8 Tips for anger management

People at work are asking me why I am not working as many hours as I used to. I am. But I am working on anger management. Here are seven tips I’ve tried using:

1. Face the problem and make it a priority.
I used to think anger management problem is a thing for men who are in prison for setting their wives on fire. Now I see it's a problem for people who think they will get fired for being unpleasant. Or for people who think their kids will grow up and hate them for being emotionally unpredictable.

I am both those people.

2. Focus on your trigger points.
The time I most consistently lose my temper is trying to get the kids out of the house in the morning. So I told myself to not lose my temper.

That didn't work.

So I have been waking up at 5:30 because I need to give myself two hours to be completely organized and calm so that I can get the kids and myself out the door for school and work at 7:30 without screaming at the kids for not eating fast enough because I changed my clothes for work three times and got behind and forgot to make lunches.

I thought of having the nanny come in the morning to help me. But I hate feeling like I'm married to the nanny, and I hate feeling like I can't do normal parenting things on my own. The mornings with the kids seem theoretically intimate, and making school lunches seems like a rite of passage for moms with school-aged kids. I want all that.

3. Use deep breathing to regulate stress.
I have been doing Ashtanga yoga for ten years. I thought I was amazing at yoga, but now I see that the point of yoga, calming, centering, whatever, is lost on someone who is focusing on the routine of fifty push-ups and five headstands. Now the breathing resonates with me, when I do it at 5:30 am as a desperate attempt to keep myself calm long enough to get to work.

3. Have a regular sleep schedule to improve your ability to self-regulate.
I pack the school lunches the night before. And I pick out my clothes the night before. The guys I work with think I don't ever change my clothes. This is sometimes true. Especially when I'm depressed. But a lot of times I change my clothes but all my clothes look the same so I don't even get credit for having thought about it the night before.

To get up at 5:30 am with a good night's sleep I have to go to bed at 9:30pm which means I have to get the kids to bed by 8pm so I can have an hour to do lunches and clothes and washing my face, which, if you are my age, takes ten minutes because of all the cream stuff I use.

I do not explain this when a co-worker asks why I don't have twenty minutes to fix home page copy at 8:30 pm.

4. Accept that every day includes unpredictability, and that's okay.
So it's a regular day where I am insanely regimented in a desperate effort to not be angry but at 7am I realize that I forgot to pack to go to the farmer's house. I also realize that it's freezing outside, and I didn't put the car in the garage and it's going to take ten minutes of warming up the car so I can scrape the ice.

Then my seven-year-old can't find socks without holes in them.

I change my clothes so I can scrape the ice and I yell from my bedroom that he should look in his brother's drawer for socks.

He yells back up that he wants me to sew the socks so that we are not wasting. “It's recycling,” he yells.

5. Understand the true source of your frustration.
Then the boys have a fist-fight about who is wearing whose socks. I do not catch them until there's a cheek scrape which upsets me because now my four-year-old will go to school looking like he lives in a boxing ring.

I have prepared myself for a moment like this: I identify that I am not upset with my sons but upset with what the world thinks of me as a parent. I tell myself I am good at self-regulation and I do not take this frustration out on my children.

I say, “Put on nice socks and let's have breakfast.” I want to tell you I used a calm voice, but I worry I used a psycho, calm-before-the-storm voice.

6. Understand the impact food has on your moods.
I make waffles. I watch the kids eat squishy, warm, covered-in-syrup waffles. I watch them wash down the drippy syrup with marsh-mallowed hot chocolate. I am convinced that when I eat sugar and bread it makes me crazy–that I just want more and then cannot think of anything else. (There is such interesting research on this. Click here: A study about how civilization is based on the opiate effect of grains on humans.) It takes every bit of self-discipline in my body not to steal scraps of waffle from the four-year-old's plate. I need to remember to not give him so much. I need him to feel more protective of his portion.

7. Use solutions-based language in tense conversations.
I want so much to be remembered as a dream mom that I put their mittens and coats over the heater so they are warm after breakfast.

The kids don’t notice warmness because they are punching each other, furtively, like I'm not going to see them if it's under their jackets.

As we walk out the door, my seven-year-old starts crying: the snow pants in his backpack are wrong.

I tell him those are to keep at school. I tell him I am streamlining our morning by keeping snow pants at school so we don't have to bring them back and forth.

He does not like his other pair. He is crying. I decide I am going to take a firm line because really, it's school that makes him nervous and he finds something to cry about every morning and I have to put a stop to this.

I tell him I already made a decision about the pants. I tell him I am the mom and I already made a decision. This is good. Kids feel secure when they have boundaries and authority.

He screams.

I pound the refrigerator with my fist.

I scream, “Shut the fuck up with the crying.”

I scream, “If you don't quit crying every fucking single morning I'm never taking you to school again.”

That's how it is. Nearly 24 hours of preparation to get through a morning without me yelling, and still, I break thirty rules of anger management in thirty seconds.

My four-year-old says, “Mommy, you're hurting me.” And he covers his ears.

8. Slow down a tough situation so you make good decisions.
I take a time-out for myself in the living room. I say a prayer to the god of anger, if there is one: please let me always pound the refrigerator and not my kids.

