What to do to prepare for your anger moments?
One of the most frequent parents’ questions is what to do when they are in the heat of an anger with their children, when, it seems, rational mind does not work anymore, when they just want to scream or even worse, to hit their precious child. It seems there is not much they can do with their children when being angry. Similarly, as with angry children, parents cannot really solve difficulties at the heat of the moment. So better just retreat, just try to calm down.
Here are three useful ideas what you can do before you get angry. The first two are related to monitoring your behavior. The last one is monitoring your future behavior.
Understand and listen to yourself. Noticing what is going on at the moment when you are angry is already a big step forward from the situation when you noticed that you have done something you regret when you were angry. Just knowing what is going on at a particular moment – your bodily sensations, feelings, and thoughts – can already help you a lot to calm down. You realize, for instance, your thought: “ok, I am so furious that I will have to clean this wall that was painted by my three-year-old; I think she wants to do something bad to me.” At this point you may realize that your three-year-old actually did not strive at all to make you suffer, but to make her happy by enjoying drawing on the wall. And you do not have to clean your wall alone, your three-year- old can actually help.
It can be difficult to understand your bodily sensations, feelings and thoughts if you are not used to doing it. From my own experience, meditation can help. You can practice a three minute breathing space, which is part of a book “Mindfulness” by Mark Williams Danny Penman, for instance. It is a three minute guidelines how to notice things happening to you right now. If you practice it when you are quite calm, after a while you might be able to apply it during anger moments.
Have a deal with your child. Do you often scream at your child? Do you want to stop this type of behavior but, it seems, you cannot? Simply explain to your child by saying “I’m sorry I scream a lot at you but I do not want to do that. It is difficult for me to stop. What if every time I scream you place a sticker on the fridge? Thus we will know how often I actually scream.” In this way, first, you monitor your behavior, which is the first step to a change. Second, you give some power to your child.
Visualize. A lot of successful sportsmen use visualization as a technique to achieve great results. Before the match, they visualize in detail how it would be to do every step well and then achieve success. What they would do right in every step. This simple technique could be used by parents as well, as Tim Brownson in one of his interviews suggested. Just imagine in very detail, how you would react to your child when you are really angry at him, how you would deal with it constructively. How could you in a calm but strong voice say to a child who is not in a hurry at all to prepare for school in the morning and you have to leave already: “I get very upset when I’m late for work.”; “You have 5 more minutes, after that we leave. I will wait in the corridor.”, or similar. After a while, this visualization can become your actions.
Lastly, if this preparation is not yet effective and you feel that you are about to slap your child at the heat of your anger, shout from all your heart: “I am so angry that I am about to hit you! So run for your life!” as a child psychologist Dr. Ginott suggested, in the book “Liberated parents, liberated children” by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. By doing this, you name your feelings and let your child escape your behavior that you might later regret.