It’s been an outrageous day, and you’ve had it! That one child pushes you just a little bit too far. Everything seems to be going wrong at once. You’re not feeling your best. You had a rough night or you think you may be getting sick. You’ve had a rough time in a key relationship in your life. These things just scratch the surface of the list of situations that can cause anyone’s anger to boil over.
It happens to most of us, once in a while. It happens to some of us more often than it should. We get so angry, frustrated, or upset that we are stretched to the limit. Everyone has THOSE days, when life seems to throw curves and the self-control stretches thin. This is the kind of emotional scene that can lead to child abuse. Don’t take chances when your self-control is frazzled! Here are twenty quick and easy ways to back off, to keep your cool, and to maintain your loving and nurturing self. When you feel the pressure building up inside of you to lash out, stop, take a deep breath, and try one or more of these ideas instead.
1. The old adage to “count to 10” is a good one. It gives you time to pause and avoid rash actions. You can even keep counting if you’re still feeling out of control.
2. Remember that discipline is a LOVING act that will HELP the child learn self-control. When your child looks back on this incident, will he or she see the love and the help?
3. Take a deep breath. The very act of breathing deeply will relax your muscles and drain away some of the stressful energy built up in your body. Do it two or three or four or more times, until you start to feel more in charge.
4. Remember that you are the adult! What is behind this anger that you feel? Did the child really make you this angry, or is there something else in the background (like a bad day, or feeling uncomfortable, or relationship problems, or…) that is pushing the feelings out of control?
5. Close your eyes. Shutting out visual input can help you relax. While you have your eyes closed, think about what the child is seeing and hearing, and what he or she is about to see and hear. Is this the memory that you want the child to take with them into their adult life? Visualize instead the positive actions that you could take: yourself calmly and coolly helping the child to learn the correct behavior.
6. Use your time-out system. Separating from the child who has triggered your anger will help you calm down and help you feel like you have taken some action. Remember that the accepted guideline for using time-out is one minute for each year of the child’s age.
7. Call someone you care about. Let the voice on the other end of the line become your life preserver. Tell that person that you just wanted to have a momentary distraction to help settle your nerves. Ask for advice, if you want. Talk about the weather. Anything to take the edge off of your current situation.
8. Try putting yourself in time-out! If you have another adult assistant, go completely away for a minute or two. If not, sit in a chair where you can still watch and keep everyone safe, but declare yourself off limits. Ignore demands and requests for just a few minutes while you take some deep breaths and relax.
9. If someone else can take over for a few minutes, try going for a walk. The fresh air and exercise will help clear your head and relax your body.
10. Sometimes it can help to exercise. Get the group going with some spur of the moment calisthenics. Movement will help you to feel more in control, the activity will distract both you and the youngster who is aggravating you, and the change of pace will shift everyone’s focus onto more positive activities and thoughts.
11. Splash water on your face. The sharp sensory input will help clear your mind and allow you to take charge of your emotions. When you are in control, you will be more able to deal with the situation rationally and in a positive way.
12. Hug or punch a pillow. Releasing strong emotions is very important for your mental health. This is an acceptable and safe way to do just that.
13. Sing a song. Try something loud and vigorous, or something soft and gentle. Making music can provide an emotional release and will help you cope with strong feelings. Put your heart into it, and SING!
14. Turn on some music. Even listening to music will ease your body’s tension level. Music can calm and soothe both you and the children.
15. Try putting your angry feelings down on paper. Write down what you want to say or do, then be sure to destroy the paper.
16. Do an activity that you really enjoy. You can even scrap the schedule and get the group started with that fun game or art project.
17. Write down as many positive points about the target of your anger as you can. Save this list, and look at it lots. It will help you see that person as a valuable and unique individual, instead of a provoking annoyance.
18. Make a list of positive and helpful words. Post it in a prominent place. The human mind is a powerful tool, and simply making an effort to change our internal dialogue will help change actions!
19. If you can get away for a little while and leave someone else in charge of the children, take a hot bath. Taking care of yourself is vital to maintaining self-control. When you feel more at peace with the world, you will be able to cope with the stresses of parenting or childcare.
20. Again, if you can get away for a while, try taking a drive. Driving is one of the situations where we feel totally in control. You can go where you want and take your time getting
there. The car is private and peaceful, just the thing to soothe a harried parent. Just be sure that you don’t transfer your angry feelings into any form of road rage!
These ideas aren’t magical cure-alls, of course, but they will help most of us. At least one or two from the list should be workable in all situations. Try printing the list up in bold print and posting it where you can see it to remind yourself of alternatives.
If extreme feelings are a problem for you, or if you are concerned about the way you or another adult interacts with children, there are resources available to help. Check with your physician, pediatrician, local school district, child care resource and referral agency, or clergy person for resources in your local area. You can also contact the National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse at:
PO Box 2866
Chicago, IL 60690
Let’s all work to make every child’s childhood a safe and nurturing time of learning instead of a nightmare that never goes away.