I take them to school. I kiss them too much when I say goodbye. I tell them I love them like my life depends on it, while other moms, who clearly do not worry about yelling and maybe don't even worry about waffles, casually do drop-off and drive off to the gym.

Then I go to work, and everyone is laughing and joking about Pee Wee Herman's new show, and I yell, “Arrrggh! Can everyone please shut up for twenty minutes so I can finish my post? I can't think with all the banter.”

Ryan Paugh tells me that it's not that I can't work with talking. I work with talking all the time. He says, “It's self-loathing. Take some responsibility.”

I want to tell him to fuck off. But I need a quiet place to write this post, so I go to his office, and sit on the floor, and I hope he doesn't talk to me, because it's 8:30 am and already I am not having a good anger management day.

Posted in No image, Office politics, Parenting, Self-management
242 comments on “8 Tips for anger management
  1. Jill says:

    This is how I fear my parenting efforts are going to go when I have children. I am a person who loves reason, and children are basically people who are completely unreasonable and do not respond to logic. How could I possibly handle a person who does not see the sense in my snow pants decisions (or how meaningless the snow pants you wear are)? I have no idea.

    I have a theory that a good mental health worker is a good parent, because they are used to dealing with crazy people all day. I feel like that gives them unreasonable-person coping skills that I do not have.

    • Mrs. Not-Perfect says:

      Thank you Jill for your comment. I am 32 with 4 darling children who are sometimes not so darling which brings out my anger issues. I worry that when they are older they may remember some of that, but honestly it’s not ok but the anger is only 10% of the time…I am so happy to hear you say you love your mom still. I tell my kids, I am not perfect and I am working on yellling less, but I will take away privileages that do hurt! My husband is a saint who does not yell and can’t understand why I do, this has helped me reduce the screaming quite a bit.

      Thanks P for your honesty, I really did think I was the only educated mother who screamed until small kids cried! Now I know there are two of us: )

    • JoeFrisbee says:

      Well, I personally think that we don’t have to be a good mental health worker to become a good parent. Who ever we are, want kind of job we have, we all can be a good parent. Based on my experience and from what I see from my friends who already become parents, it’s all about how to deal and manage our problem that we face everyday, whether at work, at home, or any other personal problem. The way we deal with our problem is determine whether or not we will have the skills to educate our children with reasonable way.

  2. Gwen says:

    When I was growing up my mom used to yell and scream at us all the time…and occasionally spank us (deservedly I think). Periodically though she would do things like send flowers to my school (for telling me to shut up during the car ride in), pick us up a little early to go out to a movie, and once in a while we would have a game night. Every Friday we would get Slurpee’s at 7-11 and almost every Sunday was a family dinner. Those are the things I remember (I’m 25 now), because I realize that those small unexpected acts were her way of apologizing. I don’t feel any resentment or anger or anything other than love and pride that she is my mom…even if she does have an anger management problem that sounds about parallel to yours.

    I bet your are an amazing mom…more amazing than you think.

    • D says:

      Gwen and Penelope thank you! It is so helpful to hear how are other moms are; i have struggled so long (my kids are 12 and 10) to stop feeling SO guilty that it paralyzes me as a parent. I am hopeful that my kids will have some good memories of me, the way you do, Gwen, to counteract all the “others.”

  3. MS says:

    I had a morning like that today. Despite waking up early, etc., we ending up being as late for school as we are every day. Couldn’t find keys, was plowed in, still got stuck in snowpile (because I backed out angrily instead of carefully). My 7YO got to see me roar and hurl my shovel across the front lawn like the Incredible Hulk in a gray puffy jacket. When I finally got in the car and started driving away, she said “Is today Friday the 13th?” I said no. She said, “Maybe you should think of it that way.” That made me smile, and fortunately the day got back on track after that.

    • Erica says:

      A cheap & easy solution to the lost keys problem: find a visible place to hang your keys. My eyes flit to that spot (a magnetic hook on the fridge) almost every time I go by. Often, the keys aren’t there. That’s my clue to find them, right away. Doesn’t prevent me from hunting for keys, but it means that I’m looking for them at a time when I’m not already late for wherever I had to go.

  4. Laura says:

    Try checklists. They work for surgeons, and they work for kids. They really help us in the morning (4 year old and 1 1/2 year olds to get out the door). For you and for both kids. If the 4 year old isn’t reading then make pictures for things like “go potty” “put on shirt” etcetera. My 4 year old loves this — she looks at it to figure out what to do. Including when she goes to the potty — she has a checklist that includes “wipe” and “flush” and she’s really proud when she finishes the list. Have a night before checklist for yourself “pick out clothes” and “help child X pick out clothes” and “pack lunch” and “put snowsuit in backpack” or whatever, and a morning checklist with things like “check baby’s diaper” (at least you don’t need to do that one anymore) and “put ice pack in lunchbox” and “put on mittens”. Knowing it is all written down not only helps all of you not forget things like having clean socks or homework or lunch, but it takes a lot of the stress off because you don’t have to worry about what else you need to remember to do. And less stress = Mommy is calmer = everyone is calmer, at least in my house! Good luck, and hope this helps.

