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_