Anger isn’t something wrong, or something bad, as we often think it is. It is our responses to anger, on the other hand, that can be inappropriate or hurtful. Anger is a natural emotion that deserves to be honored as any other emotion does, but most of us never learn how to deal with it because we were punished for acting out on our anger as children.
My husband and I are trying to manage our own anger as we teach our daughter how to handle hers appropriately. We don’t believe in pushing feelings down as we were taught to our whole lives; instead, we believe in talking about our feelings, or doing an activity that helps us express ourselves and feel better afterward, such as art or a physical sport.
We are reading a book called Anh’s Anger right now to help illustrate how anger is something we always have with us, just as we have sadness, happiness, and other emotions inside our bodies. Gail Silver’s book is really a wonderful book to read, because it deals with an everyday occurrence that most kids are familiar with and a concrete example of how to deal with it. When young Anh gets angry because he has to stop playing to eat dinner, he rages at his grandfather. His grandfather calmly sends him to his room to calm down. While I like that this is not a time-out, I also don’t like that it doesn’t offer a choice to the child. Forced time-outs can feel like love deprivation.
Once in his room, Anh encounters a monster—his own anger! The monster coaxes him to go say mean things to people, but Anh resists and says they can do something in his room. As they stomp and jump around to express anger in physical yet healthy ways, the monster shrinks smaller and smaller until he is appeased. Anh can then join his grandfather again. When Anh asks his grandfather about it, his grandfather says that yes, he too had to learn how to play well with his anger as a child.
I love this because it makes your anger into a relationship with a part of yourself rather than something you need to fight. Instead of pushing the anger away—and then letting it build up within you until you throw a tantrum, as many of us do!—you sit with it, meditate with it, or even dance around with it as Anh did.