Dear Barb – Controlling your temper

Dear Barb:

Sometimes I find it difficult to control my temper. I have a young child and although I have never lost my temper with my son, I feel I may. Can you suggest some strategies to help me learn to control my temper? I enjoy reading your column and have been meaning to write for a while.

Susan in Kingston.

Hi Susan, I’m glad you enjoy the column and that you took the time to write.

Everyone gets angry from time to time. However, how you deal with this anger is the most important aspect. Losing your temper can be frightening not only for the person on the receiving end, but also for the person losing control. All areas of your life can be affected when you lose your temper, including relationships with coworkers, family, friends, spouse and of course your children. Some people yell and scream, others lash out and become physically destructive when angry. The most dangerous are individuals who direct their anger at other people. This behaviour can lead to terrible consequences, as evident when reading through the daily newspaper.

Perhaps, Susan, you can begin by trying to figure out what triggers your anger. People usually become angry because they feel they have been used, taken advantage of in some way, or perhaps made to look foolish. You mention you have a young child and fear losing your temper with him. The parent/child relationship is very one-sided, as young children are demanding and needy, often leaving their parents feeling drained and unappreciated. This may be how you are feeling.

Following are some strategies anyone can use when finding themselves on the verge of losing control.

1) Try to take a step back from the situation, thus providing you with a more objective view.

2) Count to ten. This is most effective if practiced when you first feel the smouldering stirrings of anger.

3) Talk to yourself. Prepare ahead for situations that you feel may cause you to lose control. Self-talk can be a daily process. For example, perhaps when you get up in the morning, Susan, you can tell yourself that you will not become angry with your son today, but rather will be patient. Remind yourself “he is just a child and not intending to make you angry.” Repeating this sentence periodically throughout the day may reinforce your sense of control.

4) If you feel none of the above strategies are working, an alternative may be to physically remove yourself from the situation. For you, this may require asking your parents or other family members to step in and provide you with a break. Do not return to the situation until you have diffused from the negative feelings you are experiencing.

5) As an ongoing stress reliever, exercise and the proper diet can also provide you with the ability to cope more effectively with the pressures of daily life.

6) If you feel your anger is totally beyond your control then you may have to consider joining an anger management group, or seek other counselling.

The nature of your question indicates you are attuned to the potential danger that an out of control temper can cause. Consequently, I am sure you have the ability to carry out the necessary steps to keep your temper under control. Again, thank you for writing Susan, and I hope I was able to help.

E-mail your questions to Some submissions may be edited for length or to protect confidentiality: your real name and location will never be printed. This column is for entertainment only. The author is not a professional counsellor and this column is not intended to take the place of professional advice.