The miracle is not to fly in the air, or to walk on the water, but to walk on the earth.

~Chinese Proverb~

Parents, kids, and anger: Emotions are a message, not a problem

January 8, 2013

People who counsel adults know how crucial it is for children to have good role models for managing emotions. Unfortunately, many problematic emotional habits get handed down from one generation to the next, especially where anger is concerned.   

Looking at this issue has nothing to do with assigning blame for learned bad habits. Parents can, however, make an effort to be better emotional management teachers than those farther down their family tree. 

Our anger is a message. It lets us know important things like someone just hurt our feelings, or treated us like dirt, or that we think someone hurt, or trampled on us. One thing anger is not designed to do is determine our actions, yet people frequently let anger dictate their behavior. 

An important thing to realize about anger is that it’s similar to an aftershock. It follows other emotions such as fear, sadness, hurt, or disappointment; feelings that make us feel vulnerable. Anger makes us feel powerful, so many of us prefer covering our vulnerability with anger. Although this is understandable, it wreaks havoc on relationships. 

There is nothing wrong with anger. Anger alerts us that something is amiss, needs our attention, and requires resolution, or understanding. Like adults, children become angry for a reason. It is likely kids do not understand the reason well enough to express it rationally, particularly if anger is not something usually discussed in the home. 

Five Tips Concerning Emotions  

1. We have no control over the way others feel, including our children. Like adults, children react to the world through the filters of their experience, beliefs, and perceptions. They are not designed to react to situations as their parents do. A child’s emotions give them information about themselves. 

2. If someone is throwing a tantrum or is enraged, meeting their anger with your own is the same as dumping gasoline on a bonfire in a dry forest. Unless there is an issue of safety involved, you do not have to fix anyone’s meltdown, including a child’s. All tantrums burn themselves out. 

3. It is damaging for a child to think anger is bad, or that getting angry is not OK. Their anger may be misplaced, or there might be a reason for it that you are unaware of. Either way, emotions are meant to flow and be felt. Until they are accepted we cannot learn how to manage them. 

Kids need to be accountable for their behavior when feeling angry, but not for feeling angry. It is normal for children to get pissed off. Consequences should never punish the feeling. Children have to learn how to express anger effectively. They may be doing the best they can for their stage of development but must also acquire better ways of handling emotion.

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