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Cultivating "the habit of a sweet, even temper" in yourself


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I fell down a rabbit hole recently. It started with me trying to figure out if A Year of Playing Skillfully would be worth the price for DD3. The idea of intentionally working on character traits caught my attention, and I soon found Laying Down the Rails. Looking at reviews of that (trying to decide which of the books would be best to start with) I found a review that mentioned the "Top Three Habits for a Homeschool Mom" post on Simply Charlotte Mason.  The third habit-the sweet, even temper bit, really spoke to me. I have been struggling with this one, hard. I find myself being short/impatient/irritated with DD3 and DD15 far too often lately. For example, DD3 accidentally knocked over her juice yesterday, and rather than saying "whoops, accidents happen" and having her help me clean, I made her go sit on a chair across the room while I cleaned it up (not a time out, just a get over there and stay out of the way), and I was annoyed that she made the mess (she asked "are you mad?" which made me realize I was being cranky). The other day, DD15 came into the kitchen while I was cooking to tell me about something exciting that had just happened with a story she's reading and I was just annoyed that she was bothering me while I was busy. I keep having these moments where I catch myself in the moment or where I look back at the end of the day and don't like what I see (I use Daylio and the Three Good Things apps every night to track habits and do daily gratitude/reflection on my day). 

So, how do you cultivate a sweet, even temper? Do you have some resources/readings you can recommend? Any BTDT advice? 

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I don't know, I've got kids turning 21 and 11, so I'm no spring chicken. After a lot of years of wondering why I was never quite as even tempered as I wanted to be, we finally ran genetics. Turned out I had a TPH2 defect and VDR (vitamin D receptor) defect. Well vitamin D stabilizes mood and TPH2 converts tryptophan to 5HTP which then converts to serotonin and melatonin, also stabilizing mood. So basically I was able to be the more calm person I had wanted to be once I dealt with the actual problem. It's not always a spiritual problem or personal problem or whatever. We need our vitamin D, adequate sleep, things that take care of us. It's hard to be the person you want to be when your body isn't cooperating and a lot easier when it is. 

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22 minutes ago, PeterPan said:

I don't know, I've got kids turning 21 and 11, so I'm no spring chicken. After a lot of years of wondering why I was never quite as even tempered as I wanted to be, we finally ran genetics. Turned out I had a TPH2 defect and VDR (vitamin D receptor) defect. Well vitamin D stabilizes mood and TPH2 converts tryptophan to 5HTP which then converts to serotonin and melatonin, also stabilizing mood. So basically I was able to be the more calm person I had wanted to be once I dealt with the actual problem. It's not always a spiritual problem or personal problem or whatever. We need our vitamin D, adequate sleep, things that take care of us. It's hard to be the person you want to be when your body isn't cooperating and a lot easier when it is. 

 

Funny you mention Vitamin D. In November I switched GPs and my new one did a full work up. Turns out I was extremely Vitamin D and B deficient. I was blaming the fatigue, poor sleeping and general fogginess on "mom brain"/having a little one so late/far after the older one (none between the two, 12 years apart). Lucky me, I now get Vitamin B shots monthly and get to take daily vitamin B and D pills, and I also have a sleeping pill prescription for when I'm feeling like I'm not sleeping well. It helped tremendously. I think I'll start taking the sleeping pill again, see if that helps (I took it for a couple days when this all started up and I was staying up all night worrying and thinking, but I stopped after a few days-I wonder if I'm not sleeping as deeply as I should though, which was a problem before). 

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I think it is sweet that you desire to achieve this, LoveMyBeautifulGift!  Just keep working on it, changing behavior in the moment when you can and reflecting on what you would like to do better next time, after the fact.  Everyone is different, and, although it is nice to picture a completely transformed You speaking in soft, kind notes all of the time, it may not be your gift.  I remember reading A Charlotte Mason Companion by K Andreaola many, many moons ago and wishing for to have the sweet voice she recommended using all of the time.  I did become more conscious of my tone of voice, but I couldn't change Me.  I did temper my external reactions with conscious practice and reflection - you are already on this path.  