    • Jeromy Timmer says:

      Love this idea. I’m going to try it with my kids. I have one question. Is it any easier to get kids to use checklists than surgeons? http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=122226184

    • KateNonymous says:

      They work for the rest of us, too–I have to run through a list the night before in order to get out the door in the morning.

      No, I don’t have kids, but I commute by bus, which means that if I’m two minutes late, I’m actually 15 minutes late. And more recently, we adopted a dog, who I walk in the morning–which is a task with its own list (leash, bag, flashlight, keys, jacket)–and then feed.

      Oh, and we’re about to have our first child. So I figure my existing list habit may help me there as well. It won’t make me perfect (who is?), but at least it’s a foundation.

  5. aaron says:

    I am laughing and trying not to roll on the floor. Not because I find it funny (well, I do) but…because I have been/am there on a regular basis. Trying to do everything right…make slack…make allowances…and sometimes it Still. Does. Not. Work.

    Let the self loathing/feelings of failure wash over you, and let it go. Rinse/lather/repeat as necessary. Yes, your kids will need therapy, just as you and I did/do.

    We as humans are rotten at seeing who we really are. (insert appropriate google therapy reference here) I’m probably a pretty damn good dad. And I’m sure you’re a very good mom.

    You can’t be perfect. You can be honest. And frankly, I think the latter is the more valuable.

    Keep trying.

    cheers!
    -adb

    • Shannon says:

      Thanks Aaron,

      I had a rough day and googled anger management to try to handle things better. The article and your comment really helped. I’ll sleep better tonight.

      Thanks so much,

      Shannon

  6. Jeanette says:

    Jill, I have heard the opposite about mental health workers and other kinds of care providers like nurses and teachers. They get drained nurturing others in their work. At home with family is when your auto-pilot kicks in, and if you didn’t have a balanced childhood or have somehow gotten the tools to override your programming, you will do whatever comes naturally to you.
    It’s maddening, but the stuff you grew up hating in your parents starts to happen, like my mom screaming at us all of the time. I got myself to stop that with my kids, eventually, but not before some therapeutic intervention.
    P, you have discussed abuse in your childhood. What type of help/therapy/parenting class is there for the formerly abused who don’t want to pass it on?

  7. Laura says:

    PS I love your blog and look forward to every post!

  8. Tzipporah says:

    “I identify that I am not upset with my sons but upset with what the world thinks of me as a parent.”

    Extremely good insight. You’re also worried about what YOU think of you as a parent. Hang in there. Keep trying. You’re doing better than your parents did, by a long shot.

    • Jess @ Openly Balanced says:

      I am sure I was yelled at when I was a kid, but only one time in particular really made a huge impact. My mom and dad were in the process of getting divorced, which means I was about four. She yelled at me for something unreasonable and stupid, and sent me sobbing to my room.

      Later that night, my mom apologized to me, and told me that she wasn’t mad at me for what I did, she was upset with other things and it just came out as yelling at me. That apology as a very fundamental moment in my childhood. I learned moms could be human and make mistakes. And, more importantly, I learned that when you make a mistake, being up front about it and genuinely apologizing is the best way to deal with it.

      Don’t underestimate your children’s ability to understand that you are human, you make mistakes, and that you are doing your best. Kids usually respond pretty well to respect and honesty, and from everything you’ve written, your boys sound like resilient little dudes. As far as I’m concerned, my mom was a dream mom, but it definitely wasn’t because she was always perfect.

  9. Julie says:

    Ditto to everything you said. Except that I pick out a week’s worth of clothes for work on Sunday evenings and I have my husband do mornings so I can get to work early. So I can leave early to pick up the kids. My boss gave me a goal last quarter to de-stress. But it also demotivated me. I started working from home and doing yoga and trying not to yell at my kids (especially my son who sounds a lot like your older one). If I were to add a suggestion, it would be to repeat a mantra – but that’s in the same vein as yoga and focusing on your trigger points. Well done! I’ll come back to this post often.

  10. LPC says:

    Penelope, you are shooting yourself in the angry foot. Why waffles? Cereal is OK. Why no nanny? Help is OK. I understand what you are going for but it doesn’t exist. The happy mother packing lunches and making breakfast and not losing her temper doesn’t exist. We all lost our temper on occasion.

    But we didn’t all yell and curse so much we scared our 4 year olds. That’s why you feel bad. You aim to high and fall too far. You need an in-between, god I suck, oh well, it’s the best I can do and they will live kind of a mode.

    I think you don’t have that because you didn’t get it. I imagine that the abuse you suffered made you have to invent paradise and try, somehow, with icons like waffles, to build it in the mornings. Motherhood paradise doesn’t come when bidden. Focus first of all on having a morning without using the word, “Fuck.” Then add waffles and extra snow pants once you get the No Fuck part right.

    • Jill says:

      The No Fuck advice made me laugh, and it’s also excellent advice.

      • Penelope Trunk says:

        Yeah. I like this too. Also, it seems maybe more do-able to curb the language first and the yelling after I’ve mastered that.

        And, side benefit to me managing my language better: Using the word fucking as a modifier to a noun sounds ten thousand times worse when it’s a four-year-old saying it in public. Believe me.

