Anger is a normal emotion. It's ok!
What we do with our anger isn't always ok.
Does your child ever have outbursts? Do they simmer? hold anger? Or tip it all over everyone?
As parents we are well intentioned - always looking for the best way forward for our child. Helping them to see past their difficulties. But sometimes in doing so, we step over a little place of pain, so instead of working through it - they store it.
If Pain doesn't find Empathy it goes in search of Anger
All pain looks for empathy
It starts with acceptance:
"I want to understand."
"I get you."
"You are allowed to feel this way."
Followed by empathy:
"I'm so sorry that happened."
"This must be so hard for you."
If a child hears variations of those responses they will feel that their pain, frustration or difficulty is acceptable and that your heart empathises with the impact it's had on them.
That can be an easy intuitive response when our child has been hurt, bullied or experienced injustice.
However, it's a little harder when the issue seems:
Trivial to us
our fault (or a decision we've made)
Let's make those into some hard examples. How easy is it to say "I'm so sorry, that must be hard for you," to the following...
"She got a bigger portion than me."
"I left the iPad in the doctor's waiting room."
"I can't walk any further, my legs hurt."
"I've lost my orange colouring pencil."
"I don't want to go to ballet/practise piano/grandpa's party."
"I'm so sorry, that must be hard for you," Really?
Isn't it easier to say...
"You did what?"
"Well, you have to."
The fact is they may well stop fussing, feel suitably ashamed, man-up (whatever that is), borrow yours and tow the line. But they may also feel ANGRY.
Angry at not being heard
Angry for being minimised
Angry for being made to feel bad
Angry for having your solution imposed
Angry for not being understood
Does that mean they'll scream and shout and bang doors and protest?
Certainly some will.
Some will just appear to take it on the chin and carry on.
Anger isn't always loud
It can be quietly stored
...for the teen years
Lying, cheating, manipulation, bullying, coercion, dominance, passive aggression, self pity, victim-mindsets, to name a few, will find their roots in childhood - places where their feelings were minimised, solved, shamed, overlooked or undervalued.
So many of these experiences aren't down to mean-spirited or cruel parenting. Quite the reverse...they're well intended moments of wanting our child to leap over their problem to a better mindset. But in doing so, we leap over the place where the magic happens; where pain finds empathy. Where a child finds acceptance.
Does that mean we don't get to encourage, help them to solve, set appropriate consequences, hold our nerve over decisions we've made or generally grow and develop them? quite the opposite. Our children will be far more ready to solve, resolve, restore, move to a happier mindset and even apologise once they have been heard, understood and accepted.
If you accept a child's feelings, you accept them.