DEAR ABBY: I'm a dad in my 30s and I have a problem. I have been battling anger issues since I was a kid. I have been finding myself getting more and more worked up with my kids. When they misbehave, I lose it and yell at them. It is the way I was raised; however, I feel even worse afterward.
I really want to break this habit. I don't want the only memories my children have of me to be images of my red face and bugged-out eyes hollering at them. Do you have any guidelines I can follow to get a better handle on my anger? -- LOUD DAD IN WEST VIRGINIA
DEAR LOUD DAD: Yes, I do. And I'm glad you asked me because it's important that you find other ways of relieving your frustration than taking it out on your children. It is not only counterproductive, it is extremely destructive.
When a bigger person yells at a smaller person, the message is often lost because the smaller person (in your case, your children) simply shuts down out of fear that physical violence might follow.
You should not ignore your feelings when your children act up. Rather, you need to find another manner for expressing your emotions. My booklet "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It" offers suggestions on redirecting angry feelings in a healthy way. It can be ordered by sending your name and mailing address, plus a check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to Dear Abby -- Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. Dealing with anger calmly and with reason is more effective than lashing out. Expressing your feelings is healthy when it's done with a few well-chosen words that make your point. As you have already learned, exploding in anger serves no constructive purpose and only makes you feel worse afterward.
Sometimes when people are angry or frustrated about other things, they can lose control of their temper. In situations like these, it is important to evaluate the source of what might really be irritating you before misdirecting your anger at someone who is blameless.
There are healthy ways of dealing with anger and frustration. Developing the control to express emotions verbally without being abusive or calling names is one of them. Another is to say a prayer ("Please Lord, don't let me lose my temper!") before opening your mouth. Leaving the room, going for a walk or short run can be helpful.
Unhealthy ways that should be avoided include getting into your car when you are angry, or using alcohol or drugs to calm you.
My booklet offers many other suggestions for dealing with anger and frustration, and I hope it will be helpful to you. However, if it isn't, then you should discuss your problem with a mental health professional. It's important to get a handle on your feelings so your children won't grow up thinking that verbal abuse is a normal way to handle their emotions.