        Penelope

    • Caitlin @ Roaming Tales says:

      This is good advice. You don’t need to make it harder on yourself. Also, if sugar makes your moods crazy, it almost certainly does the same things to your kids. Save waffles as a weekend treat and give them an easier – and healthier – breakfast on the weekdays.

    • claire says:

      LPC I could not agree with you more. I am certain my son was happy with a simple bagel and fruit breakfast over the years and not having his Mom melt down to the point that gutter language was part of breakfast. Penelope needs anger management help and she is delusional if she thinks her kids are not afraid of her. Hell, she scares me.

      • Clare says:

        Right on. Even now when my OH yells in frustration, I cringe inside, anticipating the worst. Not that I have anything to fear from him, but it’s a learned response from my father. I think kids are far more damaged by physical abuse than the odd bit of yelling, obviously, but if your 4-year-old is crying, time to stop and think. I think it was Jill who advised some counselling – if only to unlearn the past and move on.

  11. Chris says:

    Great post and really great techniques. It’s also important to remember anger management is an iterative and incremental process and even though it may seem like you’ve broken all the rules as long as you continue to make progress you’ll ultimately get where you want to be.

    Further, anger is a necessary and unavoidable emotion so please don’t waste any time trying to squash it. Thanks for the post!

  12. jim says:

    I find myself to be emotionally predictable with my sons when the stress rises. Predictably, I’m short-tempered! I am determined to reduce my stress, and better manage what stress I must keep. Part of my problem is that I tend to get hyperbusy, and it just doesn’t leave any time for me to get centered and calm again. Centered and calm is the place I want to be more often when I’m with my sons.

  13. Alex @ Happiness in this World says:

    Anger is a tough one. If you don’t attack and change the true underlying cause (whether it ends up being what you identified in your post or not) you’ll be forced to monitor yourself consciously all the time to keep your anger in check, and then of course it will break through at times. Your conscious mind and attention have better things to do than continually monitor your emotional state and keep the bad parts in check. Perhaps you might find some of the ideas in this post helpful: http://www.happinessinthisworld.com/2009/10/04/how-to-manage-anger/

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Thanks for the link, Alex. I particularly like the part in the post about people who use anger as a way to deal with the fear of not being able to control things. That really speaks to me.

      I knew I would learn a lot about anger if I started talking about it here. Thanks.

      Penelope

  14. Shelley says:

    This is exactly what I have found to work as well. I get up at 5:30 so I can have at least an hour and half to myself. On good days, I can get my hubby to do the whole morning routine so I can get to the gym and then on the road to work by 7:45am. Then I leave early to get the kids. It is the motivating factor to get up by not having the morning routine. I was victim to the screaming mornings and not allowing my kids to have their agenda. It was all about me getting out to work and them to school. Now I pack and prepare everything the night before. My four year old sometimes sleeps in her clothes for the next day and my seven year old now makes them both Eggo waffles. Joy.

  15. Lindsay says:

    I think everybody has a breaking point. It’s very human. Your kids will grow up and remember that you made mistakes and were human, but that you also loved them very much.

    • Me says:

      But from what she describes she didn’t have a “breaking point”, she does this all the time. That’s not the same thing. Frequency matters.

      I have to echo the thoughts here – simplify and de-sugar the breakfast. Waffles with syrup and hot cocoa with marshmellows, no wonder the kid cries every morning, he’s probably in diabetic shock or something. Geez.

      Sometimes kids cry and act up in the mornings to get attention and it can be curtailed by giving them some attention (BEFORE they throw a fit.) I make it a point to spend 5 minutes with each child in the mornings just talking, hugging and goofing around. They will be away from you for hours and hours and it helps to really connect. Who has an extra ten mintues every day just to sit around in our nightclothes and do nothing? This mom, because it magically stops morning tantrums. Playing and snuggling = ten minutes Huge tantrum = 20-30 minutes. Do the math.

      Real grown ups don’t use the F word in front of children. Seriously. I have learned to cuss like an old guy. Dag nabbit, son of a gun, heck and damnation! Trust me, you can clean up your mouth and if you don’t think that will make others respect you (Others meaning co-workers, friend, your kids) then you are wrong.

      • Christopher Mahan says:

        Agreed on the F-word thing. It might come out once in a great while (like once a year, at tax time) but if it’s a common occurrence, something needs to change. Use something funny instead, like “flying orange monkey” or something.

  16. H to the Izzo says:

    Thank you for this. I don’t have kids, but it’s nice to know that others have similiar anger/stress/frustration and to see how they deal with it (sometimes well, sometimes not), and the thought process behind it. I think your readers like you because you are honest. Brutally honest, to a fault sometimes (Aspergers) but we appreciate it because you say the things everyone else is afraid to.

  17. Catherine says:

    I’m a yeller. I work on not being a yeller every single day. Sometimes I whisper and that surely gets the kids’ attention. It’s like the quiet person in the meeting, everyone has to lean into hear. But me? My natural speaking voice carries and that makes it easy for people to look like they’re not listening.

