The Four stages of anger: the aftermath

Now while the explosion, large or small is the event that gets most of the attention, it is what happens after that really has the larger impact on parents, children and anyone that was affected.  It is the time that we can confront the original problem and any new ones that may have come up from the ‘explosion’.  We have talked many times in our discussions that trying to have a teaching moment when emotions are high just does not work.  We must have a time when emotions on both sides of the equation are lower and everyone is calm.

Recognizing that even small problems can teach big lessons that can be looked back on when larger issues occur.  Here is an example of what we are talking about.  Lets say we have a 5 year old who is playing with their blocks.  As they try to build this large tower it falls over and our  year old is getting very frustrated (the buildup).  Eventually the blocks topple (the spark).  When this happened our 5 year old kicks the blocks and lets out a scream (the explosion).  Soon though he back to playing with the blocks (the aftermath).

As a parent I may be looking at this and be willing to let him continue to play since it ended as quickly as it started, no one else was involved, and we were use to seeing this kind of minor outburst on their part.  But in fact this sort of acting out may be the perfect teachable moment.  Teaching anger management on small scale problems may be easier and serve as a foundation for teaching on larger problems as you have success with the smaller ones.

In this stage of the aftermath our goal is to solve the problem and more importantly give our child the tools they need to solve the problems.
Here are 5 steps to coming to resolution with a problem similar to what we described above.  After praising the efforts made to build the tower recognize that he has some strong feeling, but then:
    1. Relabel feeling from anger to ‘frustration’ or whatever the feeling may be.  In our example the child was feeling frustrated that the blocks would not stay in the position he was hoping for.  Frustration is not anger, but a 5 year old may not have that emotion identified yet and certainly may not have the word for it.  In lieu of asking why he is feeling angry, make a statement – “That’s frustrating when the blocks fall down .”
    2. How to solve the problem;  Yes it is difficult but lets try together to build the blocks.  Allow them to fall down and then model what you would like to see. “Whoops they fell down.  Maybe we should try another way.” 
    3.  About your feelings;  If he kicks your blocks you may say that it makes you sad when he kicks the blocks since you do not want to see the blocks broken. 
    4. The rule;  You then tell him the rule “if you kick the blocks they will be put away.” 
    5. The consequence of course is the blocks would be put away.
Then come back to a positive mood by saying how much fun it is to play with him. 

In our teaching moments we would like to stay calm and bracket our correction with praise.  We have a simple formula in our school that we try very hard to stick to, PCP.  Praise, Correct, Praise.  Try this at home and see how it works for you. 

The next time I am going to discuss the 5 needs of every human no matter their age and you will see how this will help you in teaching your children anger management.

Anger management: speaking calmly

When it comes to solving the situation that faces us, we know that using our words in effective ways is key to calming down any of our responses.  We have learned from others that expressing our feelings and why we feel that way to the other person is the first step.  We will want to use “I” messages, no matter what age they are.  None of us want to hear someone blame us for something or tell us don’t do this or that.  It does not matter if we are a youngster or an adult.  What touches us is when we know how our action affected the feelings of another person. Recognizing those feelings is practicing empathy.

So if I am a child I may say, ” I feel angry when you kick my blocks down”, and if we are talking to our parents we want to say, “I feel frustrated (angry, disappointed or whatever the feeling is) when I do not get to have a play date.”  Then the conversation begins with more control and less emotions of the moment. 

When parents set the example by doing the same in return to their children, it models to the child anger management.  None of us want to or set out to hurt each other. Learning to calm ourselves down before we make a choice that we regret later is one of the most important self defense we will ever practice.

Empathy: predicting feelings

While it is important to figure out by looking at someone or a situation what someone is feeling, it is just as important to predict how someone may feel if you speak or if you act in a certain way.  When we are able to predict how someone may feel given a set of circumstances, we can gauge how and what we may say or do.  

This is an important social skill that we can teach our children by playing a game with them or by just simple conversation.  We may ask them, “Lauren just moved and will be going to a new school tomorrow. How do you think she will feel?”   We can make up other scenarios that may be applicable to our own children that would be good for them to consider the feelings of others.

When we take children out of the scenario, their own emotions about the situation do not get involved and they can express clearly what may happen.  When the time is appropriate you can compare it to a situation that they are in and it will be easier for them to understand how they may respond with more empathy.

When we are in the middle of a situation, especially if there are emotions involved, it can be very difficult to be empathetic.  Practicing predicting the feelings of others can be helpful for all of us, child or adult.

Confidence & body language

Our body language conveys the message of our thoughts and it can be read by almost everyone. We know how it works. Chin up, shoulders back, chest out, brisk walk, strong voice – all convey the confident attitude.
On the other side of the coin chin down, shoulders slumped, slow walk, dragging your feet, weak voice all convey an lack of confidence. The interesting thing here is that our physiology has an effect on our emotions and confidence. If we carry our body in the manner that demonstrates no confidence we will have less.
But you say I don’t feel confident. Then try this. Put your body in a confident position, smile and visualize yourself doing the task you are not so confident about. Then as you approach the task keep that smile, hold that body position, and allow your friends and parents to encourage you. You will be surprised at the results.

Trustworthiness: not cheating or stealing

Being trustworthy is one of those qualities that we expect and want in our children.  As a parent we want our children to do what is right, to tell the truth and to be fair by not cheating or stealing.  Due to the busy schedule everyone has today though, we sometimes overlook the idea of deliberately teaching the virtues that we would like to see in our child.
If we wait to discuss with our children the character trait that leads to not cheating or stealing until there is an incident, we will find that the emotions are too high to make any inroads on that subject.   It is the reason that we at Balanced Life Skills are committed to discussing these with our students when there are no obvious reason to do so.
Cheating and stealing is what we will be discussing this week and the affect it has on our ability to be trusted by others.  As many times in the past, we will be emphasizing that the consequence of cheating or stealing is the loss of trust and we practice trustworthiness because it is the right thing to do.
This would be a great time for parents to tie into our discussions at home by asking your child what they would do if they saw one of their friends cheating in a game, or copying off of someone’s paper.  Or what would they do if they saw someone taking something that did not belong to them?  These type of short conversations where we listen deeply and express our family’s belief on this subject will have a great impact on their conduct later in their life.

Sticks and Stones do what?

Getting in touch with our emotions and feeling the pain or suffering of others is a very sure way of becoming more compassionate as a parent, friend and a leader.  This week at our school we will be discussing the impact of our words and actions on others.  We have all heard the adage “Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me.”  But as we grow up we learn that this is not very true.
Our words are powerful, and when we use kind and uplifting words we can make others feel great and work hard at becoming their best and if we use words that tear down they can cause anyone to turn inside and for protection and one day demonstrate very angry actions.
As some of you may know my father passed away when I was a very young teenager and had been bedridden sick for much of my life.  Unfortunately one of the only experiences that I remember with him is a time when he was trying to play with me and I did not perform the way he thought I should, he called me “stupid”.  Words are so powerful that here I am nearly 50 years later and that is my memory.
So what kind of words can you use when dealing with our kids, mates, and work companions.  What are some words that someone has said to you that has made you feel better?