My kids and I have been reading a lot of Calvin and Hobbes comic books these days. My kids laugh away at all of Calvin’s silly antics and vivid imagination. They think that his club, Getting Rid of Sliming girlS (GROSS), is hilarious. As a parent I notice that Calvin is angry a lot. My kids notice that there isn’t one adult who really gets Calvin. When Calvin shows anger, no one listens to him and he often gets punished.
Do you remember what you were taught about anger as a child?
Who was allowed to be angry in your home?
Who wasn’t allowed to be angry in your home?
What were the repercussions for showing your anger?
Now fast-forward to your current relationship with your partner and/or children and answer the same questions.
Who is allowed to be angry in your home?
Who isn’t allowed to be angry in your home?
What are the repercussions in your home for showing anger?
The unwritten rules about anger
Many of the rules about anger expression are unwritten in our families and in our cultures. We don’t have to be told what the rules are, but we all know them even if they have not been said.
Some common unsaid rules are:
- You’re not supposed to be angry because anger means you are not grateful
- Only parents (or one parent) are allowed to be angry
- Only my children are allowed to be angry, but not me. As an adult I should know better.
- Anger is only for people who had have something “really bad” happen to them.
- If you show your anger, you are bad in some way.
- If your child shows anger, they are bad in some way.
- Anger needs to be controlled and managed.
- Showing anger means you’re out of control
What are the unsaid rules about anger in your home?
My inbox has received a variety of advertising for courses and webinars about anger. The trend right now is a shift from anger management to acknowledging anger, feeling anger in your body, validating anger, and transforming anger.
Emotion-focused family therapy is a great tool for exploring a family’s expression of anger and its impact on child and youth mental health. A child who never expresses anger may demonstrate depression. A child who always expresses anger but never feels heard may show more behavioural problems. A child who is angry about going to school may have anxiety. A powerful way to help children with mental health issues is to explore ways to support our children’s anger and our own anger too.
We don’t need to be comfortable with anger or resolve all of our own issues with anger to support our children with their anger. Small changes can make big impacts.
Anger needs to be met with curiosity. Often there are many other emotions underneath anger, but anger is the emotion being expressed. Anger in ourselves and others needs to be met with a lot of compassion and validation in combination with boundary setting.
The next time you get angry at someone, first acknowledge you have a right to be angry, and then ask yourself what expectation has not been met? What is it about the situation that makes you angry? What other emotions are you feeling? Working with a counsellor or therapist can be a great way to explore this in more depth. If you notice that you have been feeling a lot of anger towards a partner, your kids, or others, then counselling can help you transform anger, shift your outlook, or make changes if needed.
If you are a person who is interested in exploring your own journey with anger as a parent, there is a new movement in conscious parenting. Anger is being understood to be a feeling that emerges when an expectation has not been met. It is an emotion that can be fuel in making changes in our society and within ourselves.
If you are a fan of Dr. Shefali (author of both The Awakened Parent and Conscious Parenting), she has an excellent course for parents about the anatomy of anger and how to transform it in a conscious way. It is called Anger Transformed.
Anger has had a very bad reputation. The good news is that its’ reputation is on the edge of being transformed.