You ask your daughter to pick up her room, make her bed, or put up her phone. She responds with an eye roll, a sigh, or worse, she argues. And just like that, your anger triggers are ignited.
The thing about anger triggers is that they’re often small things that tip you over the edge, and before you know it, you’ve lost your temper over something that in the scheme of things, doesn’t really matter.
Getting angry is normal. But controlling your anger triggers can be challenging if you didn’t see good examples of anger management while growing up.
I grew up witnessing a lot of yelling in my home. I don’t say that to paint anyone in a negative light. I had a good home life. But despite that fact, the yelling still had a negative impact on me. I remember how the yelling made me feel and I can see now, as an adult, how it affected me.
So when I became pregnant with my daughter, I promised myself I would control my anger as a mom.
However, that turned out to be easier said than done. In fact, I’m sure controlling anger triggers is challenging for many other moms, too.
We’re human, so we all experience anger and we can all lose our temper. Moms of daughters will understand me when I say that a daughter can push our buttons and trigger our anger, no matter how much we cherish and adore them.
Yes, our daughters are our heart. But that doesn’t mean we don’t feel frustration and anger as part of the mother-daughter dynamic.
I remember watching my newborn daughter sleeping her bassinette one evening. As I marveled at her perfection, I couldn’t imagine yelling at this innocent tiny creature. I vowed to break this generational family pattern of angry yelling that had caused so much trauma.
Then a few years later, I was devastated after I yelled at my little girl for the first time.
Luckily, I was able to catch myself almost immediately and stop yelling. But from that moment, I committed to change.
I’m not saying I haven’t lost my temper since. I’m not perfect.
Despite our best intentions, we do stumble and fail. Some of us yell when we are triggered. Old patterns, past traumas, stress and overwhelm, even mental health issues can cause us to lose our marbles if we aren’t intentional about keeping calm when we get angry.
But I have used these four anger management strategies to stop and calm down when I’m triggered and need to control my anger.
Here are four steps you can take to manage your anger triggers better.
1. Take Control When You Start to Feel Anger
The first thing is to realize that you are totally in control of your reactions, no matter how it feels. If you work out what your triggers are and know how to recognize them, you can take your power back. When you are aware of the things that trigger your anger, you can anticipate and plan for situations where you know you’re likely to lose it.
For example, clutter in my daughter’s room can send me over the edge. Trash behind the bed, shoes scattered all over the floor, laundry piled up in the corner. Drives. Me. Crazy.
Now that I know her entire room is a trigger for me, I mentally prepare myself when I open her bedroom door. I plan to stay even and speak in a calm voice. Just preparing myself mentally before going into a triggering situation helps me control my emotions when I see a mess in her room.
2. Learn to Read Your Body
Be conscious of how your anger feels in your body. Your heart rate might rise, or your hands and jaw might tighten. You might feel breathless or feel anxious. Tune in to what your body is telling you so you can learn to stop the process of reacting. Remember, the feelings themselves aren’t ‘bad’ but how you respond to those feelings can be harmful. So when you feel your body’s response to anger, take steps to calm down.
Instead of yelling about your daughter’s messy room, take a deep breath or go for a walk. Try counting to 10. (Or 100.) Taking care of your physical needs can help manage your emotional needs while making you more resilient to your anger triggers.
3. Identify What Anger Triggers Affect You
Once you can interrupt the trigger response, you can start to work out why it set you off in the first place. Did you feel like you were being ignored? Did you feel like you weren’t respected?
Is this a trigger that stems from something in your past? Clutter triggers me and it stems from my childhood. When things were cluttered and messy at home, it often led to yelling and discord in our house. So to this day, seeing clutter gives me anxiety and makes me feel out of control. That feeling leads me to feel anger if I don’t manage it quickly.
4. Choose Your Plan of Action to Counter Your Anger Triggers
Whatever your triggers may be, remember that how you react is totally up to you. When you know certain things are triggering for you, you can anticipate how you might feel and what you might do or say in response.
When you feel triggered, try to remember to take a deep breath, detach from the situation, and focus on how you want to feel.
Things you can do when your anger is triggered:
- Breathe. Take some deep breaths. Deep breathing exercises can lower your stress and calm you down.
- Walk away. Remove yourself from the situation until your emotions are under control.
- Think before you speak. Before saying whatever comes to mind, ask yourself if those words are helpful or hurtful. Are they constructive or demoralizing?
- Remember what it was like when you were a kid. Recall how your own parent’s behavior affected you. Did they lash out in anger? What did that feel like for you? Or were they calm? Consider how your experience shaped you and try to respond in a way that will be helpful to your daughter.
You can stay calm in situations that trigger anger if you stay aware and are intentional about staying in control.