  18. M says:

    I love watching someone struggle with the same issues that i have (sans children). Just one thought try not to expect any gratitude from your kids. Remember that they won’t notice the little things that they do for you. Infants don’t say thank you rocking me all night because I was colicky. Kids don’t thank you for waffles and warmed coats. When they’re teenagers they won’t thank you for driving them places and buying them clothes. This is all to say that it probably mostly means that you’re doing it consistently and when the love is consistent, it goes unnoticed. . . which is a good thing and what “good” moms are supposed to do. . . right?

  19. Jennifer says:

    I think you are being way too hard on yourself. It was you who reminded me that working mother’s can’t be everything to everyone. On top of it your child has Aspberger’s and is always going to have problems transitioning from one activity to the next. Let the Nanny help you in the morning. Your Children will remember the quality time with you. If you are stressed trying to be the perfect mom, it’s not quality time.

  20. Joe says:

    I know this is easy to say – sort of like “to lose weight, just eat less” – but anyway: My mantra (+1 to the person who suggested that) is that in the grand scheme of things, none of this is important. If they go to school in socks with holes in them, or their shirt and pants don’t match, or the lunch they packed themselves is two fruits and two snacks and no sandwich, so what? The world will not stop turning. And +5 to @LPC – forget the waffles. I’m quite certain your kids would rather eat cereal than be yelled at.

  21. Angie Zerbe Shertzer says:

    Thx Penelope. Again appreciate your honesty. You are WAY further along than I am…

    I’m still on #2 ID’ing Trigger Points. In my case, it’s getting the 2-yr-old out the door CALMLY and without him laying on the floor screaming. Sigh. Yoga DOES help. Ommm…

  22. JB says:

    I could have written this paragraph myself: “To get up at 5:30 am with a good night's sleep I have to go to bed at 9:30pm which means I have to get the kids to bed by 8pm so I can have an hour to do lunches and clothes and washing my face, which, if you are my age, takes ten minutes because of all the cream stuff I use.”

    I kind of think every working parent (I won’t say working mother, but whichever one is responsible for getting the kids out the door and getting to work in the morning) can relate. But more than anger management, I think it’s time management you need. And a little less perfectionism. And maybe a couple of mornings a week have the nanny come over.

  23. Nate says:

    I try very, very hard not to get caught up in power struggles over things like the wrong snow pants. It’s so easy to lose yourself in the “I’m the mom, I get to make the decisions” frame of mind.

    But, much as I try, I’m just as guilty of it as you–and then I realize that the argument over it is taking more time than it would have just to have given in.

    I’ve found two books effective for my relationship w/ my almost 7-yr old: “Kids, Parents and Power Struggles,” and “Setting Limits with your strong willed child.”

    And oh boy, I wish I could get myself to get up at 5:30 every morning…

    • Wendy says:

      I’m going to second Nate’s book recommendation–in fact, I actually left my RSS reader and came to the blog and comments, just so I could leave the same recommendation for Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles. The author is Mary Sheedy Kurchinka, and even if you hate the idea of parenting books, it can change your life. And make it much much easier, really.

      Kids do need structure and discipline, but they also need to feel heard. As adults, we sometimes feel like you can only be heard if action follows–like, if I say I hate my snowpants, I’m also asking you to fix that somehow. But kids truly respond to a much simpler approach–saying “You hate those snowpants. It would be nice if you had another pair.” And then just drop it. You don’t need to fix his problem–and you don’t need to fix his feelings. When you try, it’s natural for you to get frustrated and angry, because it’s an impossible job. When instead you can let him be responsible for his own emotions, you will get less angry and not screaming will be much easier.

      Truly read the book. It’s very logical; I think you’ll love it. For perspective, I was the kind of mom who struggled not to yell, “If you don’t stop crying, I’m going to give you something to cry about” to a ten-month old baby. Now I’m the kind of mom…well, my 14-year old could probably list every time I’ve gotten mad enough to yell at him in the past decade because it’s happened so rarely. And I absolutely attribute that to Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles.

  24. Alanna says:

    What Jennifer said. Get the nanny in for mornings. Think of it as offering you the chance for one on one time with one kid while she preps the other one. You could alternate or something.

    Play to your parenting strengths – you’ve probably the best mom ever for helping your kids think things through and analyze problems. You’ll never take anything for granted because you had to figure it out, and you can help them do it. Then get help with your weaknesses, like mornings.

    Also, my son eats breakfast in the car on the way to school because waiting for a three year old to finish eating every morning while simultaneously worrying we’d be late was making me crazy(er).

  25. Chris Murphy says:

    I had a really good counselor tell me that anger is the first layer of feelings, but below that is hurt and sadness. Since I came from a family that the only feeling that was "okay" was anger, I gravitate to this at the detriment of my wife and children. You couldn't cry or be sad about things, but you could get mad as hell – So, I have found that if I am angry, I focus on what I am hurt or sad about, deal with this issue, and I am okay. I'm slowly learning to skip anger and deal with my "real" feelings. Ideally, anger really never helps the situation anyway. It has its place, but can be a manipulative technique that never really deals with the root cause.

    • lisa says:

      Wow, that’s really important wisdom that I will be thinking about for a long time. Thank you!

    • thatgirlinnewyork says:

      damn–our family lives sound so similar! and your observation is spot-on: i’ve had lovers and co-workers who ask, on occasion, “why are you angry?” and when I’d say, “I’m not angry, i’m just disappointed, sad, or what have you…” because i honestly was. thanks so much for acknowledging this!

