Monthly Archives: April 2013

Confessions of an Angry Mom

If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.
Dosso Dossi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I couldn’t stop myself from losing my temper with my son, even though I love him to the ends of the earth.  I would yank him away from a fight with his sister, and yell a lecture into his face.  When he responded by hitting and kicking me, I would hold his wild limbs way too tightly, pinning him to me until his rage finally turned to tears.  At that point, I would lecture him in a more calm way until I thought I had said enough for him to get the point.  Then I would go to my room and cry into my pillow.

I knew my explosiveness wasn’t solving anything.  It was undoubtedly making things worse.  But I didn’t know how to stop.  If a mother’s love wasn’t motivation enough for me to hold it in, nothing could be.  I had to go beyond motivation, beyond counting to ten.  I needed to change myself at a fundamental level.

Reasons for Anger

First, I had to understand why I was getting angry.  I realized over time that I lose my temper when:

  • I want to scare my kids into doing what I want
  • I am afraid I might not be a good enough mom
  • I am afraid of not being in control of my kids
  • I am afraid my kids might be controlling me
  • I snap from hearing too much of an annoying noise from my son
  • I am afraid of what other people think of my kids’ behavior
  • I am cranky from hunger, thirst, or having to use the bathroom
  • I am overwhelmed by other stress in my like
  • I am more comfortable with the emotion of anger than I am with fear, anxiety or sadness
  • I magnify a temporary behavior problem by fearing it will be a long-term problem
  • I suffer from too much caffeine, or caffeine withdrawal
  • I feel defensive about someone’s anger directed at me
  • It feels good to vent my anger
  • I have too-high expectations for what I — and my kids — should be able to accomplish
  • I don’t know what else to do.

Managing Triggers

Once I understood the reasons for my anger, I could recognize and manage the triggers.  I recently read something that angered me.  I went into the kitchen to cook dinner and started snapping at the kids about messes they had left on the table.  I realized the true source of my anger, and apologized to my kids.  Then I concentrated on prioritizing my family and letting go of my anger over something less important.

New Skills

The next big step was to learn new ways to discipline my kids.  According to psychologist Ross Greene in his excellent online videos, “Maladaptive behavior occurs when cognitive demands being placed on the individual exceed that person’s capacity to respond adaptively.”  The same was true for me.  I behaved badly in situations that exceeded my capabilities.  I had the faulty authoritarian skill set of trying to enforce obedience with fear and manipulation.

I started developing new skills of connection parenting.  These included listening, empathizing, and coaching.  I felt less panicky when I understood my kids better and knew better what to do.  The more confident I was, the less I worried about what other people thought.

More often nowadays, when my son starts trouble with his sister, I focus on defusing the situation.  I calmly suggest why I think he might be angry, instead of escalating the anger in the situation.  I lead him to separate himself from her and find a more appropriate method to resolve the dispute.  In turn, he is becoming more capable in these situations.

Peaceful Home

I still lose my temper.  But my outbursts are shorter and less intense.  I am less frustrated and volatile.  My husband has noticed that the mood in our home has become much more peaceful in the past few years.  He is no longer the victim of my barrages of desperate and unfair complaints about our children’s impossible behavior.  With perseverance, it really was possible to loosen the grip that anger had on our household.

I love feedback.  What do you think?  What are your triggers for anger?

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First Aid Kit for Travel with Kids

Bon Voyage!

Bon Voyage!

Child throwing up in-flight?  Been there.  Fever at the hotel?  Done that.  Can’t find diapers?  That, too!  I’ve been lucky to travel a lot with my kids.  There are some first aid items I have learned to always have with me.  These go in my carry-on if we go by plane.  It’s not always easy to find a pharmacy when you need it, and even harder to find what you want in a foreign country.  Be sure you are aware of TSA limits for liquids on airplanes.  Here’s what I include, in no particular order, plus three bonus tips at the end:

Nasal Spray: This is high on the list, because you can’t clear your ears for landing if your head is stuffed up.  For this reason, I also carry…

Benadryl: If it’s in tablet form, it does not have to take up space in your TSA quart bag limit for liquids. Or, you can buy the single-dose packs to stay within the size limit for liquids. I do NOT recommend using Benadryl to make your child sleepy for the flight.  I’ve heard it sometimes has the opposite effect, or in our case, can lead to projectile vomiting all over Daddy’s shirt.

Cheerios: Babies and small children don’t know how to clear their ears. Start dispensing 30 minutes before landing, so your child will start swallowing and clearing his/her ears before it gets bad.  Warm milk is also helpful because of the heat, swallowing, and sense of security.

Children’s Acetaminophen (Tylenol) and Ibuprofen (Advil): Of course, these are not sold in airplane-size bottles.  I use a smaller bottle and put a label on very, very securely in permanent ink. Include dosage info on the label.  I bring one little bottle of each, because I like to alternate them.  Let me emphasize that it is a BAD idea to put one medication in the bottle of a different medication.  I confess, I’ve done it, and it is in my picture, but you can be smarter than I am.

Anti-itch gel: We like the Benadryl gel best, but it has to be transferred to a smaller bottle to meet the TSA limits.

Triple-antibiotic cream: To kill germs on cuts and scrapes

Chapstick: Airplane air is dry, so we use this often.

Bandaids: Not only for cuts and scrapes, but also if lots of walking gives you sore spots on your feet.

Powdered Pedialyte packs: Easy to carry, and don’t have to be put with your TSA allotment of liquids.

Handi-wipes

Shout (or other brand) stain remover wipes

Tweezers

Nail file

Nail clippers

Small pack of facial tissues: No mother should ever be without these, especially during travel. Restrooms, especially in foreign places, don’t always have toilet paper.

Plastic bags: Bring several for disposing of trash, separating soiled clothes and dirty shoes from other luggage, bagging a lunch on the go, or throwing up in.

Vapor rub pad: The kind you put on your chest to clear a stuffy head.

Oral thermometer

Disposable diapers, wipes and rash cream: You run out at the least convenient time.  Plus, they’re not always easy to find overseas.  I spent a couple hours searching for disposable diapers in Munich.  They were not in the huge department store that had a large supermarket in the basement.  I had to go to a pharmacy and wait in line to get them from a pharmacist.  Luckily, I knew the language and knew my way around the city.  For travel anywhere outside the U.S., just bring the entire amount needed for the trip.  Then use the extra luggage space for souvenirs on the way home.  Be sure your carry-on contains twice as many diapers as you think you need for the flight, or delays will be a nightmare.

Empty travel-size spray bottle: For ironing clothes, sort of.  Simply fill the bottle with water and mist clothes.  Wrinkles will fall out.

Skin lotion

For myself: Feminine protection, just in case, and so I have the kind I like

Bonus vomit tip: Ground coffee masks the smell after you clean up. We learned this from a flight attendant who put ground coffee on my daughter’s seat after she threw up.  Worked like magic.

Bonus foreign bathroom tip: Have small change in the local currency.  Many foreign bathrooms, even at gas stations, charge around $0.50.  I even encountered a bathroom in Turkey that charged for toilet paper by the square.

Bonus medication tip: Bring your prescription for any prescription meds, as these may be controlled substances. Even some over-the-counter drugs may be controlled at your destination, so do a little research.

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