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Tempering Your Temper

At some point, even the most mild-mannered parent might lash out in a manner that frightens both her and her child. Don't worry if once or twice you've expressed anger by hitting your child, says Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Denver  -- but it shouldn't become routine.

Heitler's suggestions for keeping calm in heated moments:

  • Address misbehavior when it starts. It's better to admonish at the first thrown grape than to explode after the floor is littered with fruit pulp.

  • Learn to recognize situations that get you riled time and again. Try to avoid them or to rethink the way you do things. Change your routine if one part of the day always leads to an outburst.

  • Be aware of how easily  -- and quickly  -- you get enraged. If you find yourself becoming angry on a regular basis, seek professional help, says Heitler.

To avoid acting on your anger if it's already at the boiling point:

  • Distance yourself. If you're losing control, send your child out of the room or leave the room yourself.

  • Don't discipline while you're upset. Go back to the problem when you're calm. Addressing the situation once you've cooled off will keep you from acting rashly.