I’ve heard tons of parents say it. “No, Sweetheart. Of course I’m not mad at you. Nothing could ever make me mad at you.”
While it may seem like the right thing to say, it’s something that I will never tell my own daughter. If I’m angry with her, I let her know about it. This may come across as rude; some may even find it hateful. I see it as being honest with myself and my child.
Anger is a normal and healthy emotion. It’s something that we all experience for various reasons, and with various people. Whether we like to admit it or not, sometimes we experience anger with our children. Maybe they’ve got an attitude that just won’t quit. Or maybe they’re blatantly ignoring you when you tell them something. Whatever the reason may be, we’ve all been mad at our kids, and our kids get mad at us. It’s normal.
When this happens with my child, I choose to simply be honest with her. If she’s not listening or being exceptionally “attitude-y” I let her know, “I’m angry with you.” I don’t do this to hurt her feelings, or to make her feel guilty or bad about herself. I tell her this because it’s the truth. She’s made me angry.
By doing so, I feel that I’m helping my child to acknowledge that anger is a normal emotional response and it’s something that should be dealt with properly. And, I’m making her accountable for her actions. I feel that this helps her to understand that when you do “this”, generally people will react like “this”. It’s no different than telling your child that they’ve made you sad, or happy or proud. Anger is an emotion like any other and it deserves acknowledgment just like the rest.
I don’t want my daughter to be taught to hide her anger or disappointment. And, at the tender young age of 3, she’s looking to me to determine what emotions are and how they should be handled. When she does something to make me angry, I explain to her that I am mad, I let her know what she’s done to cause that emotional response and then I work with her to remedy the situation. I don’t yell at her. I don’t fuss. And, I certainly don’t spank her.
By explaining the situation at hand, recognizing my emotional response and agreeing upon a resolution with her I’ve shown her how to handle her anger. I don’t pretend that I don’t feel it, because I don’t want her to pretend that she doesn’t either. I want her to understand what anger feels like, I want her to know that it’s normal, and I want her to be able to handle her anger appropriately. By ignoring the emotion, it signifies that it’s not important.
We all want to shout to the rooftop when we’re proud of our children or excited for them. When they’ve done something that makes us happy, we’re quick to let them know. The same should go for every emotion. The first few years of a child’s life are the most crucial when it comes to developing their emotional and mental health. As I referenced in my Peaceful Parenting article, children don’t understand how to handle their emotional responses yet. They don’t know that what they’re feeling is anger, or sadness or excitement. That’s when they look to us, as their parents, for those answers. It is just as imperative that we teach them what anger feels like as it is happiness. Well-rounded emotional health includes ALL emotions. Not just the fun ones.
So, while it’s obviously important to encourage your child’s “happy” emotions, don’t leave out that “bad” ones either. Always praise them when they’ve done well, show your excitement, pride and happiness to the extreme. But, please don’t ignore that anger, disappointment and sadness. When they’ve done something to trigger those emotions for you, let them know in a calm and loving way, and encourage them to do the same! Explain to them exactly what you’re feeling and what made you feel that way. Work with them to rectify the situation; teach them the best way to handle ALL of your emotions. This is what will help you send successful, well-rounded adults out into the world. They’ve had a wonderful example in their parents.