If you have a good friend, especially one that has been around for a long time, that is a very special feeling and privilege. For some they may have a friend that they had from some of their schooling days – whether it is primary or college days. As the one saying goes “To have a good friend, you must be a good friend.”
So we want our children to develop those sort of friendships that last a long time. In fact it is with those sort of friendships that middle and high school are going to be easier to navigate. It is not about just being popular, it is about healthy relationships between two individuals.
Developing friends and keeping them does not come easily for all children or adults. So what should you do if your child is having trouble making or keeping friends? We will spend some time this month looking at ways we can be a good friend and how others are good friends to us. Continue reading “Friendship: Qualities of good friends”
Depending on the age of the child, understanding the feelings of others may be difficult, if only due to developmental reasons. A five year old has one emotional ability and a 12 year old another. One thing though that does happen is that when they are angry no matter there age or training – they will be blinded to someone else’s feelings.
Developing this empathy will help them to understand that all of us have feelings and just as we react to how others treat us, we too can react to how others feel. Some children though who have had painful lives, may defend themselves by shutting down their sensitivity to others. Or they may use intimidation and fear as a part of their defense.
Teaching empathy is a two fold. First every child needs to understand feelings and they need adults around them whom they can trust. With our younger children, increasing their “feelings vocabulary”, is very important to them identifying both their own and others feelings.
If we find older children are having difficulty with understanding the feelings of others, encourage them to write down stories in a journal. If they have a problem get them to write or or talk about what happened – from the other persons point a view.
Finally as a parent or teacher, describing our own experiences and the emotions that we feel can be very helpful. They can identify that you have faced difficult situations or may still be dealing with them, and they will learn to empathize.
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.
We have all seen the child or the adult that sees others as the cause of their anger. Someone, or something provokes them, and their anger is the “reasonable response”, from their point of view. Its not their fault if they loss their temper because… This is a way of sidestepping the responsibility for their feelings and reactions and the damage that they may cause.
One of the reasons they take this position is because of feeling out of control over their lives. They may feel like their is very little they can do about a situation and in fact the pain that they are feeling and they are upset at those they they believe caused that pain. They feel like they cannot stop what is happening and so they go into the fight or flight mode – and they choose to fight. This lack of power they are feeling is brought on by not knowing that there may be a solution to the issue. The more they blame others the more they believe it and the more angry they become.
Some of the favorite methods they might use, actually brings more trouble to them and you will probably recognize some of these. They may speak in a sarcastic manner, criticize others, get in your face because of not knowing when to back off, or nag until the other persons patience is gone. Here is what we want to remember though: Even if there is a reason for the reaction and the anger, it does not absolve one of the responsibility. There is a difference from explanation and excuses, but that is hard for a child or an adult to see, especially if they have used these tactics for a period of time.
Even when children or adults continue to find a way of not taking responsibility and blaming others, we must recognize they are still feeling the pain and would very much like to get rid of the pain. One nine year old said, “One part of my brain tells me to stay calm and another part tells me to by angry. I can’t help it if the angry side wins.” What you hear in this is a cry for help, a desire for understanding from others and to feel like they are in control of their feelings. They don’t want to feel powerless.
What can we do to help a child or an adult who feels like this? We must teach them to recognize the causes of the anger and suggest alternative resolutions to the problems. This takes time and patience. My personal example I think is a good one for that. Every year at the beginning of November I became a bear to be around. I was short with everyone and took nothing from nobody. After looking at this deeply I realized that this was the time of the year that my father passed away when I was very young and subconciously I was still reacting to this. I was 32 years old when I figured that out. It takes patience. But please remember that patience is part of the lesson of problem solving.
Like in most things you will not solve problems by using the same thing against the problem. Do not shout, blame or have pointless discussions that the person deserved what they got. It solves nothing. Find a way to suggest that even if someone else is to blame that we need to find a solution to handle this that benefits you. This will be very helpful to the angry child or adult.
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.
I have heard of therapist and psychologist suggest to individuals that it is a good idea if you are angry to go and take it out on your pillow. One person in fact bought a soft object from me that was made for swinging to be used by her client to hit objects in her room – just to get the anger out. So what do you think about this? I believe that if we take to hitting things when we are angry that we are practicing what we would really like to do. In fact we may one day when we are really angry not be able to control ourselves and actually do what we have practiced for all of those years, except this time it may be a real person.
We see this sometimes when someone, usually a man, who cannot control themselves, puts their fist through the wall. Eventually they will hit someone and create some very difficult situations for themselves. So what is the answer? We need to check in with our feelings and recognize that we are feeling anger. When we check in we may recognize that the feeling is not anger as much as it is frustration, jealousy, embarrassment or some other feeling. Once we recognize this we can ask ourselves, How can I calm down? It may be one of the four ways we suggested in an earlier post, or it may be another way that works for us. Then the question is, how do I solve this problem?
How to solve the problem is always interesting because we have an entire list of ways of doing this. Next time we will examine solving the problem.