Yesterday I wrote a little light-hearted piece about anger. As 'luck' would have it, it seemed to be a theme in my day...
I've always had pretty intense emotions, and anger was the one that really plagued me. I guess one part of my childhood I remember is being pretty angry with the world in general, especially being in some situations I just couldn't control (I've written about being bullied here). It all built up so much that some days I would lash out, physically and verbally, at whoever was there.
The 80s decade is known for its loudness, not sensitivity, so it probably isn't a surprise to those who lived it to hear that my anger was generally met with an instruction: 'Stop.'
Just don't be angry. Simple. Except of course it isn't, and learning how to control that anger has been one of my biggest struggles in life. When people say they think I'm a calm person, I feel surprised but also really proud: that's a big achievement for me.
I've also known the opposite in the last couple of years: complete numbness. That was the worst, and I would much rather feel anger (amongst many other emotions of course) and let it out appropriately than feel nothing at all.
It's in this context that I can say I now find some purpose (enjoyment, almost) in every emotion I feel. Just because it's there and it's real and it's me.
And it's with this background that I'm introduced to a new side of anger.
I've just started seeing anger, real anger, in my three-and-a-half year-old girl's eyes. When we say no to something, her reaction has transformed as she grows - from tantrums to indifference to anger. Not every time we say no, of course, but definitely when it hits a trigger in her (tiredness is a factor in a big reaction, for example).
So I really need to be armed with some ways to deal with it.
Here's what I've got:
- We discipline her actions if she hits or lashes out. Those things are a big no-no in this family.
- We discipline the actions, not the feelings. I'm very careful to tell her, repeatedly if necessary, that it's okay to feel that way. That I get it.
- And then... I'm lost.
If I'm completely honest (and hey, why stop now!), I think this is the point I see myself. I freak out about where this could head if I don't help her well enough. Logically I know that just because she feels angry for a few minutes doesn't mean she's headed towards a problem, and I know that my life is not going to become hers. But in that moment? The pressure is on me to help her.
What I want is some practicality. Sure, I can tell her I know how she feels, but I want to give her some practical advice for dealing with it. How to channel those emotions.
For the adult me, it's all about exercise really. If negative emotions are building up (or preferably before it reaches that point), I need a big walk or a run.
But for a young child? Ummm...
Any ideas are very, very welcome! Please!