So, what are some common warning signs that mom is about to lose her cool?

    * Tension in hands and jaw; clenched teeth
    * Looking/feeling flushed
    * Shallow breathing or holding of breath
    * Feeling helpless, frustrated or panicked
    * Acting out physically quicker than usual
    * Using sarcasm or hateful, belittling words
    * Experiencing symptoms of PMS
    * Workplace issues
    * A messy house
In other words, it doesn't always take a crisis to set a parent off.

"You can wake up in a good mood," Barnhill says, "go downstairs, see the messy kitchen and you're annoyed ― without anyone doing anything!"

Yet it's how you handle these frustrations that really matters. The good news? There are strategies you can use to take control and keep your cool, even when you're on the verge of a meltdown.

Keeping Calm in Heated Moments

Parenting is hard enough without buying into the unrealistic expectations that can plague even the most competent mother. Perhaps you display "model mom" behavior outside of your home ― you'd never lose it within earshot of anyone ― yet you have plenty of experience with private scream-a-thons

But what do you do when the kids are driving you up the wall? Barnhill's book offers plenty of suggestions, including:

    * Take back your brain! When you see the symptoms signaling an outburst, stop and think about what you're doing and saying.
    * Learn to defuse energy through relaxation.
    * Put a stop to harmful language, be it sarcasm, belittling or blaming.
    * Prepare for anger-producing situations and avoid them if possible.
    * Take time out for yourself.
    * Post a "ther-momma-meter" to subtly inform your husband and children about your cycle and current level of patience.
    * If you're set off by visual cues ― piles of laundry for example ― then close the door or have one pile instead of three; anything to make the irritant seem less overwhelming.

Most parents know that barking at their children is not the most effective way to communicate, but even the best-intentioned parents reach the breaking point at times. Barnhill wants moms to know that God can work even in the midst of anger.

When she first started dealing with her anger, Barnhill says her actions got "better and worse and better." Yet the most noticeable transformation took place when she realized she also needed to change spiritually.

Turning Your Anger Around

Barnhill says it's never too late to turn negative behaviors around.

"It's an act of God in your heart," she says, "and when your heart changes, your thinking changes. When your thinking changes, your words change and you see things differently."

P> Through meetings with a Christian role model, nurturing your relationship with God and learning to ignore minor irritations, Barnhill assures moms everywhere that God's grace will eventually lead to change.

"There is nothing that is unforgivable," she say. "There is nothing so ugly that God will look away from it and never have anything to do with you again. There is healing in your relationships. Children don't remember a whole lot and what they do remember, grace has been able to soften."

Words for a parent to live by.

Carol Steffes is online editor for Broadcast Programming at Focus on the Family.

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