“I try so hard to change, but every time I vow never to get angry again, I just end up giving up, falling back into the same habits, and then I give up, feeling like a complete failure”
This is such a common sentiment of frustrated parents.
We get angry. We feel guilty. We apologise. We hate ourselves or beat ourselves up. We vow to be calm next time. We don’t. Repeat.
But it’s not like you haven’t tried, right? You really have. You have probably researched anger management suggestions – take a deep breath, walk away when angry, take more time out.
You’ve researched child behaviour strategies in an attempt to change your child’s behaviour so you don’t need to get so angry
But the cycle still repeats itself or you change for a little while, but it all comes creeping back in.
How can you stay committed to being calm?
Has there ever been a time where you repeatedly made a mistake, over and over again? Every time you do it, you say to yourself, ‘why do I keeping doing that? I really should stop that.’ But one day, you do it again, only this time it caused you so much pain, it was imperative that you never made that mistake again. Your commitment to change became a MUST, instead of just a ‘should’.
This happened to a client of mine. Here is her story.
“It was a typical morning where my 12yo was too slow getting ready for school. As usual, I nagged, she ignored, I got angry, she got defiant and disrespectful, I yelled some more and she got upset. But I had had enough. I ranted all the way to school.
‘You’re always running late. You make me so late for work. I’m so tired of everything having to be YOUR way. You think the whole world revolves around you. But it doesn’t. You know while you were at camp last week, I didn’t have one problem getting your siblings ready for school, but you return and here we go, back to being late again. I’ve had enough of your behaviour. Stop being so selfish!’
It wasn’t one of my finest moments.
I dropped her off at school, and left, trying desperately to get to work on time. However on my way to work, I received a call. My daughter was a mess. She was inconsolably crying and wouldn’t let anyone talk to her and wouldn’t go to class. I had to turn around.
I got to the school and sat down with her. Now I was a mess. We both cried and talked it out. As we discussed what had happened, my daughter revealed to me that she had perceived my rantings to mean that the family was better off without her and that she was not wanted in the family. I was gutted. I couldn’t believe I’d made her feel this way.
It was at that point I realised, something HAD to change. I had tried to change in the past, but now I realised the pain I was causing my children by my outbursts. I HAD TO find another way.’
This mum, was motivated by pain, which is often what shifts us from a ‘should’ to an unequivocal ‘must’.
You see, time and life can really get the better of us and parenting can be ridiculously challenging, but what I have seen with the thousands of clients that I work with every year, that programs like our 28 Day Tame your Temper Parenting Challenge or other programs that initiate changes, become a huge priority when you are at the point where change is an absolute MUST.
ALL decisions and actions we take, come from our priorities. Our priorities come from our ‘stories’ (our perceptions) on life. We are always motivated by the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain. This is always our agenda behind anything.
Think about this scenario: You have a whole list of things you need to get done for the day – cooking, cleaning, lunches, washing, etc., however your best friend calls you in tears and tells you that she’s really struggling in life and about to do the unthinkable. What do you do? You drop your list of to-dos, you get the kids sorted and you get over there A.S.A.P! Naturally you made it a huge priority. Why did you do this? Because the pain you felt when hearing her tears and you contemplating life without her, and the pleasure (if you could call it that) you sought from being able to help her to stay in this world, HUGELY overrode your ‘pleasure story’ about your to-do list that was initially your priority before the call.
Consider another scenario: You know you ‘should’ do your to-do list, but you’ve had a big day, you’re tired and the kids have been challenging. There’s a moment when they’ve all gone to bed and your favourite TV show is on. You decide to watch TV and ‘stuff the housework’. Why did you do that?
Because in that moment, you felt the pain of the day, mixed it with the pain of the chores (effort, boredom, whatever) and you moved towards the more pleasurable option.
However, throw in an impending visit from a highly anal, house cleaning freak of a mother or mother in law, and all of a sudden, despite the pain of your day, there’s even more pain attached to having the house a mess for your visitor, so you force yourself to get up and clean up.
3 ways to make anger management your top priority
In regards to your anger, to find the motivation to learn how to be calm and really commit to the effort it takes to break the habit to yell, then I suggest you do the following to give yourself the ‘ammo’ needed to change the ‘should’ to a ‘MUST’!
* Talk to your kids about how they feel about your anger. If they aren’t old enough to talk, that’s okay. You can just observe their responses to your yelling. What effect are you having on them? Hear it from their mouths. Not so you can feel guilty about it. Don’t go down that road as that’s just a cop out saying, “I SHOULD do this, but I didn’t so I’ll just beat myself up instead’. You’re doing this exercise to give yourself a wake-up call that promotes a MUST – To FEEL the pain of your angry reactions. Hear what they are saying/feeling about it. Ask them how they feel about themselves or how they interpret things when you get angry. Understand the impact your anger is having on them so you start to associate immense pain to getting angry. This is really important. You want to feel that anger is causing you pain.
* Write an EXHAUSTIVE list of the cost this anger is having on yourself personally, and the quality of your relationships. Take into consideration what this anger has already cost you in your life, look at how much it will cost you if you continue for the next year, the next 5 years, the next 10 years, the next 20 years, when you’re an old lady/man, what will life be like if you continue with anger being your default?
* And finally, it’s REALLY important that you go the other way too (otherwise you’ll just be only focussing on the awful. There is another side to all this). What will life be like when you change, when you’re calmer? What will it FEEL like to be calm? How will that benefit your life? In what ways? What will life be like in a year from now, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years, when you’re an old lady/man looking back on your life? How will things be different? What is life already like when you are calm, cool and connected with your kids? What do those times feel like?
You see, when you attach enough pain to your current behaviour, to the point where you cannot possibly live with this behaviour any longer, and equally, attach immense pleasure to the goal of changing, you will find your motivation and you will make change a priority.
Until then, you will find excuses and you will place it by the wayside in lieu of other things you are making a priority (because they are more pleasurable or because you are avoiding more intense pain through your reactions). Your brain will keep finding evidence of how you ‘don’t have time’ or ‘something else is more important’.
Even now, as you read this article, there will be many of you saying, “But I can’t. I’ve tried all that. ‘This’ situation stops me. My depression stops me. It’s hereditary. I don’t know any other way.”
This may be confronting, but listen to those stories you tell yourself about why you can’t change and don’t allow them to stop you. There are millions of people in the world who have overcome the most unbelievable challenges because they decided that they WILL NOT give up. There was no other option but to completely immerse themselves in learning, growing, practicing and committing to getting to their goal. There is absolutely no reason why you cannot do the same with your anger.
I, too, have had to walk this road from anger to calm. I still have to commit to everything I teach in the 28 Day Tame your Temper Parenting Challenge in my own life. But I remember that day when I screamed at my kids and saw the look of fear on their faces and had my meltdown. I’ve had to walk this very talk that I’m now teaching you.
You might have to work for it. You may have to do some digging. You may have to resolve some issues. But the outcome will be so worth it.
You have it in you. You just need to decide whether change is going to remain a ‘should’ or a MUST.