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Friday, 23 December 2011

Why I Let My Kid Feel Anger, Seething & Rapid Breathing Included

Seething, rapid breathing, squinting eyes, red cheeks. All the signs of anger, which most parents are familiar with especially when it manifests in younger children.

Parenting techniques used during my time (oh, about 25 years ago) miseducated children about anger, in my humble opinion. I doubt it was intentional though; it was more a sign of those times.

How did this affect me? For the longest time I saw anger as something unacceptable, a sin even. It was something to be suppressed and not expressed.

As I found out later on, this was all untrue. There is nothing wrong with feeling the emotion itself which is why I allow my child to blow his top off whenever he needs to. Of course, I encourage anger and not aggression.

Hello! Meet ANGER

Anger is an internal alarm system that goes off when something is amiss. Usually it’s when people feel invalidated or wronged either by a person or a situation. Dr. Les Carter, who wrote The Anger Trap: Free Yourself from the Frustrations that Sabotage Your Life, says it is a self-preservation tool.

Although in children, anger may be slightly different since they have yet to develop the sophisticated level of understanding one’s self that adults have. Usually kids feel angry when they are unable to make sense of something or feel helpless to change a situation.

Now That You’ve Met Anger, Why Keep Him Around?

Anger is as natural as the clear ocean waters and cerulean skies; it is also inescapable. So, instead of banishing it as you would something you fear, embrace it. Here’s why:

1. It provides plenty of opportunities for learning and growing

Case in point. When my son was angry with his playmate for not lending him a toy, I pounced on the experience to teach my 4-year old about life’s cold hard facts.

I explained to him, “You see, you can’t control others and you can’t always get what you want.” The beauty is that he experienced this firsthand so the learning was no longer hypothetical, but one that was real.

2. It teaches that communication is effective when resolving issues

Every time my son is angry, I wait until the emotion subsides and then swoop in. We discuss the why, who or what, and possible solutions to the issue(s).

When we had just begun this exercise, it took him a while to open up. Now, he is able to communicate and explain why he is angry prior to cooling down. This is a major milestone for him in terms of learning how to deal with emotions. And he's learned it at such a young age.

3. It allows me to understand my child better

Through the previous item, I have gotten to know my child better.

Case in point. One afternoon, my son asked me to read a book to him he was fond of. I was working so I deferred the reading to a later time. I then noticed he became visibly angry. When the emotion subsided, I found out he was upset because he felt I was always working.

I reflected a bit, found the statement true and made necessary changes to accommodate his needs more.

Had I not asked what he was angry about, I would have allowed this "lack of quality time" problem to persist. Now I'm aware of how much he values the time I spend with him.

4. It increases my child's self-worth

Because I take time out to hear his concerns, no matter how trivial, it shows him that I want to understand him. That his voice is heard and appreciated. That he matters.

Don’t Dread Anger

Welcome it. Through anger, every parent is given the opportunity to impart life lessons to their children, and even learn a thing or two from them. Instead of focusing on the negativity, you can turn anger into a positive emotional tool to understand the world better. I have and it's worked wonders on my boy.

Anne is a mom who is passionate about raising happy, healthy and smart children. How? With a glass of information, a pitcher of love, a gallon of patience, and of course, a bucket of humor. She believes that though parenting is challenging, it doesn't have to be boring. Catch more of her at Green Eggs & Moms.

Photo: Creative Commons from _gee_


  1. As a Psychotherapist I am met with people who are completely out of sink with their feelings and emotions. They do not know how to make contact with ANY of their feelings whether they are positive or negative. When they feel angry, they suppress it. This can often result in self-destructive behaviours or passive aggression toward the 'wrong' target. I think tuning into anger and recognising it is a great start. To then be able to communicate around feelings of anger is positive too. Thanks Anne for sharing your thoughts with us on here. A great blog!

  2. A great blog. I work with teenagers who channel anger in destructive ways such as offending behaviour, self harm or violence. When able to connect with the origin of the angry feelings the resulting behaviours can disappear. I think the overused term 'anger management' is misleading. It makes the assumption that anger in itself is wrong. This blog explains beautifully why it is not and can be used to connect with children on an emotional level.

  3. I have seen this in children I know. As a separated parent I have my daughter every other weekend and this is the way I parent her. If she is doing something she shouldn't I would sit her down and would explain why her actions are not acceptable, it sometimes takes a little time as she is only two and a half, but she is very bright and I know in time I will be able to communicate with her more easily and she will be able to explain her actions more freely.
    I want my daughter to be able to open up to me and to always be able to let me know what is on her mind without me asking her.
    All children feel anger sometimes but as stated by Anne once they feel anger jump in and talk to them before they start to feel aggression as that is every parents nightmare, having their child lash out at other children/adults.
    It's sad as I see this in so many children in today's society and parents are not sure what to do about it.
    Communication is the key.

  4. Wow.. Thank you for the kind words. I'm no expert, such as the 2 wonderful commentors before me, but I have realized after all this time that anger has to be recognized, expressed and properly channeled. To this day I struggle
    With this which is why I teach my child how to use anger positively.

  5. This is an interesting post. I am not a parent yet, but am planning on having a family. I suppose this made me think about my own experiences in childhood and how my parents behaved when they were angry with me. I think many parents don't have the tools to manage anger and I love what you've said here.