Anger management: #4 One word answers

word of month character

As I speak to children about different scenarios that they could see themselves in I continually hear the same one word answers, good, bad, mad.  These are the labels that many children know and understand.  So when asked about different situations they will use these as their answers many times.  Yet we know that anger does not exist in a vacuum.  There is always another emotion at work when there is an outburst.  We recognize that in ourselves too.

With children though they may not have the words to identify the other emotions and so they are only, mad!  When the child feels only the anger, they act on the anger and the impulses of the anger.  So what can we do as parents?  If we can put a label on the feelings for them by saying, “You must be feeling…..”  this would be a good start.  Some would say that we could say, ” You must be feeling angry.”, but we must be careful not to reinforce the feelings of being mad – and careful to watch to see if recognition of feelings of anger is used to redirect the energy to solving the problem.  Our children may protest that they are not frustrated, jealous, or whatever the feeling might be that we name, but what we are trying to do is to build their vocabulary so they can start using the correct feelings words and finding ways of dealing with them.

As we make these attempts we will make mistakes and mis-characterize the emotion.  Do not give up and just keep working at building everyone’s awareness of feelings.

This is an activity that has worked for me also.  If I am feeling angry I try to stop and think, what am I really feeling?  Am I scared, intimidated, frustrated, hungry or a whole list of other emotions and feelings.  If those can be identified we many times can draw the attention to an emotion of feeling that we can control.  That is very powerful.

Parenting a leader – not a bully

word of month character

Of course we want to believe that our child would never be the ‘bully’.  But what if your child really is a bully?  I believe that if we were to be honest when we examine ourselves,  that each of us could find times in our lives that we have been the bully.  The reasons that we, or anyone uses their power over another person to get their way (bullying), can be varied. 

Bullying may begin because we feel powerless in another situation or that we do not have any choices.  Or it may be that we are angry about something and we are taking it out on someone else.  Or it may be that we even may have a certain amount of jealousy or contempt. 

The author of the book “ The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander” believes that it is about contempt and suggests 5 ways that we can prevent our own child from being a bully.  I have listed them in bold and then commented on them from my own experience.

Watch your own behavior. It is very easy for us to send a message to our child without even realizing the message they are receiving or how they may interpret  how they can use  the message.  The way we treat others, joke about them or comment on them can say to our child that it is ok to have ‘fun’ at another’s expence.  The use of racist’s jokes or poking fun at the  looks of another person may give our child permission to do the same to people that they meet.

Nurture empathy and sympathy. Even as adults we can be unaware of the affect our behavior or comments are having on another person.  As we carefully monitor our own behavior we can also point out when our child does a kind deed, the emotion that they feel as well as the emotion that the other person feels.  The more we can demonstrate the consequences – good and bad – of our behavior and words on others, the more we are nurturing empathy.  On the other hand, voicing or getting pleasure from another persons feeling bad or distressed does not nurture empathy and may give permission to our child that it is OK to make someone else feel uncomfortable.

 
Monitor TV, video games and music. I do not believe that games, music and other forms of entertainment cause mean behavior, but they can jade us to that sort of behavior and make it difficult for a young person to determine what is right and wrong.  From my personal experience I know that over the years as I studied the subject of peace and reduced the amount of movies and television shows that I watched that contained violence, I found that I was not able to tolerate it as much.  While I do not suggest that we delete media from our kids lives – I do believe that we can be sure to have discussions with our children about what is right and wrong and help them to see the affects of those acts on others – even if they were in a form of entertainment.

Teach friendship skills. One of the number one ways I like to teach victims of bullies to  overcome this is to make the bully your friend.  Unfortunately many times bullies do not know how to be a friend.  Teaching our children to be a friend can be done both by socializing them with their peers and demonstrating and point out to them our own behavior.  In addition I would suggest that providing opportunities for them to serve others in their community and discussing and letting them see the affect on the recipients of their kindness can really drive home how to be a friend.

 
Engage them in energizing activities. Challenge your child in activities that require them to exert energy.  I am not a believer in “if you are angry go home and take your frustration out on the pillow”, as I believe that this is only teaching us to react with violence on our pillow and one day it is possible that we could give our selves permission to do the same on someone else.  But I do believe if we are not getting enough physical challenges that have to do something with that energy and it could come out in ways that are not appropriate.  

The points that we have outlined above are good for all of us as parents whether our child or ourselves are bullies or not.  All of us can use reminders on ourselves to be kind to others and be aware of the consequences of everything that we do and say in the course of our day.

For more information about bullying go to Mr. Joe’s site – Stop Bullies.  Mr. Joe is available for Bully Prevention seminars for all age groups in your school or at his martial arts studio.