Losing your cool
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.
Jill and Jim, with a new baby, both of whom work full-time, are often grumpy when their infant has a bad night. On those days, getting into a disagreement is as frequent as rainy days in a Northwest winter. But, when they’re sleep deprived—a minor conflict can turn into a vicious yelling match. After it’s over, they both feel awful.
How often do we lose our temper at our children or our spouse? It frequently happens at the end of the day when we’re 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.
Hunger and fatigue are the enemies. But so is rushing around dropping off one kid and picking up another—frantically trying not be late. Yet kids don’t seem to have the same sense of time pressure. What’s the rush? Making a mud pie seems so much more interesting 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— “Where are my shirts!”. Joe plops down in his easy chair after the kids are finally asleep and turns on the basketball game. His wife, Sarah, asks him to take out the garbage. He growls back at her.
It’s easy to blame the other person for our 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?”, the list goes on.
But honestly, when I lose my temper, it’s always my responsibility no matter what the reason. It’s always wrong and I always regret it. We are always completely, absolutely, 100% responsible for everything that we do. That’s just the way it is. It’s never anyone else’s fault.
What can we do to keep ourselves in check?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of apologies.
Notice when you are getting overcooked, and try to sit down for a minute. Close your eyes and take three long, deep breaths. Look at your “to do” list. Is it reasonable? Is there something that you can take off the docket? Is there some way of getting help from someone else? Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
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. Don’t walk in the door faint with hunger.
Know your triggers.
I’m not too fussy, but when I get home and the kitchen is a mess, I can start to boil. When my kids were little, I would mostly get grumpy 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. This helped me make a smoother transition from one part of the day to another.
Limit alcohol consumption.
Sure, a couple of glasses of wine or beer is relaxing at the end of the day. But too much alcohol is disinhibiting. Adults start to say things that they should probably keep to themselves.
Most trouble spots are predictable.
Bedtimes, mealtimes, coming home from work, or getting the kids off to school can be family hotspots. Think ahead before everything spirals out of control. Recognize your own state of mind before you walk into a stress spot.
Respond, don’t react.
Think before you speak and make staying calm(er) your practice.