Losing your cool and how to get it back
The other night I was tired, hungry, and feeling overwhelmed when I got home from work. It was a long day. My wife, who had a cold for several days, asked me to do something. I barked back at her.
I felt terrible.
How often do we lose our temper at our children or our spouse? It frequently happens at the end of the day when we are exhausted. The kids ask us to do “one more thing” and we crack. We find ourselves yelling at a little kid, who looks back at us with an innocent, hurt look in his eyes.
We feel like ogres.
Dinner times can be tough too. Getting home from work, frantically making dinner, trying to get the kids to come to the table, and then, a glass of milk drops off the table shattering on the floor. Mom and Dad feel like their nerves have splintered too! “How could you do that,” yells Dad.
Hunger and fatigue are the enemies. But so is rushing around dropping off one kid and picking up another--frantically trying not to be late! Yet kids don’t seem to have the same sense of time pressure. What’s the rush? Making that mud pie seems so much more interesting to Joey than getting to soccer practice on time. This is the soil in which adults and kids lose their cool.
Couples struggle too. Mary finally drops into bed at the end of the day and her husband Bob starts yelling about his shirts. “Where are they” he shouts. Joe plops down in his easy chair after the kids are finally asleep and turns on the basketball game. His wife Sarah wants him to take out the garbage. He barks back at her.
It’s easy to blame the other person for this momentary loss of control. “Couldn’t she see I was tired?”, “Doesn’t Joey know that I can’t be late for work?”, “Can’t he see that I need time for myself?”, and so the list goes on.
But honestly, when I lose my temper, it is always my responsibility no matter what the reason. It is always wrong. I always regret it. We are completely, 100% responsible for everything that we do. That’s just the way it is.
So what can we do?
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Notice when you are getting over cooked, and try to sit down for a minute. Close your eyes and breathe. Look at your schedule for the day. Is it realistic? If not, is there something that you can take off the docket? Is there some way of getting help from someone else? Maybe someone else can take the carpool on a bad day. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance.
- Don’t get hungry. I keep power bars in my car. If I get too hungry along the way, I have something at the ready. When my kids were little, I always had a store of snacks in my briefcase.
- Know what is likely to trigger you. I am not too fussy, but when I get home and the kitchen is a mess, I can start to boil. When the kids were little, I would mostly get irritable when I first walked in the door and they jumped all over me. So, I developed a little ritual before I catapulted into my second job as a Dad. I always changed out of my work clothes. That was my way of making the transition from one part of my day to another.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol can be disinhibiting. Adults start to say things that they should probably keep to themselves.
- Most trouble spots are very predictable. Bedtimes, mealtimes, coming home from work or transitions are family hotspots. Think ahead, before everything spirals out of control. Recognize your own state of mind before you go into a stressful time of the day.
- Take time for yourself. Yeah, sure—especially for single parents who have so little help. But even just taking a hot shower before the wild times can really help soothe your frazzled nerves.
Do you have any thoughts on how to avoid losing your temper when you are the thick of family life? Share your secrets!