“The peaceful home, like the hoped-for peaceful world, does not depend on a sudden benevolent change in human nature. It does depend on deliberate procedures that methodically reduce tensions before they lead to explosions.” (From: “Between Parent and Child,” by Dr. Haim G. Ginott [Revised and Updated], Three Rivers Press, New York 2003)
When I think about things I regret as a father they nearly always are about missed opportunities and poorly expressed anger. I tend to suppress anger and that results in two negative things:
- It eventually comes out, almost always at the wrong time, in the wrong way, at the wrong person.
- We all miss out (kids & me) on a chance to learn and grow.
The assumption behind suppressed anger is that anger is bad and that I’m at my best when I’m not angry. It assumes the best person is the one that “just takes it” and doesn’t react but remains stoic despite the world around them.
Dr. Ginott’s book, “Between Parent and Child,” has been very helpful for me because it provides a perspective that anger needs to be expressed and there is great learning from expressing it. In fact, not expressing anger may actually be causing more of it!
Here are three tips to survival from Ginott that I’ve found helpful in dealing with stressful and volatile situations:
- Accept the fact that we will sometimes get angry in dealing with children.
- Acknowledge that we are entitled to our anger without guilt or shame.
- Except for one safeguard, admit we are entitled to express what we feel. We can express our angry feelings, provided we do not attack the child’s personality or character.
So, we get angry. We should. Yet that never gives us permission to attack a child.
So what does this look like?
- Express what you feel: “I feel annoyed.”
- If necessary, describe what you observe: “The wet towel is on the floor.”
- State the goal: “Towels hang to dry; they aren’t to be used as rugs.”
- Your child will surprise you by responding rather than escalating.
This is a silly example, but I’ve found that sharing accurately with my girls, spouse, and employees can be a gift to them, and more importantly to me. I’m careful and not being destructive but appropriately share my reaction and why I’m reacting the way I am. I also am sharing my values and beliefs and I’ve been surprised how people react when I’m not attacking their personality or character.
How are you learning to share your anger in a helpful way?