe if you think of some of your friends, but the truth is we always try to put on our best face out in public but at home it can be a different story. Even the most patient, loving woman you know might struggle with being an angry mom. So don’t beat yourself up, although it might not feel very good you are not much different than a lot of moms.
In life there may be a lot of things that annoy us – the line at the bank takes too long, a social media troll, your phone battery dies, the barista gets your coffee wrong. These things can be annoying but they are momentary. We know that we will get through the situation, that it has a beginning and an end. It will finally be your turn at the bank, you’ll eventually charge your phone again. The annoying thing will end and it does not affect our future. That’s pretty easy to deal with.
But when it comes to our children (and our husband) it is a totally different ball game.
Sometimes we can get frustrated with our children because they annoy us (imagine loud screeching for no reason) but it taps into our thoughts and emotions because we reflect their behaviour on ourselves, and on our child’s future.
If we start blaming ourselves for their “bad behaviour,” or start to feel embarrassed if we’re out in public, then our emotions will escalate. And if we start thinking that our child won’t EVER learn to behave, and that they’re future is being ruined by what they’re doing, or any other thoughts like that, then again our emotions are going to escalate. We will begin to feel so desperate for the behaviour to just STOP that we end up getting very angry and trying by all means necessary to stop their behaviour.
And it’s not going to feel very good after, in fact it’s going to make us feel horrible.
It’s not just their behaviour alone that is annoying us, but it’s our pride and our fear of their future that can really trigger the anger.
The truth is, the relationship between a parent and child is so different from any other relationship, and parents and child have a special way of getting on each other’s nerves. The behaviour in our children can actually pull up difficult memories from our own childhood, which can escalate the situations even further.
For each of us personally there may be certain things that trigger us to be angry. We all have our pet peeves, or our own pasts that define how we feel about things now.
So How Do I Stop Being Angry?
I wish dealing with angry was a simple thing, but it’s not easy and it can take a long time. To even begin to deal with your anger though you do need to accept that you can be an angry mom, and you need to set your mind to changing.
Do you want to be an angry mom? Or do you want to change? Can you admit that it is a problem you face whether it be daily or occasionally?
We need to be aware of the fact that anger is not good and that it does affect our children when we’re angry.
Sometimes it may be easy to think that the way we behave can’t affect our children. But it does. I really believe that Gentle Parenting WORKS and that we can raise our children with mutual respect, and I also believe it is the Christian thing to do. No anger required. No yelling necessary. And even no spanking! (But I’m not going to get into that but I’ll just leave this link here if you want.)
To deal with our anger though we need real life ways to overcome it, so I want to help you to overcome your anger and become a gentler parent.
#1. Identity Your Triggers
This is a pretty obvious first step but it can be very easy to miss. When we are in the heat of an angry moment it can be really hard to identify the source of our anger. Have you ever been really angry about something…and then later completely forgotten what you were angry about? Our emotions can be pretty strong sometimes, and it might be the environment that is causing such intensity rather than the actual event.
We need to be aware of what makes us more likely to get angry so we can learn to cope and prepare.
There are a few obvious triggers:
You need to take care of your basic needs to maintain a healthy emotional state.
I am a missionary in South Africa and I am not used to the hot weather we experience here. There are times when I am hot, dehydrated and tired and I always get really emotional if I don’t real with those issues.
Or have you ever been hangry? So hungry that you start getting angry? As nice as it would be to be supermom and be able to live off of the very little sleep we might get and minimum adult interaction it might not be possible if we want to have a happy family.
In the moment of anger you might not be able to fix that need right away, as nice as it might be to just take a nap after your child has done something that’s driving you batty it’s just probably not possible. But identifying that you are tired in the moment will help. If you know that you get more angry when you are tired, then you can identify that as a source of your anger and use that knowledge to remind yourself that there is something making all your emotions that much more intense.
You also need to identify any other triggers that might cause you to start turning into an angry mom.
- Were your parents really strict about something when you were a child and now it triggers you when your children do it?
- Are you sensitive to loud sounds, strong smells, etc?
- Are there any safety issues that you are really sensitive and protective about?
- Do you have any items in the house that you really want taken care of in a certain way to prevent damage?
- Is saving electricity really important to you? Do you freak out when lights get left turned on?
These are just a few ideas, but there may be things that are really challenging for you all the time. If you can identify these issues and really pick them a part, you might be able to understand and control your anger much better. You may find that some of the things that make you angry actually aren’t that important and it’s ok if your child do it, or you might realize there are ways to prevent the situation from happening all together.
Recognizing our triggers gives us a huge power over our anger and will make it much easier for us to address the real issue at hand.
#2. Plan Ahead
Now that you know your triggers it’s important to plan ahead. This of course can mean things like making sure your basic needs are met, and we’ll look more into that next.
It also means preventing things from happening that may set you off. You need to set appropriate boundaries for your child so you’re not constantly saying, “No, no, no.”
I don’t mean giving your child a million rules which they won’t be able to follow, but creating clear, firm, consistent boundaries. If you’re constantly getting worked up about things possibly breaking or your child possibly getting hurt then it may be beneficial to change the environment to decrease those risks. It will take a weight off your shoulders and you will no longer feel like you are constantly on the edge.
#3. Self-Care or Bust
Mama – take care of yourself!
I mean it!
