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Angry Mom

"I have a hard time disciplining my 5-year-old without losing my temper. I try to stay calm, but I find myself getting so angry that I yell at him or sometimes even smack him. I know this isn't good, but I'm a single mom and I don't know how to deal with him. He has started hitting himself now and saying he's a bad boy, so I know my reactions are affecting him. I don't want to ruin him with bad parenting. Please help."

A. I agree that it is time to do something different. There are several steps you need to take to help both you and your son find better ways to manage his behavior:

Get some support. MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) and other parent support groups can do wonders to help take the steam off some of the normal parenting frustrations. I'd also encourage you to find a friend you can talk to about this, checking in on a regular basis. You might be surprised to discover other Christian mothers who struggle with anger toward their children. But together, you can hold each other accountable, pray for each other, and trade off child care so you can each get a break.

Get a system. Frustration and anger build quickly when parents don't have a set strategy for discipline. Dr. Kenneth Kaye (www.kaye.com) has some great ideas for setting up behavioral expectations, family rules, a timeout room, and a discipline program for your son. Once you have more effective tools for discipline, such as timeouts and restricting privileges, you'll find yourself becoming less frustrated with your son's behavior.

Get some counseling. Unresolved anger that comes out easily can be a sign of deeper emotional issues. I suggest seeing a professional Christian family therapist for anger management training and insight into the issues that may have contributed to your struggle with anger. Your pastor can help you find the right therapist for your situation.

Karen L. Maudlin, Psy.D., is the mother of two and a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in marriage and family therapy. She is the author of Sticks and Stones (W).

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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