Did you read my last blogpost? It was about our (adult’s) anger, with the title “Is it wrong to get angry with my children/my students?” Many people responded and I thank all of you who did. Some shared their own stories of their parents’ anger; others just thanked me for taking up the topic and for the thought-provoking points in the article. Before I leave the last blog behind, I want to share a response I received from an experienced Positive Discipline Lead Trainer, Jody McVittie. She wrote,
For me the one piece that would also be helpful for parents – something you and I didn’t get – is for the parent to say out loud, “Wow. I’m feeling angry right now and I’m going to step away (take a few deep breaths, go for a short walk etc.) and when I’m feeling calmer, we can solve this problem. I’ll reconnect with you in less than an hour.” Kids need to hear the name of the feeling, the steps that are being taken, and that the parent will return.
That’s such a great addition to what I wrote last time. It also models for your children something that they can do when they have big feelings (eventually).
Today, their anger: How do I help my children or students learn to deal with their own strong emotions in healthy and socially acceptable ways?
I’ll start by picking up the point Jody McVittie makes (quoted above). Kids need to learn about their feelings and become able to accept them, identify them and talk about them. They learn this largely from how they see us dealing with our feelings. I cannot overstate how important this is. Children who know their emotions can better regulate them and are much less likely to engage in self-destructive behaviors such as drug abuse, cutting and eating disorders.
How do we help kids to learn about their feelings? 
- Model the behavior they are learning. See my last blog and Jody’s quote above for examples of that. Modeling entails naming your own emotions and talking about them with your students or children.
- “I was really frightened yesterday when I saw that girl run into the street
- “I was confused and unsure what to do next when you refused to follow my instructions. I’m curious what was going on for you.”
- Teach them that feelings are always acceptable, but actions are not always ok. It is our job as adults to stop actions that are harmful or hurtful. And to teach acceptable alternatives.
- “I see that you are really angry right now, and I can understand why. AND you need to stop throwing things. It’s ok to be angry. It’s not ok to throw things.”
- Then, in a conversation later, when everyone involved is emotionally calm: “Next time you have these feelings, what can you do that will neither hurt others, things nor yourself?”
- Teach them that feelings are impermanent. Feelings can seem so big and powerful! It can be helpful to remember that they come and go naturally – and that we are bigger and more powerful than our feelings.
- “Let’s not talk while you/we are feeling angry. We’ll just say things we’ll regret. Let’s each take a break from this and do something to feel better. And talk about it when we’re calmer.”
- You feel really angry right now! That is a big feeling. What do you want to do that is safe for you and others?
- Have the courage to be there with your children’s or your students’ strong emotions. It’s not your job to change them or argue them out of their feelings. When they see that adults are comfortable with the existence of strong feelings, children learn to be so, as well. In fact, I think they are naturally ok with strong feelings and only learn from adults that feelings are threatening!
The parenting book that helped me the most when my kids were small was How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish (I didn’t discover Positive Discipline until our boys were 10 and 12). I learned from this book the power of just listening to our children and then naming the feeling they were having. When a person feels truly understood, they can relax. They feel safer.
In the last blog I told my own personal story with anger. How did the story continue with my own children? Well, because Kathleen and I used How To Talk so well with our children from an early age, both our boys grew up able to talk openly about their emotions and learned to have their feelings without lashing out at others (usually! – luckily, they’re still human😉).
After this second blog article on anger, there still remains much to be said and discussed on the topic. Again, I welcome and will respond to all comments and questions. Unless you convince me otherwise, I will choose a different topic next month. Homework? Sibling fighting? Classroom management? Digital devices? These are some ideas I’m considering, but I’m open to suggestions! Thanks for reading. -KC
 From the Psychology Today website: “Decades of research has confirmed the link between emotion regulation deficits and addiction. Specifically, individuals with difficulties regulating emotions are at higher risk of using drugs of abuse or engaging in addictive behaviors (Dingle et al., 2018; Prosek et al., 2018; Estevez et al., 2017; Cashwell et al., 2017).” https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/understanding-addiction/202107/is-emotion-regulation-the-key-addiction-prevention Article by Amanda L. Giordano Ph.D., LPC
 Jody McVittie has a blog on this subject in which she refers to Dr. Dan Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain. Watch Siegel explain it on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-m2YcdMdFw&ab_channel=Dr.DanSiegel
 The renowned Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh often said that feelings were like clouds on a windy day. They pass before the sun and then they pass on away again. In his book Being Peace, he wrote: “I would not look upon anger as something foreign to me that I have to fight, to have surgery in order to remove it. … I have to tend my anger as I would tend a younger brother or sister, with love, with care.” (ISBN: 0-938077-00-7 p. 40)
 Faber/Mazlisch wrote in their parenting classic How To Talk So Kids Will Listen And Listen So Kids Will Talk “Children don’t need to have their feelings agreed with, they need to have them acknowledged. The statement, ‘You’re absolutely right,” might be satisfying to hear for the moment, but it can also prevent a child from thinking things through for herself.” (ISBN: 0-380-57000-9, p.28)