My mother always said I had a temper. It’s hereditary apparently, because my mom and grandmother also suffer from a terrible case of hot-headedness. But when my oldest daughter, Bee, was born, I couldn’t fathom mom anger ever being an issue with this little miracle.
Fast forward four years, we just returned from a Disney World vacation. Somewhere along the line Bee has become totally obsessed with Aurora (Sleeping Beauty), and during our trip we purchased a plush Aurora doll at Disney. If you’ve ever been, you know that many of the items at Disney World are only available on site, and they are often far more expensive than what you could get elsewhere.
We were home for less than a week, and I discovered Bee had totally defaced this beautiful, expensive Aurora plush with marker and makeup (which was stolen from my room).
I was so mad.
In my mind, Bee clearly didn’t appreciate the new toy. She didn’t care that it was ruined, and impossible to replace. It felt like a slap in the face.
I yelled. I probably said a couple of bad words. Not my finest moment.
Why Do We Become Raging Angry Moms?
I’ve thought about this a lot, and I’ve spent hours researching the source of mom rage. Because this isn’t just getting a little made. This is untamable rage. And I think there are five main reasons moms experience this mom rage phenomenon.
Kids are learning to be human
Our kids are just learning what it means to be human. They don’t have practice with human relationships. They don’t understand boundaries. It’s their job to test boundaries and figure out how to navigate human relationships. It’s easy for moms (and dads) to take their children’s behavior personally, but it’s absolutely not!
In fact, it’s better that we allow kids to test boundaries with us. We are their safe haven. It’s ok for them to make mistakes with us. We probably should welcome the opportunities to teach them the right way to behave. But it’s not that easy. And we often feel disrespected and sometimes attacked.
We are drained and need a recharge
When your bucket is empty, you have nothing left to pour into the ones you love. When you’re feeling completely depleted, you’re not capable of handling the stress of many parenting challenges. And then you explode.
We have unrealistic expectations
When your kids are growing and developing, it’s easy to forget they are still learning. It’s easy to set expectations that are unrealistic. As an example, Bee has met nearly every physical and intellectual childhood milestone ahead of schedule. And so I tend to expect her emotional behavior to follow suit. But it’s just not realistic!
We lost control and need a reset
Sometimes things just get out of hand. It could be triggered by big life events, like moving or a new baby. It could be getting out of routine, like on vacation. Or it could be just a series of bad habits adding up to total madness. Either way, sometimes you have to take a step back, take a breath and reset.
A gentle reminder: anger is a normal emotion.
Whatever the reason for your mom rage, you must let go of the regret. All too often I hear about moms who are just paralyzed by their guilt. I get it. I have guilt too. The Aurora incident pops into my mind regularly. But anger is a totally normal emotion. If you didn’t experience some anger as a mom, I’d be concerned. So let’s accept that anger is a part of parenting. We do not want to banish anger itself. What we need to work on is how we respond to that anger.
Steps to Tackle Mom Anger
Even though anger is a normal emotion, none of us want to be known as “the angry mom.” We don’t want our kids to forget all the great moments because the mom anger overshadows happy memories. So here’s how you can stop being the angry mom.
1. Identify your triggers
What sets you off? Is it always the same thing? Are there a series of triggers? Is it always around the same time of day? The best way to figure out where your rage starts is to write it down. Keep a notepad on the counter, and when you start to escalate, document it. Over time you’ll be able to identify your triggers before your blood pressure rises.
2. Commit to walking away
This one is really hard for a lot of people, but you should try to walk away as soon as you notice yourself escalating. If you end the interaction and give yourself time to cool off, everyone will benefit.
3. Create Visual Queues
Visual queues are reminders in plain sight. Visual queues are an extremely important part of this process because they shorten the learning curve, offer quick reminders of our goals, and increase our likelihood of success.
So what can you use as visual queues? It can be sticky notes you see throughout the day, a note written on your hand, or even a bracelet or hair tie around your wrist.
One important note: the visual queues need to be something you actually notice. They cannot be things that blend into the background. For example there’s a popular trick other parenting bloggers have suggested where you keep hair ties around one wrist and switch them to your other wrist when you lose your temper. This would never work for me because I keep hair ties on my wrists all day every day. But if you would notice the hair ties, this might be a good trick for you!!
4. Erase Your Negative Reactions
What do you do when you make a mistake and lose your cool? You need 5 positive interactions to make up for a single negative reaction. And you need to make up for your negative reaction as soon as possible!
Need ideas for positive interactions? Check out our Connected Parenting Challenge that contains 15 minute activities you can do to truly connect with your kids.
Back to Aurora…
I was filled with instant regret when I lost my cool over the Aurora plush. I walked away… and revisited the issue with Bee hours later.
And what happened next broke my heart.
I calmly asked Bee what she was working on earlier with Aurora. And she informed me that Aurora was lacking the “lips red as the rose” and her eyebrows were not as beautiful as mine (I’ve been accused of having Brooke Shields type eyebrows), so she was making Aurora prettier.
I was crushed. My kid thought I was more beautiful than Aurora, and I shamed her for trying to make her doll look like me.
You see, I did not take into account Bee’s perspective. I only saw things from my point of view. If I had just asked her what she was doing, calmly, I would have known that she was being creative and sweet. And she wanted Aurora to be like me. And so that was the day I decided I was going to work on my mom rage every single day.
Bonus Tips that Will Help Alleviate Mom Rage
Practice Grounding Techniques with kids
Grounding techniques, or calming strategies, are invaluable tools. If you practice them with your kids you will both benefit. Your kids will use these strategies for their entire lives, and they’ll develop greater emotional intelligence. And the best part is they are super easy, and often fun activities!
Keep your bucket full
I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s important to keep your bucket full. It’s going to vary by person, but you should consider what activities recharge you. It could be the stereotypical “spa day”, but it may just be reading a book, gardening, or listening to music. Keep a list of simple recharging activities and make them a priority in your life.
Make exercise a priority
There’s no denying the science of exercises. It’s a natural mood-booster and it has immense health benefits. It may also be a recharging activity for you!
Say what you see
One of my absolute favorite parenting tools is to ‘Say What You See’. Instead of expressing your feelings or reacting to your child’s behavior, literally say what you see with your eyes. You may say “I can see you’re drawing on Aurora’s face. Can you tell me about that?” or “You have lots of energy! You are running around the kitchen. Can we run somewhere else that is safer?”
Acknowledging your kids FIRST is a powerful tool to get them to listen and understand your concerns.
“What are you working on?”
Another one of my favorite phrases is “What are you working on?” It’s a judgement free way for you to hear exactly what your child is doing, what their thought process was, and what they are trying to accomplish.
Start a Parenting Journal
Journaling is therapeutic. If you’re struggling with your feelings you might find it beneficial to write them down. Try it for a week or two and see if it helps you process your big emotions. You could also try a shared journal, where you pass the journal back and forth between you and your child. You might find it to be an easier way to communicate!
Are you struggling with mom anger? Share your story with me in the comments!