Everyone gets angry sometimes. But there is anger and then there is destructive anger in your home. Most of us don’t want to harm our children. And one way to prevent harm in your home is to use angry moments as learning experiences. That way we can use our anger to establish rules that can prevent dangerous anger.
- Realize your child is violating an unvoiced household limit.
Our wild child was a master at pushing limits and hitting my hot buttons. This meant our feelings of anger resulted from an unintended message from our child. Not about him, but about us. There was something he did we needed to examine. And our hot buttons could lead us to our solutions. They were a direct arrow from him to one or more of our personal limits that needed attention. Unfortunately, those limits were right on the edge of our personal awareness.
- Make your household safe in the feeling moment.
First, we had to make everyone in our household safe from our anger and its potential consequences. That’s where calming and mantras come in. They are temporary solutions. Short timeouts or ins for all of us to give us space make us all safe. All of us: children and parents.
You can give your child a calming task during this time. Or a time limit when you’ll be ready to communicate. Basically, calming tasks are simple routine tasks. Organizing, sorting, straightening, cleaning. You can even keep manipulative toys like different colored blocks, puzzles or tinker toys just for times like this. To make them matter more to your child, put them away only for this specific purpose. Then bring them out for emotional safety moments.
- Ask yourself some questions.
- What was I thinking?
It takes a quiet mind to listen to yourself. Underneath the “@#$%&!” or grrrrr rummaging around in your head. “How dare he or her?” is not enough. Listen to what you are saying to yourself about your child’s actions.
- How was I feeling when he or she did this or that?
Your feelings are information. Usually, anger does not occur by itself. It’s coupled with more feelings such as fear, hurt, violation, and sadness. Often your feelings toward your child’s behavior related back to something that has history for you.
- What exactly was my child doing?
It’s important to describe accurately exactly what actions he or she was taking. Be specific about this. Kicking my chair. Eating with his or her hands. Spitting. Making a mess. Refusing to do his or her schoolwork.
Each household has rules. But normally, each person has rules too. Only many of our rules are unspoken and assumed. We assume people won’t stand too close, spit on us, tear our clothes, or steal our money.
When raising children, however, we have to teach them our rules. They seem to be born with no awareness of right and wrong. If our rules are unspoken or even unconscious, we cannot teach them what we believe to be right or wrong.
- Why did I think his behavior was wrong?
This, too, needs to be spelled out. And it’ll be unconscious as well. It takes time to find the words to describe right and wrong when they are only a feeling. Why is it wrong to throw food or repetitively kick your parent’s chair?
- How can you create a positive rule about it
Rules for children that teach right and wrong cannot just be don’t do this or that. Don’ts cannot teach your child your values. Instead, we teach with ‘do’s’. Those need to spell out exactly what you want your child to do. Then you can teach them why. “Don’t stand too close” becomes “stand one hand distance away from me.” “Don’t spit on me becomes people treat each other with respect” or “only spit in the toilet, a tissue, or the sink.” “Don’t tear your clothes” becomes “take good care of your clothes.” “Don’t steal” becomes something like “people respect what belongs to other people.”
This has been a brief column on the topic of anger in your household. If you want help with this, send me your questions. I am happy to write a column with my answers.
If you’d like more help, please call my office to make an appointment for Parent or Child Coaching at (615) 464-3791. I offer a free 15-minute phone consultation to assess if I can be helpful to you or your child.
I’d love to hear from you!