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Video: Irate moms may have anger illness

updated 11/9/2006 1:53:24 PM ET 2006-11-09T18:53:24

For many mothers angry outbursts and uncontrollable rage are a part of their everyday lives, and much of it is directed at their kids. It’s known as "the anger illness." But what can you do to end the anger? Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and host of “The Dr. Keith Ablow Show,” and he was invited to appear on “Today” to offer some advice. Read more of his tips below:

The Anger Illness
Dr. Keith’s Ten Tips for Self-Control

Know your anger well enough to stop it.
Is the first sign of losing your temper when your pulse starts to race? When you get tongue-tied? When your fists clench? The moment your rage starts to build, stop what you’re doing and head to a safe place in your house. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, and give yourself 30 seconds to calm down. And during those 30 seconds remind yourself that you’re battling an illness — the anger illness — not your kids.

Catch yourself with a few catch phrases.
Come up with a few “catch phrases” to calm you down at moments when you feel your anger starting to build. Use them like your personal mantra. “He’s only six,” is a good one. So are:  “She’s just a kid.” “You’ll feel bad later if you blow up.” “Be the best mother you can be.” Talk to yourself.

Think about explaining your behavior to your child when he or she is an adult.
Really picture trying to explain screaming or hitting your son or daughter to your son or daughter, years from now. That alone can be a sobering thought that keeps your anger from erupting.

Think tug-of-war: If you lose focus, you lose the game.
Assume you are in a real battle to stay in control (because you are). It’s you against your temper, and you really want to win. And remind yourself that winning brings respect from your kids and your spouse — not to mention, self-respect.   

Let yourself laugh — at them, at yourself and at life.
Kids test your patience. They throw things, run around, ask question after question. If you admit from the start that you can’t control them completely, or sometimes at all, you’ll be less upset when they spill something or touch something they shouldn’t or ask for a toy 50 times.   

Ask your kids for help.
Let them take care of you a little bit. It’s okay. Kids will respond much more to sincere requests for help than to angry outbursts. It isn’t about laying a guilt trip on your kids, it’s about sparking their empathy. Try these out: “I can’t get you to school at all if you won’t get dressed and that would make me really sad.” “If you don’t get in the car we’ll be late and then I’ll feel like I did a bad job as a mommy.” “When you don’t clean up your room it makes me think you don’t care about my feelings very much.” 

Look in the mirror.
Literally. When you feel angry, look at yourself in the mirror. It won’t be a pretty picture. It’s actually pretty hard to stay enraged when you’re staring yourself in the face.

Throw some cold water on it.
Wash your face with cold water when things are heating up. It’ll calm you down.

Breathe through it.
Deep breath — in and out — will actually help you stay in control. That’s why we tell kids who are crying to take deep breaths. It makes a difference.

Tell someone about it.
Don’t reach for your kid, reach for your phone. Call a trusted friend or your partner. Tell that person you’re at wits end and really need to hear something to calm you down. Chances are, you will — a joke or a few kind words — that will really help.

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