How Do You Handle Anger? How Does Your Child?

One of the most effective tools in a parent’s toolbox is anger. “Don’t make me get angry with you”! (As if they Angry-Black-Man-Holing-Earscould make us…). We don’t like it when our children get angry, we don’t like it when our spouse or boss gets angry, and if you are like me, you don’t even like it when you get angry. So why do we do it? More importantly, what is it, and how do we “not do it”? Hopefully you read our recent article that introduced Eric Barker and his blog Barking Up The Wrong Tree and got a good look at the neuroscience involved in the experience of anger. Really good stuff (if not, read it in the link below). Here is more about anger.

So Let’s talk more about anger.

We ran an article about How to not get angry — 3 Secrets from Neuroscience by Eric Barker which was viewed by many of our parents and professionals. The summary of Mr. Barker’s excellent article is:

"Here’s how to get rid of anger:
    1) Suppress rarely. They may not know you’re angry but you’ll feel worse inside and hurt the relationship.
    2) Don’t vent. Communication is good but venting just increases anger. Distract yourself.
    3) Reappraisal is usually the best option. Think to yourself, “It’s not about me. They must be having a bad day.”
    4) Practice forgiveness"

His research into neuroscience is well worth looking into. His simple four step process for working with this powerful emotion offers a breath of fresh air to many of us who are victims of our seemingly uncontrollable reactions. Some of us even go so far as to say, "I have a right to be angry with you". Well, perhaps a right to feel your anger - and we even encourage that, but the "right" to blast, rant, rave, scream, throw things, or worse is certainly an option of yours to choose, but perhaps not the best for you or your child.

But, let’s look at anger from a different perspective…  how about needs not being met? There are many references to fear being underneath the emotion of anger. When we are afraid, we react with anger. Because we are afraid, we bring out the big guns - our anger and rage. (That should scare them off!)

But let’s roll that back one more level. What is the fear? Marshall Rosenberg, founder of the Center for Non Violent Communication puts this in a perspective that allows anger to be seen simply as a sign that one’s needs are not being met. End of story. And, that feelings of depression, guilt and blame along with anger are all tragic expressions of one's needs not being met.

How-not-to-handle-angerSo when I am feeling afraid that my needs are not or will not be met, not knowing how to communicate this and feeling powerless, lacking the tools or feeling like I don’t deserve my needs being met for some reason, I use anger as a way to get my way. So do I want to be angry? Do I have a right to be angry? If that is the only way I know of to get my needs met, well yes, I guess I can and most of the time do choose anger.

The ironic part of this story is that anger is rarely met with my needs being met. At least in the “everybody feels good about the outcome” way. A boss may get the employee to do what needs to be done, or parent may get the child to do what the parent wants, but at what cost do these things play out? Fear > Anger > Control > Rebellion > Fear.

And what stops us parents from asking an angry child, “honey, what are your needs right now that are not being met”? Often times I think it is the fear that they will ask for something that we cannot/will not/refuse to give them so the cycle will begin again. So we don't go there.

But will it?

Once needs are identified, three things have occurred:
1)    A conversation — not a fight;
2)    You get to know your child better, and yourself hopefully;
3)    You have the opportunity to go even deeper, as in… “If you got to ________, how would that make you feel, as in what need would be met? And the conversation would continue. “Oh I see, if you got to go to the dance, you would get to see _______ and would feel _______. I wonder if there might be any other way you can meet your need?

Granted, since children at all ages are often not so logical or reasonable, so you are really looking in-between the lines for unconscious emotional issues. Will this always resolve things without fighting with your kids? You know better. But does it open up options to what may be a fight into what could be a conversation? You can guess that too.

And if all comes down to just another battle, you can always quit fighting and forgive. Barker points out the value of forgiveness as a tool for less anger and more heath. Imagine a world where we all come to realize that forgiveness is “not for them, it’s for you. He says:

"Forgiveness makes you less angry and more healthy: Trait forgiveness was significantly associated with fewer medications and less alcohol use, lower blood pressure and rate pressure product; state forgiveness was significantly associated with lower heart rate and fewer physical symptoms. Neither of these sets of findings were the result of decreased levels of anger-out being associated with forgiveness. These findings have important theoretical implications regarding the forgiveness–health link, suggesting that the benefits of forgiveness extend beyond the dissipation of anger."

In summary — How to understand anger as a tool for making things more wonderful for ourselves and children:

  • Feel your anger. Notice the signs, the symptoms, the signals and the sensations in your body. Your stomach, your hands and your breath can all be good indicators of a coming storm. If you miss these, you will likely go "over the falls of reactivity" and become of victim, along with your child, of your anger;
  • Don’t suppress — this only makes things worse, unhealthy, (but don’t beat anyone up instead either);
  • Don’t vent — unhealthy, makes things worse;
  • Reappraise — I wonder what prompted or triggered her behavior? It’s not about me;
  • Forgive — This is about me, not about them;
  • Identify the need not being met and see what can be done “to make life more wonderful” as Rosenberg likes to say.

So, what need of your is not being met? What would make life more wonderful for you? Now, find someone to share that with and see what comes about.

Have a calm and wonderful day!

6 Minutes That Can Change Your Child’s Life (and Yours!)

6 Minutes That Can Change Your Child's Life
Are you struggling with a child whose difficult or disturbing behaviors make you feel completely out of control?

Spending hours trying to pacify a child whose lost it, or walking on eggshells just to avoid the next meltdown can leave you feeling utterly without hope.

Whether your child has a diagnosis of reactive attachment disorder, Oppositional Defiance, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, or Hyperactivity...

...you are not to blame.

Watch the video below to find out why, and what you can do to take control back and restore peace and happiness to your family.