I often hear parents worry that their children sometimes see them when they are angry. This is then often followed by a statement of how guilty the parent feels for expressing this emotion, let alone having their child see them in that “state.” Many parents also express the fact that their children are not able to deal well or behave in an appropriate manner when angry. Parents have gone on to say that some of their children have been known to even yell, scream, kick, hit, bite, or throw things. (Can you believe that?!) I hope that this can be a mild consolation to those parents--I have yet to find one parent who has cornered the market by having the only child that manifests behaviors that are not appropriate when dealing with the emotion of anger. We are all in it together for we have all dealt with anger, as a parent and as a child. I would like to go on record by saying that as a society we have underestimated the value or productive qualities of well managed and appropriately directed and displayed anger.
If one goes to any bookstore’s self-help shelf or has had personal experiences with therapy, very often one will see that anger continues to be the “emotion du jour.” So many symptoms of inappropriate behavior or manifestations of negative self-inflicted behavior have been associated with the harboring of anger within. OK, I get it. I understand what the many therapists and counselors and professionals are saying however I am concerned that many people may be misinterpreting what, I truly hope, these professionals really mean.
All too often I hear people suggest that they feel (or have been told) that their unexpressed anger causes behaviors that are undesirable. After this recognition, I then hear the same individuals decide that it is their anger that they are going to “work on.” Great…that is if put in the proper perspective. I believe that the proper perspective needs to include the concept that one should not work to be rid of anger, instead, one should strive to find appropriate ways to express anger.
It is easy to fly into a passion…but it is not easy to be angry with the right person, in the right way, and at the right time.
If anger is a feeling that is difficult for adults to deal with, just think of how difficult it is for children?! Anger is a very confusing emotion. One of the worst things that we can say to a child is to tell them that they should not feel a certain way. “You should never get angry!” Instead, of telling children how not to feel, we need to validate their feelings and give them opportunities to express those feelings and emotions in ways that are productive, positive, and healing.
It all goes back to the idea of role models. As adults, we need to recognize that anger is a valid emotion that has a place. It is how we express that emotion that gets some of us, and our children, in trouble. There will always be situations where people disagree. There will always be situations where people get mad. We need to allow our children and others to see that being angry is a fact of life and actually quite alright. Seeing how anger can be expressed appropriately and productively can be a very positive experience for children. Expressing anger in a hostile way can be nothing but dangerous emotionally as well as physically.
How can we blame a child for being angry in a wrong way if we never expose them to the positive ways to express anger? What happens when a child is mad and has never seen his/her parent mad? Studies have all too often shown us that children who have been physically abused by their parents have a much greater chance of repeating this cycle with their children. That is because that is the only way that they have seen their parents deal with anger. That was their role model.
Anger will always be with us. In fact, there are even good reasons to argue and to get mad. So, when it comes to anger, let’s accept it. Let’s also be cognizant about what kind of role models we can be for our kids today. Think about what you do when you are angry. Here are some things you might want to note:
· Identify the things that can get you angry and try to be proactive. Help your child identify those things that make him/her
· There are good ways to argue with each other. Argue with appropriate words, not with hitting or with violence. (Yet always
remember, “The tongue is the deadliest of all blunt instruments.” ~Anonymous)
· If something gets you mad or angry take a “time out” for yourself and walk away from a situation.
· Do the “count to 10” routine and take deep breaths to calm yourself down after being mad. Learn how to meditate.
· Music, pets, friends and stuffed animals can work wonders.
· If you need a physical release, find a way that is appropriate and/or constructive. You may want to exercise, run, engage
in an activity or even have a good cry.
· Take pride in the fact that you have the ability to hold strong convictions and believe in something so strongly that you may
get angry when others do not see things or believe in things as you do. Just make sure that you engage in such
disagreements in positive and productive ways—not in violent or negative ways. Be open to hear others as you would like
others to hear you.
· Sometimes we get angry and we don’t even know why—that’s okay!!!
· Communicate, validate and respect the feeling of anger—talk about it, write about it, read about it—accept and share the
It’s not appropriate or even feasible to think about repressing or ridding ourselves of anger. Instead, let’s concentrate on giving our children appropriate and responsible ways to display their anger. Let’s have the children of today be the role models for the children of tomorrow. If we strive for that goal, then perhaps the children of today or their children of tomorrow may see peace in their lifetime not only in every home but also in the world.