    • Hope says:

      Chris, I had that same conversation with my therapist, and it was life changing. Thanks for posting it. Good to hear it again…

  26. Sheryl says:

    More than just taking time-outs or deep breathing, meditation gives you this space between you and the things that are happening (even your own emotional things) that allows you to choose your responses instead of just reacting. Meditation like that is hard work, though, and not everyone can do it.

  27. Sara says:

    Wow – there is so much to say here – first off the easy stuff, rethink the whole sugar waffle plus marshmallow hot cocoa thing – your poor kids’ teachers hate you for filling them with sugar and sending them to school. Now down off my soap box on junk food. I hate mornings – when my husband travels I struggle to get through the morning routine sane. As you are divorced, I don’t understand the guilt about the nanny. I think the whole utopia intimate morning thing is clearly not happening for you and your kids.

    • thatgirlinnewyork says:

      word on the sugar! it’s short-term energy that doesn’t help kids (or adults) manage their brain capacity, concentration, and emotions.

      the link to the evolution of grain and dairy use is extremely telling, P! when i was diagnosed with celiac, i started to find small references to that in spades, but g-d forbid we should question the value/power of this well-subsidized u.s. industry! when i learned how to make better grain choices, i found my energy (and digestion) far more easy to manage. that has been invaluable in helping me level out those emotional highs and lows–an excellent point in managing anger, i assure you!

  28. Tzipporah says:

    Oh, and FYI, my son has gone to the car naked more than once, as a compromise between not wanting to get dressed and needing to get out the door on time.

    (Of course he always chooses to get his clothes on in the car before he gets out at preschool, since it’s that or stand naked on their stoop until he decides to get dressed. Natural consequences, baby.)

    • Me says:

      YES. Absolutely. I tell my children we are getting into the car at 7 AM. period. If this means they get into the car dressed, happy, with shoes and nap blankets, great. If this means they are tucked under my arm while they cry with no shoes or pants on, and no favorite nap blanket then so be it. It only takes a few times to show you mean business. My kids will hustle because they know I am not kidding.

  29. @leahalmeling says:

    After your post a couple of days ago I got really into reading Pioneer Woman’s blog. 1) I love her life. I want it, and I don’t blame you for wanting her blog. 2)In one of her Ask the Pioneer Woman sections someone asked her how she does it all. And she replied that she doesn’t. She has loose ends all the time. Sometimes things don’t get done, but that’s OK.

    I’m not sure this will really help with your anger issues, but it might help with your expectations of yourself. Just a little reminder that not even the perfect people are perfect people. (They just know how to use photoshop.)

  30. Katya says:

    I’m only 21 but my impatience/anger issues are some of of the top reasons that I’m terrified of ever having kids.

  31. Katya says:

    *of the top reasons why

  32. Jeannie says:

    You are a very disciplined person, but you will never be perfect. Forgive yourself. None of us have been perfect parents, no matter how hard we tried. And don’t feel like you’ve failed if you ask the nanny to come in early to help. You’ve worked hard enough to have the means to hire a nanny….ENJOY IT!!!!

  33. Froggylou2 says:

    I LOVE this post! Well, actually I love the comments. I’m glad you are talking about your anger and taking the time to learn more about anger management.

    Your posts are always entertaining, but what really gets me thinking is the comments from the loyal readers. They can see the patterns in your life, and many times I am able to apply the advice given to you to my own life.

    So, thanks Penelope for starting the discussion and thank you readers for engaging.

  34. Laura says:

    I’m going to “third” the recommendation for Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles. Because checklists don’t solve everything. :) Really, it’s an excellent book.

  35. Maureen Sharib says:

    OH MY GOD this is way funnier than you can imagine.
    And sad.
    Those of us w/ these issues are haunted every day of our lives w/ the psycho voices we’ve used with our kids. We forget that someone probably used psycho voices with us and that to fully evolve we must understand that it stops w/ us. One way to do that is to forgive. Them and ourselves. But it’s hard. Very, very hard.

    It’s hard not to view kids as obstacles when we’re frustrated. It’s hard not to take our frustrations out on them. Remember that saying abt how it takes a village to raise a child? Well, I saw one that said it takes a child to raze a village. That’s the truth of the matter.

    Here’s something to explore: How do you feel abt those moms who blissfully drop their kids off and head to the gym? Who then blissfully go out to lunch w/ their girlfriends and then go shopping returning just in time to pick up the kids and run them to wherever it is they must go before returning home w/ their worked-out bodies and their store tissue-wrapped packages and the take-out food they retrieved because they had their nails done at 2 and don’t want the red to scratch? Who feel ABSOLUTELY NO RESPONSIBILITY to add to the finances of their family for whatever reason. Would you like to be one of these women? Why? Why not? COULD you be one of these women? Why? Why not?

    Be gentler w/ yourself. You’re accomplishing herculean tasks few women ever think of attempting. Others are watching and applauding you. Some are hoping you’ll fail. Don’t. You’re stronger than that. Find your way and be true to that.

