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Don’t Hold & Explode

Featured on the Hong Kong Economic Journal (March 7, 2015)

The other evening, I was at a dinner event where Bill Hybels was speaking on leadership and sharing his wisdom. Bill Hybels pastors one of the largest churches in America called Willow Creek Church, is a prolific writer and a worldwide speaker. He said many of his thoughts that evening but there was one that really stood out to me. In the audience, a man raised his hand to ask the question of how he could have a greater influence on the people in his workplace but he candidly shared that he struggles with having a hot temper, which he shared likely inhibits people from wanting to be influenced by him. I expected Pastor Bill Hybels to ‘sugar coat’ his answer and reassure the man that it’s okay, that we are all imperfect and that he should just try harder to control his temper. Instead, Bill Hybels replied with this:

“Understandable; but inexcusable”

He then went on to explain himself to share that it’s understandable that we may have a temper, especially in a stressful workplace, but it is inexcusable as we are to be role models and a positive influence to others. If we have a temper at others, it makes others less receptive to our influence and leadership.

And as I was reflecting on this, it made me think of parenting. Parenting is one of the most stressful jobs ever – 24-7 job, no days off, no pay, no human resources department to complain to when ‘clients’ act up, no quitting when the going gets tough – and I’ve heard many parents share their struggles of staying calm and collected as they parent. As an educator who works with children daily, I can understand some of those frustrations.

But I’m reminded of Pastor Bill’s comment of how having a temper is ‘understandable but inexcusable’. If we want to have our children learn to manage their emotions and be responsible in the words they use with others, we first have to model our self-control and not explode in anger at our children. If we want to be responsible leaders of our household and a positive influence on our children, we must first control our tempers. Our children learn from what we do more than what we say. But easier said than done.

I came across an article recently that shared some good tips about how to control our tempers, especially when interacting with children:

Take care of yourself

I always say “happy parents = happy family”. If parents are unhappy, discontented, tired and drained, it only takes a small incident by a child to trigger negative emotions. So take care of yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually so that you have the energy to positively interact with your child. I know a mum who takes time out annually for a weekend spa retreat so that she can be recharged to best take care of her children the rest of the time.

Walk away

Sometimes it’s good to stay and talk things out but when the blood is boiling, it’s better to walk away. Take a breather and then come back to confront the issue when you’re calm.

Breathe and count to 10

At times, all it takes is to take a deep breath and count to 10. Sounds simple but the volcanic eruption is more likely to die down by the time you reach the number 10. And if that doesn’t work, I find that shouting with my head buried in a pillow or going for a run works pretty well in letting the frustrations out without it being on a kid.

Don’t Hold-Explode

Children are so good at testing boundaries and pushing parents to see what their limits are. And I’ve seen parents hold their tempers in 9 times out of 10 when their child does something they disapprove of and they let it slide by thinking it’ll stop or they don’t have the energy to deal with it. But on the 10th time, they explode on their kids, in a way that reflects the frustrations built up over the last 10 times. Deal with the situation the 1st time so you don’t hold and explode on the 10th time.

Stay committed

Stay accountable and committed to controlling your temper and partner with other family members to help you. It takes practice to make an action into a habit so practice keeping calm and keep trying. It’s worth the effort.

People, especially our children, are watching what we do more than what we say so let our actions not be ‘understandable but inexcusable’ but a good example to them.


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