I think @PeterPan offered some interesting insight into biological reasons for uneven moods.  Take good care of yourself.  For me, that meant that adequate sleep was a non-negotiable for the most pleasant me. But, it is important to realize that we are all different, and some people's even-temperedness in another person's boring.  Maybe your passion may need to be tempered when it comes to criticism or impatience, but maybe it is a real blessing to your family when it comes to positive enthusiasm?  Certainly, it is okay for your children to see you irritated when interrupted or having to clean up messes - they will not have the luxury of someone always being happy with the fallout of their decisions.  Maybe you were a little cranky.  If you feel like ti was more than you want them to model or more than you think is acceptable, apologize if you think that is warranted.  You are human.  That is a good lesson for them to learn, too.  Don't be too hard on yourself.  There is no magic way to be a better person.  But, your heart is in the right place.  I believe your actions will likely follow.

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@Familia thank you for your kind words and insight. I agree-children learn a lot from seeing us make mistakes and apologize. I feel like I used to be more even tempered, when oldest DD was pre-K aged. I dunno, maybe its nostalgia/rose colored glasses looking back. I'm glad to read that being conscious of it/practicing/reflecting can help. 

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I agree that taking care of yourself physically is a big part of this. Our base levels of irritability and our ability to deal resiliently with kid generated chaos without lashing out has a lot to do with how reactive our own brain is.

In addition to vitamins and addressing genetics, taking some time to get outside in nature, to exercise, and to practice mindfulness can be helpful.

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Maybe sweet and even isn’t who you are. We should all try to be kind, patient, and reasonable, but that doesn’t always look like sweet and even. The world would be boring if it did. 
 

I think the best of your personality when you are healthy, happy, and rested would be a good place to start. You might be more funny or practical than sweet and that is just as good. I’m not saying it’s ok to snap at the kids (although we’ve all been there) but there are many good ways to respond and sweet seems so stereotypically perfect and maybe unattainable and even self-destructive for some of us. 
 

My DH’s grandmother was the epitome of sweet and my own was  well loved by everyone who knew her but would be better described as feisty. I loved them both because of who they were but it would have felt like a loss if my grandmother had ever given up the feistiness. 

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1 hour ago, LoveMyBeautifulGift said:

I was staying up all night worrying and thinking

You could run genetics and see about your TPH2. I never used to get tired till I started the 5HTP. It's a precursor to serotonin (mood) and melatonin (sleep). Comes in a time release 12 hour dose by Natrol, so take that twice a day and boom stable moods and you get tired. That is if you have the defect. Also, your D might be under treated. I notice mine is a lot better when it's at the top end of the normal range. I take K2 to improve absorption. I started taking a trip each winter because the long winters here were leaving me draggy midway.

On the Bs, again, if they didn't run genetics, they could be missing the bigger issues. You could have an MTHFR defect affecting absorption. I have a couple contradictory defects, one that makes my Bs not absorb right due to under methylation (MTHFR) and one that makes me irritable if I get methyls (COMT). So yeah if your bs are off or if your methyls are going high. I have to be careful about what I take in that is high in methyls or I get grumpy. Orange juice, caffeine, etc. And for some people it's the opposite, where having their methyls low leaves them sluggish and grumpy.

Well good luck. Sounds like you're working on good things. 

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Your kids don't need you to be perfect. They can make do with an explanation. "No Dear, I'm not mad at you. I'm just annoyed because I was concentrating on something else when you spilled your juice, and people mostly don't like having their concentration broken. When people don't like things, they often feel grumpy about them, don't they?" Or whatever.

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@Rosie_0801 I'm definitely not aiming for perfect! I think the post just really resonated with me since its something that's already been weighing on my mind/heart. I am definitely going to work on explaining/apologizing better-your explanation sounds a lot better than the "no, i'm not mad" exasperated brush off I gave the 3yo yesterday.  

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I think that the idea of always having a "sweet even temper" is ridiculous.  In fact, I think that we don't do our children favors if we're always even tempered.  Kids need to realize that their actions have consequences, and that sometimes those consequences are that Mom has a screaming fit.

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9 hours ago, EKS said:

I think that the idea of always having a "sweet even temper" is ridiculous.  In fact, I think that we don't do our children favors if we're always even tempered.  Kids need to realize that their actions have consequences, and that sometimes those consequences are that Mom has a screaming fit.

I disagree.

Because mom having a screaming fit isn't about the children's actions--it's about mom's mood and level of reactivity.

While I don't see "sweet" as a goal to particularly aim for, especially as some may interpret that as "I should be a doormat" I do believe that calm is a desirable trait in most human interactions, and especially when a person who is large, strong, and powerful is interacting with a person who is comparatively small, week, and vulnerable--as is certainly the case when we are talking about a parent and a three year old child. I find it particularly ironic that parents often justify their own reactivity as a reasonable response to what is often similarly emotionally reactive behavior in a child--the parent doesn't tolerate the child's emotional outburst but believes their own to be acceptable or even commendable.