  36. Laurinha says:

    Penelope, cut yourself some slack. You have Asperger’s and a lot of that anger is the frustration of things not going as planned in your head. You have to give yourself permission to get the help in order to deal with your kids compassionately and effectively. So get the nanny in the morning. Setup expectations for the kids. Also, what’s so wrong about teaching the kids to make their own lunches the night before, set aside their clothes so they don’t have a mental meltdown because of the wrong pants, etc? It might prove to be a bonding experience. Aspie kids tend to like structure and routine, so this might be the way to go.

    • thatgirlinnewyork says:

      good ideas all! my mother taught us very early how to make breakfast for ourselves. i believe it was the only way she could manage four children in the morning rush–it took nothing to make a piece of toast, or grab some fruit, building to more ambitious things like oatmeal (but instant works for the little ones!).

  37. BFish says:

    Your post was the story of my childhood! There were 10 kids in my family. All of us were honor students, well-organized, helped the younger ones, and woke up on time — but despite our preparations the night before, every morning brought the insane rush to get a dozen people ready to face their days.

    We look back and joke about how both of our parents would be screaming & cursing every morning, how someone would always be crying or on the verge of it, and about how we only ate breakfast on the weekends b/c those were the days before pop tarts and eggos and really, who could digest anything amidst the morning maelstrom? Plus if we ate, we’d then have to use the bathroom again–and we only had 2 bathrooms. So we’d end up missing the bus, causing my mom to be late for work b/c she’d have to drive us. THAT was always fun.

    We all went to college and turned out pretty happy, so I don’t think the the morning screaming had any lasting effects. There was occasional fridge punching in our house too, although our parents never hit us. But the fear that someone MIGHT get hit still haunts a bunch of us. So please please do whatever you can to put an end to that behavior before it gets even more out of hand.

    The detailed checklists are a great idea. Effective list-making is a valuable skill that your kids can use their whole lives. Unlike many single moms, you have the financial ability to have a nanny to help, so try it out for a few weeks. It doesn’t mean you are an inadequate mother–it’s about working smart and doing what you can so that your kids can start their days Fuck free! If you don’t mind people eating in your car, feed the kids during the drive to school. It’ll keep their mouths busy during the ride. BONUS!

  38. econopete says:

    My sister was a single working mom, and my nephew would give her all kinds of hell over things like snowpants. One day he refused to put on boots, and the daycare teacher said, “Let him walk out with no boots.” My sister said, “Really? I can do that?” So my nephew walked out to the car with no boots. When he got in, he said he wanted his boots on. Yes, he suffered, but it was his choice. I suggest taking a similar tact with snow pants.

    I know it’s hard to do everything you want as a single parent. I’m going to echo what some of the other people said: go with cereal in the morning (my mom did, and the stuff that I’m angry with her about is NOT the cereal or bad cooking). Give them a low sugar cereal. Get the nanny to help. Since you don’t have a husband and you have your own career, I think it’s fair to allow yourself a little extra help in the morning. Also, does the school prepare lunches for the kids? If so, is the daily cost worth saving you the trouble? If it is, ask your kids if it’s ok that they do that instead.

    I’ve had my own share of anger issues. Ultimately I was screened and treated for depression; have you looked into something like that? Forgive my ignorance. I started reading your blog recently so I’m not up to speed on everything.

  39. Jared says:

    I’m fortunate in the aspect of childhood memories – i think back warmly on my childhood, although i do distinctly remember there being instances of both my mother and father losing their temper on multiple occasions. And i think that’s the way it’s supposed to be. There has to be a balance, and although it may seem that everything has to be 100% clouds and sunshine at the moment, the fact that you care enough to post about it shows that you’re doing a wonderful job as a parent.

  40. Rjpanetti says:

    Wow, as usual I am shocked by your candor. But that’s why your feed iaa at the top of my Reader. I am a father have some similar challenges getting my daughter on the bus at 7am every morning. Some thoughts:

    Not everything has to be perfect.
    Consistency is what will build those fond memories for those little ones.
    One refridgerator punch/Fbomb negates a month of waffles and toasty warm clothes.
    Fuck can become “fudge” or something similarly PG-13
    Not everything needs to be perfect. (repeated for emphasis)

    rjp

  41. Jane says:

    I understand the need to make waffles (I love a recipe that calls for making the batter the night before, and they’re yeaasted, low sugar/half whole-wheat, so maybe you could eat some yourself? http://www.jetsetcarina.com/2009/10/no-not-new-york.html), and the shame of hearing myself scream “shut the fuck up” at a crying kid.

    Saying I’m sorry (as my dad always did after yelling at me) and really working hard to change (he is a different person now) — that’s how I’m coping with my anger management issues.

    It’s funny (or not), because my husband and I usually assume it’s my frequent frustration with being a stay-at-home mom that contributes most to my anger. But maybe not.

  42. Jenn says:

    So what are YOU eating while your kids are eating warm and squishy waffles? I always get grumpy when I don’t eat. The most I’ll cook on weekday mornings is flat (over hard) eggs. And I serve store-bought fruit smoothies because it’s fruit and all I have to do is pour. Try eating some good protein when you wake up and see if you have more patience.

