There is a fantastic video online recently from a mom who is trying to teach her daughter to communicate more effectively called “Oh you big mad”
This mom is a proponent of a parenting style called “Gentle Parenting.” I’m not, actually, a strong proponent of that system – I think (like a lot of great ideas) this style is too rigid for parents and not structured enough for most kids and therefore doesn’t prepare them well for the ups and downs of dealing with everyone else in the world. But (like a lot of great ideas) there is gold to be mined here and this video offers some of that.
Even better, her focus on the value of anger goes way beyond parenting. This is a great framework for any of us.
This mom, in a straightforward, no-nonsense way, asks her angry child: “What is your anger trying to tell you?”
She has empathy for the feeling AND asks her daughter to learn from her feeling!
I’m suggesting we can all do the same. When you’re feeling something strong, something that pushes you to behave in ways that are damaging to you, try to put in a speedbump that has
- Empathy (yes, for yourself): “This is HARD for me. I feel angry.”
- Curiosity: “What is my anger trying to tell me?”
Do you have a boundary that has been crossed? Are you doing something that is counter to your values or priorities? Are you overwhelmed or have a need that you aren’t communicating to yourself?
As an adult you get to decide what you’re going to do with the answer. We can’t always change the situation, but often we can. And further, there is a lot of evidence that naming and knowing your obstacle has value even if no solution is immediate or obvious.
That’s right. Naming and knowing how you feel can improve your situation even if you can’t immediately change it. As a kid, learning to name and know your feelings and what they are telling you is crucial. Don’t worry that you might not be able to fix it for that child, or that you might choose not to do that. They are learning to communicate to themselves and their people what matters to them – and looking to anger (or any other strong emotion) as information is a strong way to avoid using anger as an excuse for bad behavior.
Have you been angry recently? What was it trying to tell you?
All my best,