I’m glad I’m starting to hear this more often, but it’s truly sad how long this has been forgotten. No one can take care of anyone if they can’t take care of themselves first. My husband and I are missionaries and we speak out a lot about the importance of self-care for missionaries because if missionaries focus all their energy and expenses on other people then they will be unsuccessful in the long run and they will give up.
Motherhood it’s a sprint, it’s a marathon; and we need the energy (both physically and emotionally) to be able to do it well.
Self-care is going to look different for different people, but you want to make sure that you are meeting your basic physical needs consistently (eat, sleep) but you also need to consider your emotional side. Are you getting any alone time? Time with friends? Time with the Lord? It’s easy to neglect these areas of your life but they’re so so important. (I have 10 tips for nurturing your spiritual life as a new mom here.)
Do you ever feel like you’re selfish if you take time to yourself? It’s easy to think that way because it may seem like in that moment you are doing a disservice to your family, but you shouldn’t be constantly running at 0% battery, you need time to recharge and fill up.
Lots of phones have a built in setting that when the battery gets below a certain point the phone will switch off certain settings to save battery, for instance it might turn down the brightness or switched off the GPS. If you only ever charge your phone to 5% it’s never going to switch those settings back on.
We’re the same way. When we are worn out we can’t do all the things we want to do, even a smile or reading a book with our child can be a struggle when we feel emotionally drained.
Moments away from your family for a short time means that when you are together again you will be able to give them your full-self. This will decrease our anger as well, because when we are healthy emotionally it is much easier to handle our anger.
#4. Speak Positivity into Your Life
Do you ever find yourself saying bad things about yourself? Maybe you think you’re a bad mom? Or you tear yourself down for being an angry mom? These thoughts are not uncommon for mothers, although some might be the results of postpartum depression which is a much more serious matter.
Speaking negative comments into our life is only going to tear us down and make it even harder for us to cope with our issues. We need to speak positive thoughts so we can accept that we actually are pretty great and we have room for change! You can pray or journal to help yourself with this, and I have some great positive mom affirmation cards you can use to speak positivity into your heart. You can grab them below.
So far we have talked a lot about prevention, but what about in that moment of anger? What do we do? This can be tricky when we feel like we are on the edge of explosion. First we need to deal with everything happening – make sure that everyone is safe and deal with any immediate issues especially concerning safety.
And then it takes a smart balance.
You need to deal with your children and the behaviour that has set you off, but we also need to deal with yourself and the anger that might be eating away at you each second. If it’s possible the best thing you can do is excuse yourself for a moment. Tell your children something like, “I have a lot of feelings right now and I need to be alone for a moment so I can think clearly.”
Take whatever time you can to calm down in whatever way works for you, but remember you do not want to scare your children. Screaming, even in a different room, can have a negative impact on your child. Physical movement is known to help us when we are angry, try doing some jumping jacks or burpies to release some of the energy that is building up inside of you. You can also try to distract yourself with something else to clear your mind. When you are angry it’s going to be really difficult to think straight, and you can easily end up saying things to your children you might regret.
If in the moment you are not able to take a moment to yourself then you must be very careful with how you handle your children. You can try taking a few deep breaths to calm down, or ask them to tell you what happened from their point of view before you start to respond to the incident.
Try to calm down as much as possible before you actually start to address what has happened. When you do start to speak to your children try to be as calm as possible. Avoid raising your voice or calling them names or labelling them. Avoid saying things like, “You are very bad,” or, anything that defines them as something negative.
As you address your child be aware of your own feelings and needs (are you really tired right now?) and also look at your child’s needs. Their behaviour might be very out of character because they missed their nap or their routine is thrown off.
In the moment you may not be able to undo what has happened, but try to think about how you can prevent that thing from happening again. Everyone might be very emotional in the moment, but afterwards when everyone is calm and thinking clearly you might want to talk to your child about the incident again and talk about what boundaries may need to be set to prevent it from happening again.
We will all have different coping methods, so it’s important that we intentionally figure out what will work for us.
#6. You Don’t Have to Be an Angry Mom Today
Were you an angry mom yesterday? Or maybe the day or week before? Just as much as we don’t want to label our children with something negative we also don’t want to label ourselves. Just because you were an angry mom yesterday doesn’t mean that makes you who you are. Even if you have made a mistake and have done something you regret you still have the chance to make it right by apologizing to those who were affected by it and by learning how to overcome it.
Reflect on the last incident in which you were angry. Consider how you could have handled it differently. What is something you can intentionally do today to make it different from yesterday?
Today doesn’t have to be like yesterday, because today is a new day.
You may have, at times, been a mom who was angry, but that doesn’t make you who you are.
You don’t have to be the Malcolm in the Middle mom, a character defined by her anger. Don’t let anger define you.
If you once were someone who didn’t have anger issues you can find that part of yourself again. It’s just important that you admit that you do get angry, recognize your triggers, prevent anger through changing the environment and setting boundaries, learn how to cope when you are angry, and then start every day as a new day, with another chance to do even better.
If you want to completely change your parenting style to bring more peace and calm into your family then you might want to look into Gentle Parenting. Maybe you have already heard about gentle, peaceful or positive parenting. It can be hard to implement if you were raised with very strict parents and now take the same approach. I have developed a 2 week challenge, free for my readers, to learn how to start Gentle Parenting by taking on small steps each day.
Have a great day mamas,
The Moving Mama
Lizzy Mash is an experienced early childhood educator now living in Africa as a missionary working with children and families.
She teaches Christian moms how to take a more respectful and Christ-like approach to motherhood by using Gentle Parenting strategies.
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