I was having coffee with a friend of mine, a dad of two young children. He said,
"My kids know just what buttons to push to make me angry."
With little effort, most of us can list four or five things our kids do that make us lose our temper. The reason we can identify them easily is because they recur regularly or even daily. And, as a result, many of us have developed a response routine that includes anger, yelling and frustration.
My friend and I have our lists and we are both prone to responding with anger and frustration. So we are determined to change our routines. The first step is making a list of "button issues." The second step is working out a plan for each item before it happens again.
For example, if your child likes to use the couch as an Olympic style trampoline and that violation lights your fuse, plan ahead. First, add "jumping on the couch" to your button list. Second, imagine your child bouncing away. How will you respond?
Your response should include these steps:
1. Calmly remind yourself that you anticipated this would happen. Remember you have a plan.
2. Get close to your child by calling them to you or going to them.
3. Calmly (no need to get angry because you anticipated this and you have a plan) remove your child from the couch. Ask, "______, we have talked about this many times, what are you doing wrong?" If your child takes responsibility, move on to the next question. If they say, "I don't know" remind them of the rule and re-ask the question. If your child refuses to answer or take responsibility, have them take a break until they are ready to talk about it.
4. After your child takes responsibility for his actions, ask, "Why is that wrong?" Before you ask this question (in your planning process) be sure you know the answer. For example: I was disobeying mom and dad or I wasn't showing respect to others or property.
5. Next ask, "What should you do instead?" If your child doesn't know, be ready to teach by giving her suitable alternatives i.e. you should jump on the trampoline, not the couch.
6. End the discussion by saying, "OK, go on and try again." This statement releases your child to a future that isn't marred by mistake. They get a "do over" to make better choices.
Few of us learn something the first time. Often lessons have to repeated. For example, how many speeding tickets have you received in your driving career? Like us, our kids will repeat their mistakes. But by walking through these steps each time, eventually they will be armed with the skills to evaluate their choices and avoid making the wrong ones.
At the same time, we will reduce our anger because we'll have a plan when correction is needed.
Want more on this subject? Check out Good and Angry by Dr. Scott Turansky and Joanne Miller.