We do well as parents to start with learning to regulate or own emotional state, learning to act rather than react. This doesn't mean we don't have emotions, but we need to own our emotions as our own and determine how we will cope with them in a healthy way rather than pretend that an immature child controls and determines our emotional responses.

"Mommy is stressed and overwhelmed right now, I'm going to take a few minutes to calm down in my room" would be a more appropriate coping mechanism than yelling at the child whose behavior is causing my stress to ramp up.

I am, of course, not perfect at this but it is what I aim for.

Edited by maize
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I really struggle with this one. I don't have the best temper to begin with, and stress exacerbates it, which means that the last few weeks of not going out haven't brought out the best in me. 

I will say that one thing I've noticed with my interactions with people is that people DO respond more if you show at least some emotion. So while I do wish I were calmer and I will probably never stop working on it, I'm not sure it's reasonable or worthwhile to try to get to a point where you don't show any natural emotional reactions to what your kids do. In some ways, we're all egotists, and the only way other people's preferences get seared in our brains is if they have some emotional weight... 

Back when we left the house sometimes, lol, I did often ask the kids for 10-20 minutes of "silence" when we got home, though -- it was definitely a "I'm out of patience, and I need a break" kind of request, and they knew that it was because I didn't want to yell at them after a long day but was totally out of juice :-P. Perhaps I need to reinstitute boundaries like that right now... 

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9 hours ago, maize said:

Because mom having a screaming fit isn't about the children's actions--it's about mom's mood and level of reactivity.

Sure, to some extent, that's true. 

And that's real life.

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Even tempered anything for me involves first taking care of myself. I find if I give myself space, prioritize my creativity, make sure I get the sleep I need, the exercise I need, the time-away I need, and permission to react when I need to react (ideally in a safe place) and be myself, my temper becomes much more even, and I can even take a stab at sweet. 

In that same line of thinking, it has helped me to reach a place where I realize everyone in my family also needs those things too. And they need grace, the same as I do, when they aren't getting those things, and so, get cranky. Right now, very few people are getting what all they need. 

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7 hours ago, school17777 said:

How does one do this?  How much does it cost?

Well I ran the cheapest/regular version with 23andme, downloaded the raw data file (which includes the health testing), and ran that through engines like promothease (low cost) and  knowyourgenetics.com (free). So $69-99 basically. KnowYourGenetics looks at the methylation cycle and cranks out lots of helpful data. The MTHFR and VDR defects will show up there. The TPH2 defect you can find searching the html file from promothease. I need to check, because I thnk they got bought out by another site. And when you know the RS #, you can look it up yourself in your raw data file from 23andme.

 https://promethease.com

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48 minutes ago, Critterfixer said:

Even tempered anything for me involves first taking care of myself. I find if I give myself space, prioritize my creativity, make sure I get the sleep I need, the exercise I need, the time-away I need, and permission to react when I need to react (ideally in a safe place) and be myself, my temper becomes much more even, and I can even take a stab at sweet. 

In that same line of thinking, it has helped me to reach a place where I realize everyone in my family also needs those things too. And they need grace, the same as I do, when they aren't getting those things, and so, get cranky. Right now, very few people are getting what all they need. 

This is so well put. When I started homeschooling years ago, there was this voice in the homeschool community that said kids should obey RIGHT AWAY and another adding WITHOUT EXPLANATION. And yet think about it, for ourselves we want grace, time, space. And I think you're right that sometimes we're asking higher things, more of our kids than ourselves. And it all came to a head when I got evals for my dd at 11/12 and realized she COULDN'T do those things. (low processing speed, language shutting down, etc.)

So you are so right that this is a time to be extending grace, to ourselves, to others. I'm a different parent 2nd time around, giving more space, more time, more grace.

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18 hours ago, square_25 said:

which means that the last few weeks of not going out haven't brought out the best in me. 

 

This in particular may be why its been weighing on my mind so much recently. We'd moved onto nice sunny weather and were out of the house almost every morning to the park or the library. We do have a large backyard, where we're starting a small garden and have plenty to play with, but its nowhere near the same as her getting to play with other kids and exploring new places.

16 hours ago, Critterfixer said:

Even tempered anything for me involves first taking care of myself. I find if I give myself space, prioritize my creativity, make sure I get the sleep I need, the exercise I need, the time-away I need, and permission to react when I need to react (ideally in a safe place) and be myself, my temper becomes much more even, and I can even take a stab at sweet. 

