When I was a kid I somehow knew that it wasn’t okay for me to get upset. Well, at least I couldn’t let my unpleasant feelings show on the outside. I kept them bottled up. Most of the time I smiled, always looking on the bright side.
Fast forward; I started working with kids in urban Nashville, and they had no problem expressing their anger when someone made a rude remark or stepped into their space. Although I had to intervene on occasion before situations came to blows, I admired the courage these kids had to share their emotions and opinions.
Fast forward again; I’m a mother of three little ones, ages 9, 4 and almost 2. The two oldest explode like volcanoes…hitting, biting, yelling, fighting. I tried every technique I know: positive reinforcement, time out, taking away privileges. Nothing seemed to work. They had found a way to channel my years of pent up anger and combine it with their own. So we got some help.
What I learned is that it is okay for my kids to feel angry. It’s even okay for me to feel angry. It’s a signal that a boundary has been crossed. Anger is one of our core emotions. It’s what we choose to do when we are angry that can be positive or negative.
We established three family rules:
It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay to:
- Hurt anyone else with words or actions.
- Hurt yourself.
- Hurt property.
Over the years as both an educator and a parent, I’ve realized the importance of providing ways for kids — and adults — to express strong emotions. Anger turned inward is harmful, so we need to be self-aware (be able to know and understand how we feel) and we need to be honest (speak and act truthfully).
What are some healthy ways to deal with anger? What are forms of expression that won’t hurt others, ourselves or property? Here are a few ideas from kids; feel free to add to the list:
- Take time alone
- Listen to music
- Draw a picture
- Write about it
- Talk to somebody I trust
- Run or play basketball
- Hit a pillow or pound play-doh
In a volatile world, where people are quick to vent on social media or on the road, we need to find healthy ways to process and express ourselves so we can have authentic and meaningful relationships. Remember: whether in the classroom, at home, online or in the car, our kids are watching.