    Warm fuzzy, bonding moments are for weekends and snow days. Weekday mornings are about survival. Make it as easy on yourself as possible. And forgive yourself for yelling. If you yell at your kids all the time, you have an anger management problem. If you yell at your kids in the mornings, you have a morning problem. You and your son have Asbergers. You’re not supposed to be good at transitions and things outside of the routine, so don’t beat yourself up because you aren’t.

    The nanny is a great idea. Remember that many parents have a whole nother person to help with the morning routine even if its just a cameo role. So what if yours is paid to be there? Consider it a gift to your family. The cards are also a great idea. I like livinglocurto.com’s morning cards. You can also use music as a cue for the boys (they need to be downstairs eating breakfast by song x). If you forget to pack for the farm, don’t cram it into the morning. Pack later or keep some spare clothes and toiletries there. Figure out a back-up for forgotten lunches. Boil your mornings down to the absolute bare minimum. Make things a game or a competition. But remember, your sons don’t care about getting out the door on-time so you’ll have to motivate them some other way. maybe with waffles on Saturdays. And I have a feeling if you take care of the pre-work mornings your at work anger will clear-up as well.

    • Libby says:

      I need to comment on the issue w/ school. If your child is unhappy, then it is time to consider the appropriateness of his classroom. My child is 11 and he is finally happy in school. He is in a private school. If you need an advocate, email me at libby@faithofachild.org

  43. Kelly says:

    This is what I love about you. You are so honest and you aren’t afraid to admit you do things which others pretend doesn’t happen in their home too.

    I am not proud of my morning struggle each and every day with my 6 year old. And I am not proud I drop the “F” bomb more times than I should admit. But at least I know I am not alone.

  44. Jessica says:

    I’ve been praciticing Zen Buddhist meditation for about 6 years now, and it has been hugely helpful with managing anger. The main reason is that it doesn’t not say “Dont be angry!” If I view being angry as failure, then when I get angry, it is only intensified by feeling like a complete looser for being angry in the first place.

    Instead, Zen Buddhism has taught me to recognize that I’m feeling angry. Just recognize. Breathe with it. What does anger feel like? Do I feel a clenching in my stomach? Is my breathing shallow? Just pay attention to the sensations of anger, and the accompanying thoughts. Don’t judge, don’t psychoanalyze, don’t do ANYTHING to ADD TO IT. Just observe it, quietly and without judgement.

    What I get angry about a lot is being late. I used to yell and curse at other drivers. Now the urge rises, and I notice it. I notice the nasty thought – and I realize “Oh, there I go being angry at someone else again, because I’m running late.” And now I have a sense of humor about it, because I recognize that this is a familiar pattern. It’s mine, and I don’t judge myself about it. I just recognize it, don’t add anything, accept that this is part of me. In doing that I can give my inner screaming 5-yr-old a small hug, and the mature adult part of me can smile a little in accepting amusement, and I move on.

  45. jrandom42 says:

    All old hat. Nothing new here. If you think there is, you’ve never read anything by Erma Bombeck.

    • Cally says:

      OMG, jrandom42 you are right! This Xmas I was at my inlaws, and found this Erma Bombeck book. She does write very similar to Penelope. I think Penelope is like a combo of Erma Bombeck + Wendy Williams. Too funny :)

  46. ash says:

    Do you notice the morning routine is easier when the farmer or your ex is around? I think one of the primary reasons we have spouses is to keep us from lashing out and giving into the anger bug when no one is there to see. Once when my husband was travelling I considered setting up a video camera to keep myself accountable for how I treat the kids. My problem is using a mean tone, it’s awful and only comes out when no adults are around to hear. Not sure that would work for you but it would definitely be cheaper than a morning nanny.

    And being tourtured with watching the kids eat waffles is totally part of the problem. Instant oatmeal is hot and much easier not to get pissed off about. Try it.

  47. Kate says:

    Minor point, but I’m astonished to read that many people think a “real breakfast” is something other than cereal. I ate my way through a billion boxes of cheerios when I was a kid and I still think it’s an ideal breakfast choice. What’s not to love about protein and carbs? Added bonus: cereal is self-serve a lot earlier than lots of other options.

    • KateNonymous says:

      We had big breakfasts on the weekend, featuring things like waffles, pancakes, French toast, etc. (not all at once, mind you). On weekdays, we ate cereal–oatmeal if it was cold out. And my mother made instant oatmeal, not the traditional kind.

      She was a great mother, because she made us feel like people and let us know that she was one, too.

  48. Marita says:

    OMG! This so could be me on a week day morning. Trying desperately to stay calm while getting everyone ready and out the door.

    I’m a stay at home mum so I don’t even have the pressure of work to deal with.

    This year I’ve decided to say no to all requests for me to do volunteer work so I can focus on getting the right balance with my family.

  49. Thanh Lu says:

    Dear Penelope Trunk, I saw a comment about you from somewhere else. It said you’re brilliant, but can be insane. Wow! I think this post illustrates that!

    Your craziness makes me normal, I didn’t think it was possible but I guess everything is relative.

    I enjoy your blog. Thanks!

  50. john gaines says:

    I used to fixate on solving problems. But some things aren’t problems–they’re facts. Once I realized that my options for dealing with facts are different, I stopped going ballistic on people. Well, I don’t do it as much as I used to.

    John

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