Dealing with AngerThe success parents have in correcting their children is directly proportional to the quality of the relationship that exists between them. Mutual respect and trust must first be worked on before effective discipline can be achieved.
In the opening session of one of my parenting support groups, I asked the question, "How many of you have ever been angry at your parents?" First there were subtle smiles, then one by one; every hand in the room went up. Anger is a normal part of life. Anger is a feeling, nothing more, nothing less. Like feeling sad, happy, or excited, anger is just another way for us to feel something. So why do we allow ourselves to become so threatened by our child's anger?
All too often, we equate the "actions" of anger with the "feeling" of anger. Actions, however, are not anger. They are only a side effect of or a result of anger. Anger is only the feeling behind the action and is not responsible for the action. When questioned why someone acted inappropriately, they are often heard to reply, "I was angry." The fact is that their feeling of anger was not responsible for the choice they made to act inappropriately... they are!
When our children become angry at us, or at anything else, it would be irrational for us to reprimand them. We wouldn't squelch their feelings of joy at an amusement park or punish them for feeling sad over the loss of a pet; nor should we attempt to extinguish their feelings of anger. Anger is a feeling, not a threat. We need to support and encourage all our children's feelings. At the same time, we can let them know that their actions need to be appropriate, regardless of their feelings.
Perhaps part of the reason we are afraid of anger is because we fear that the feeling will be accompanied by threatening actions. It is important for parents to be able to distinguish the "feelings" of anger from "acting" angrily. For instance if the child is yelling, "I hate you" to a sibling (or to you) there is no need for parental intervention. It is, in fact, important that the parent acknowledge the anger and let the child know that it is OK to "feel" angry.
However, if the statement is followed by a physical attack, it is time for the parent to intervene. In such a case, the parent might say, "You sound very angry, but it is not OK to hit, just because you're angry." The parent might even take it one step further by saying, "Let's sit down and figure out another way you can vent your anger." Reacting in this manner lets the child know that his "feelings" are normal and OK, but that he is in charge of his actions and that he needs to choose appropriate behavior regardless of his feelings.