In that same line of thinking, it has helped me to reach a place where I realize everyone in my family also needs those things too. And they need grace, the same as I do, when they aren't getting those things, and so, get cranky. Right now, very few people are getting what all they need. 

 

Graciousness seems a much better ideal than sweet. And I'm sensing a repeating theme of self care. Perhaps I should take some time to figuring out how to give myself some time and space in our current situation. 

@txk thank you for all your wonderful ideas! 

 

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On 4/8/2020 at 2:05 PM, Paige said:

Maybe sweet and even isn’t who you are. We should all try to be kind, patient, and reasonable, but that doesn’t always look like sweet and even. The world would be boring if it did. 
 

I think the best of your personality when you are healthy, happy, and rested would be a good place to start. You might be more funny or practical than sweet and that is just as good. I’m not saying it’s ok to snap at the kids (although we’ve all been there) but there are many good ways to respond and sweet seems so stereotypically perfect and maybe unattainable and even self-destructive for some of us. 
 

My DH’s grandmother was the epitome of sweet and my own was  well loved by everyone who knew her but would be better described as feisty. I loved them both because of who they were but it would have felt like a loss if my grandmother had ever given up the feistiness. 

It’s funny, I also thought about my grandmas with this thread and I had a sweet one and a feisty one. Guess which one I took after! 🤪. A funny thing I’ve observed is that (within healthy nonabusive limits) kids sort of accustom themselves to their mom’s preset “emotional volume.”  I have a friend who is super softspoken and sweet and one day she spoke just a tad sharply to her dd and her dd immediately teared up and wailed, “why are you yelling at me?”  I was totally flabbergasted bc she wasn’t yelling at all!  My kids wouldn’t have even assumed Iwas mad with that tone, but they are used to having a mama who is far more excitable in every way, not just with shooting them THE LOOK and telling them how it is when they’re getting outof line, but I laugh a lot, I cry easily (they think it’s hilarious that I cry  at all the emotionalparts when reading out loud), I wave my hands around and use funny accents to make my point when I’m talking, etc. 

Three practical things that have helped me.  My mom, when she would lose her temper with me, would say, “mommy needs a time out now.”  I think it was rather clever...it let me know that it wasn’t ok to lose it with people and take out your frustrations on them while simultaneously giving her a little time and space.  For myself, I’ve discovered if I can wait just a few seconds before reacting, then I will react far more appropriately.  😳 I actually have a little line imprinted across the bottom of my inner lip from biting my lip so many times over the last 15 years, trying to teach myself patience.  But I do think it has helped.  Last one is religious.  Just trying to let go of my plans, and trusting that if something happens it’s part of God’s plan helps me be less angry about my plans getting messed up, and trying to offer up my frustration and disappointment.

 

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I found myself getting annoyed much more easily, and I looked back and realized it started when I cut out soda, so I added back one Dr Pepper a day. I think it's a combination of meeting a physical need by giving myself some extra calories (nursing a toddler a fair amount still, and it's draining) and an emotional need because I have a whole little ritual of sending the kids to play, then drinking a Dr Pepper while watching a show or reading something just for me. That half an hour is probably more important than the drink.

Anyway, I sometimes still have to call redos for myself, and sweet isn't even the goal. 

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7 minutes ago, xahm said:

I found myself getting annoyed much more easily, and I looked back and realized it started when I cut out soda, so I added back one Dr Pepper a day. I think it's a combination of meeting a physical need by giving myself some extra calories (nursing a toddler a fair amount still, and it's draining) and an emotional need because I have a whole little ritual of sending the kids to play, then drinking a Dr Pepper while watching a show or reading something just for me. That half an hour is probably more important than the drink.

Anyway, I sometimes still have to call redos for myself, and sweet isn't even the goal. 

I noticed myself getting more irritable as the day went on when I tried cutting out Internet stuff for myself; I realized then that I use little breaks throughout the day to check in on my forums or Facebook etc. as emotional reset time. I'd always thought of that as wasted time, it was kind of nice to discover it serves a valid purpose after all.

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Learning to pause and not immediately react to an irritation is something I've gotten better at.

ITA with the above about taking care of one's self and one's mental health. The next step for me after that was to learn to just pause rather than immediately react to a trigger of my temper.  Having that pause allows me to consciously choose my reaction. 

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