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I’ve been a mom for 23 years, and for the first five of those years I had moments when I struggled to control my anger. While I was growing up, my stepdad would go from straight-faced to slap-you-on-the-side-of-the-head-angry in 15 seconds flat. I found myself repeating that cycle. Most of the time I’d deal with my children’s disobedience in a peaceful manner, and then something small would push me over the edge. I wouldn’t hit, but flicks to the shoulder, smacks on the hand, or a firm squeeze on my child’s arm would let my children know I was serious.

Then there is that one day when everything changed. I was sitting next to my son as he colored on a paper. I went to swipe his bangs out of his eyes, and he flinched. My heart was broken. I offered a loving gesture, but that wasn’t what my son expected. After that, those angry actions stopped. I turned to God. I prayed about my anger, and I changed my habits. If I felt frustration building, I’d count to ten and then offer up a quick prayer. I’m thankful my older kids can’t remember that frustrated mom.

Eighteen years later, I again have three little kids in my home (through adoption), and I find myself struggling with the same thing again. When I feel the frustration building, I know to hold back my actions. I count to ten, and I pray. Yet this time that isn’t enough.

This time I have two children who’ve faced heartbreaking situations that put them into foster care. Because of the way they’ve previously been treated, it’s not enough to hold back my flicks and squeezes. Even a frustrated or angry look on my face—or the lowering of my voice—causes them to melt down. I don’t speak with angry words but an upset look means the same to them. I don’t act out in anger, but after reading the adoption books and praying, I have to go one step farther.

With my three younger children my goal was not to act out my anger. Now my goal is not to let it show on my face either. When I breathe deep—holding in my frustration—I exhale a smile. When I feel the tension building, instead of lowering my voice, I raise my voice an octave. And I pray, pray, pray.

I’ve realized that when it comes to anger, we can always do better. And even when we believe we have self control, we can control ourselves better, too.

Anger will happen. Frustration will come. But how we handle ourselves is up to us. What is the best for your child? A mother who controls herself. What is even better for your child? A mother who turns to God to ask Him to help her control herself more.

How to Get Better at Handling Anger