Ask Dr. Marla: How can I avoid losing my temper around my kids?

By Dr. Marla Shapiro on November 15, 2012
Sometimes when my kids are fighting I can get so annoyed and will throw a mommy temper tantrum. Then I feel awful for yelling. I know I’m not setting a good example. Do you have any tips for keeping your cool around your kids?

Answer:

What is important is that you are aware of what the trigger is for your so-called “mommy tantrum”. You can see that losing your temper doesn’t work on any level. It reinforces to your children that yelling is OK because you are yelling, too. And after the fact, there is remorse on your part. You are right that the example you set is critical for your children. They are not learning any problem-solving skills from you if you scream when they scream.

Knowing that this is a button pusher for your temper, why not sit down with your kids at a time when they are not screaming at each other and talk about how to be effective communicators? Help them learn to negotiate the issue. Be firm and clear with them that yelling is not an acceptable or effective way to solve any problem.

At the time that the kids are fighting, take a deep breath and count to 10. While you are counting, think in a positive way as to how you are going to negotiate this situation without screaming. Here are some tips:
  • Remind yourself that this is the kind of situation where you get easily annoyed. Instead, try to focus on what the issue at hand is and help them to calm down.
  • Remind your children that the problem will only get solved if they can negotiate and compromise.
  • Ask them to each take a deep breath, calm down and ask each one what the problem is, reminding the other child to be quiet and listen to what their sibling is saying.

Next, find a strategy that will break this cycle of yelling at your kids when they are fighting. Ask yourself what your children need from you while they are fighting. The answer just might be a calm adult to help them each calm down and learn how to talk to each other without screaming.

And finally, remember that no matter what, there are always situations that prompt us to lose it. We are only human and it is important for your children to see that you own up your mistake and move on.


Got a health question? Submit it to Dr. Marla.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, November 2012.

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