Thirteen year old Anthony told his parents to pick him up in front of the school at 4 because he was staying after to finish a project for school. When mom arrived several minutes early, she found Anthony hanging out with some kids in a vacant lot next to the school. Anthony's parents had told him not to hang out with those kids several times. Mom screamed at Anthony when he got in the car, "What were you doing with those kids? How many times have we told you not to? Do you want to turn out just like them? You are grounded for two weeks and from all screen time activities!"
"Anybody can become angry - that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way - that is not within everybody's power and is not easy."
There are many unhealthy ways we address our anger:
Lash out through intimidation.
Do passive aggressive behavior.
Drip jabs of dirty looks and snarky remarks throughout the day.
Turn it inward on ourselves.
Deny that we get angry.
Take our anger out on someone else.
Use silent treatment
Anger is a natural reaction to being wronged. But society tells us anger is dangerous and we should hide it or "positive think" it away. Yet, if anger is harnessed correctly, can create positive change.
What if the mom in our story had handled her son's antics in the following way:
Anthony gets in the car. Mom calmly says, "I am extremely angry right now and I am afraid I might say some thing I will regret later. I need sometime to cool off. Let's not talk right now and we will talk in an hour."
An hour later. "Son, I am still angry at your choice to disrespect my request and your choice to lie. As a result, I feel like I can't trust you.Trust is of utmost importance in a relationship and once it is broken, it can be hard to repair. If you want to earn my trust back, these are the things you will need to do ..... Now let's talk about what was going on for you that lead you to this poor choice and what you will do differently next time."
Notice a few things:
1. Mom took time to calm down. When we loose our temper or just vent, it is easy for the other person to write us of as "the jerk." Then they don't have to take responsibility for their actions.
2. Instead of ranting about what a bad kid he was, she told him how his behavior was effecting her and their relationship.
3. She used his bad choice to teach her son a valuable life lesson: trust when broken, is hard to get back. You need to earn it back.
4.There was a consequence for his choice. Teenagers often act without thinking about the consequence.
5. She was willing to hear his side and help him think through what lead him to those actions. And help him think about alternative actions he could have taken.
6. She didn't pretend she wasn't angry nor did she try to hide it.
If we try to protect our children from our true feelings, we become inauthentic. This is not what we want to model for our kids. The expression of anger, if justifiable and aimed at finding a solution rather than just venting, can actually benefit and strengthen relationships.
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Pause, be genuine with your emotions, and use them as teaching moments. Tell us where your going to implement this by commenting below!
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