Anger Management 102: Coping strategies and self-care

In my earlier post on anger management, I shared a bit about anger management and its effects on children. Today, I will be touching on the two main ingredients of anger: stress and trigger thoughts, and how to manage them. (Information courtesy of the NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service’s anger management workshop.)

stress

Stress predisposes us to anger. It sets the scene for anger. Ever wonder why sometimes you react differently towards the same behaviour in your child? Stress is the main reason. Your state of mind, or more specifically, how stressed you feel at the time is a key determining factor.

A trigger thought is the automatic thought that pops into your head, interpreting the situation. It happens in a split second, and often you don’t even know you’re thinking it until you sit down and reflect after the incident.

That thought (usually something about your child) sets off an angry response, converting that internal stress into something expressed externally: anger / frustration / crying / yelling / hitting.

If we want to better manage our emotions, we need to deal with both fronts.

Self-care for Stress

To help keep stress levels in check, take care of your needs. Self-care is important, especially as a modern, multi-tasker mum. Watch over your basic needs; have sufficient rest, exercise, maintain a healthy diet. Also, watch your emotional needs. Keep communication lines open with your spouse, schedule couple time, and even some me-time. Go ahead, you deserve it.

Basically, anything that can help you be in the best state of mind, is beneficial to your family too.

Talk back to trigger thoughts

In my earlier post, some of the readers already identified the thoughts that were in their minds at the point of an angry outburst. These could be: ‘You never listen’ or ‘You’re being difficult’, or ‘He’s driving me crazy!’

One way to combat these negative and often extreme thoughts is to talk back to them. Try these talk-back thoughts instead:

  • It’s just a stage. Kids have to go through these stages.
  • This is how he’s coping with his feelings and needs. It’s not about me.
  • I can cope with this. I don’t have to get angry.

These thoughts help to offer a more realistic view of the situation and your child, as opposed to than the emotional-charged trigger thoughts. The next time you find yourself in a tense situation, take a step back and see what is going through your head at the moment, and then try and see if you can come up with your own talk-back thought. I know it helps because I’ve tried it too, though it might take a while to get used to, and changes may not occur overnight.

Here are some other ideas that I took home from the workshop:

  • Understand your child’s developmental stage – certain traits can be expected at different developmental stages, and it’s helpful to understand what these are before concluding that the child is deliberately misbehaving. For example, around age 2-3 years old, a child tends to blur fantasy and reality, so when she says something that is untrue, it’s not that she’s trying to lie to you.
  • Anticipate your child’s needs – for instance, he may need food, water, rest, sleep, security, attention, etc, so if you can see it coming, then try to prepare what you can to avoid potential tantrums and crankiness.
  • Practise calming techniques – such as deep breathing, walking off your anger, and telling yourself “I can calm down”, etc
  • Communicate assertively – Use “I feel ____ when you _____”, e.g., “I feel frustrated when you don’t listen to me.” Then set clear boundaries for behaviour, such as “I want you to pick up your toys every evening before bedtime.”

I’ve found some of these coping strategies useful in helping me to stay calm in tense situations. And I certainly hope they work for you too.

What’s a common issue that you face with your child, at his/her current development stage? How do you manage your emotions when conflict arises? 

Anger Management 101: Mums have meltdowns too but…

Have you ever had a meltdown?

After Vera popped into our lives, I found myself being angry more often than I should. Joyful, yes, but angry too. I lost it when there was incessant crying, night wakings, and basically when tiredness and stress overwhelmed me.

Things got better after I got the hang of motherhood, but then the toddler threw it out of whack when she decided to exert her independence and showcase her intolerance for anything other than what ‘I WANT’.

At times, I would lose control and spank her harder than I should, while yelling “why are you acting so naughty?!” or “why can’t you listen to mummy?!” I even spanked with my bare hands — something I’ve told myself not to do because we have decided to use a small wooden spatula for disciplining, and we wanted very much to reserve our hands for loving.

Well, we also told ourselves that we would not try to discipline her when we were angry, as it’s easy to get out of control when wild emotions are ravaging your body. So I guess we failed in the very things we told ourselves not to do.

Looking back, I probably went through some of my darkest moments then — the guilt was over-powering. I became aware of the fact that I came from a family where yelling was a usual occurrence, and I had started to reproduce that same pattern of behaviour in my own household.

Yet, by some grace larger than our own, the hubby and I committed to learning through our mistakes; we worked together and tried to find solutions to each ‘new’ issue. And we set new boundaries for ourselves and our daughter, after learning each time what went right and what went wrong.

We re-strategised our disciplinary plan through each developmental stage that she went through. (Vera kept throwing us new curve balls after we thought we had her ‘figured out’.) I guess through that, we also learnt about our own flaws, and how to work better as a couple. (You simply have to work together. There is no other way. Inconsistent messages will just make things more confusing for your child.)

Today, I found out that yelling (including blame, name-calling, or belittling) can be as emotionally damaging as physically hitting a child. This came through a workshop on anger management held by the NUH Women’s Emotional Health Service. I also re-learnt the reasons why we should try not to let anger get the better of us:

  • Children who are spanked become more aggressive themselves
  • The more corporal punishment is used, the greater the risk of escalation into child abuse
  • If you are constantly angry, you minimize the opportunities to bond with your child
  • Children of angry parents are less empathic, and have poorer overall adjustment later in life
  • Punishment may not be as effective in helping children internalize the value of good behaviour as compared to positive reinforcement and explaining
  • The long-term impact on your child could include low self-esteem, higher chance of depression, eating disorders in females, etc.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating no-spanking, period. But if spanking is a form of letting out your anger on your child, then I believe there can be a better way.

Here’s the good news: While we may be born with the potential to be aggressive, we CAN learn to channel our emotions into more constructive forms.

I came across this anger management article which provided some tips on how to control or manage anger. So the next time something pushes me to anger, I will give some of these a shot:

  • Do not react immediately (if you know that you are angry)
  • Step back, analyse the situation
  • Find out the cause for the action
  • Discuss and find solutions, rather than act on emotion
  • Develop a forgiving mindset (for yourself and for your loved ones)

Personally, I find that walking away from the ‘scene’ and just taking deep breaths as I walk does wonders.

Of course, humour works wonders too…

Anger management

How do you cope with your emotions when they run wild?

Next week, I will be doing a post on the importance of self-care and some strategies to help cope with anger. So stay tuned. And if you haven’t already, do LIKE our Facebook page for more timely updates! 🙂

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