Attitude Makeover: Bad Temper

Why. Why does your kid have this attitude? Why has he learned that flaunting his temper is effective in getting his needs met? Could he be copying someone's behavior? Does he know how to calm down? Is there a change in your family that might be causing undue stress? Is anything going on at school that might be creating extra pressures on him? Is there any trouble with relationships, romantic and otherwise? If your child is older, have you ever smelled alcohol on his breath? Is he frustrated, picked on, overwhelmed, overscheduled, needing attention, or physically tired? Does he feel he isn't being listened to? Might he be feeling powerless or depressed? Might a bad-tempered attitude be a way to vent his frustrations?

What. Are there particular issues or things he usually gets more upset about? Are they about a conflict with a sibling, homework, chores, a tight schedule? Watch your kid's outbursts closely over the next week. Consider tracking the frequency of incidents on a chart, on a calendar, or in a journal. It may help you tune into what may be provoking the outbursts.

Who. Does he display the same quick temper to everyone? Are there some individuals he does not flare his temper toward? If so, who? Why not? Who does he yell at? Is there someone he does not get so irritated at? For instance, does he yell at his friends, siblings, teacher, you, your partner?

When. Is there a particular time of day, week, or month your kid has a quicker temper? Is there a reason? Also ask yourself when this attitude started. Has your kid always had a quick temper, or are you noticing that she is more upset lately? Why the change? Could it be a sign of trouble in school? With friends? A problem at home?

Where. Are there certain places she is more likely to be more quick-tempered (at school or day care, home, the store, a sporting event, scouting, Grandpa's, with the kid next door)? Why do you think this is so?

Now take a look at your answers. Are you seeing any predictable patterns? Do you have any better understanding of this attitude and where it's coming from?

What's Wrong with Your Current Response?
What's your current response to your kid's bad-tempered attitude? Do you explode and yell back at him? Do you put your hands over your ears and grimace? Does your blood pressure rise and render you speechless? Do you try to change the subject or offer a bribe to be quiet? Do you spank him? Start by thinking of the last time your kid displayed a short fuse.

Why haven't these responses worked? Most important, what was her reaction to your response? Did it really quiet her down or enrage her even more? Get into her shoes and think about why she responded as she did.

What is one response you will never try again? Write it.

I will not

Facing Your Own Bad Attitudes
Your attitude is a living textbook to your child, so the first place to start a bad attitude makeover is by reflecting on your temper and how you deal with frustrations. These questions might help: How did your parents handle anger? Did you hear them do much yelling? Did you ever see them throw things or get into a shoving match? How about among your siblings? Who, if anybody, in your family or close friends had a quick temper? How do people respond to them? What responses were effective in calming them down? In escalating their temper?

How do you typically deal with anger now? Does it work or not work for you? How well are you controlling your temper at work? With your partner? With friends? When you're driving? How do you act in front of your kids after a hard, stressful day? How do you try to control your stress? In the middle of an argument, are you able to stop and say: "Let's get calm"? How well do your restrain your temper when other drivers are irrational? What lessons might your kid be learning from these actions?

What is the first step you need to take in yourself to be a better example to your sons or daughters of dealing with their quick tempers? Write down changes you need to make.

I will

Next: Take action >>

From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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