For many mums, anger starts from the smallest things.
“No I am not packing away”
It escalates as her little voice rises, toys are thrown around the room, now screaming in defiance, fists and arms striking at anyone or thing that comes near. All the while, me, mother, the one who is ‘in charge” coos and talks and encourages. Blood slowly set to simmer, the heat of anger rising, until SNAP, out comes the roar of mama.
Anger is real and while we all try our best not to yell and scream at our kids, it is there. But there are a number of things about anger that we don’t talk about.
“I never thought of myself as an angry person,” a friend said as we sat watching our children traverse a row of hanging tubes and discs in the playground. “That was until I become a parent”
I know this feeling and so do many other parents I know and work with. So strange that we start to feel anger more around those who we love more than any other.
You can use the love you have to moderate your anger. Look for the thing that they are doing well and start there.
“You are so strong and determined. That is so important. And I am feeling a frustrated though, because I would like us to work together.”
Anger is about protection
And maybe it isn’t so strange when we see that anger is often triggered by our need to protect. To protect our child, especially when their behaviour puts them or others in danger. Hitting out is often a big trigger for many parents.
If it is about protection, it can be really useful to start there. For example:
“I am feeling anger because I need to protect your sister, and what you are doing is putting her at harm.”
It is also about boundaries
Maybe the trigger in the pack-away scenario is more about boundaries. Anger is a way for us to know that our boundaries have been messed with. Dress ups back in the box, books back on the shelf, dolls back in the dolls house are what I ask my kids to do to take responsibility. Otherwise I clean up and that breeches my boundary. And as we all know children push boundaries, it is that part of their development.
Getting clear about the ‘what’ and ‘why’ around your boundaries can make it clearer for everyone.
“It is important for me that we all clean up together. This home is for all of us, and so it the job of packing away”
Judgment and expectation weigh in
If I didn’t have that expectation that toys were to be packed away, I wouldn’t get angry if it didn’t happen. Just as I have a judgement that packing away is the ‘right’ think to do. There tends to be a belief that “I am right and you are wrong”
It is really helpful to check in here about your judgement and expectations. Are they really important? Are there really fair?
Anger comes in a cocktail
Some people believe that anger is a secondary emotion. I don’t know if it is or not or if it even matters one way or another. But as with most emotional responses, they usually come in a cocktail. There can be a layer of sadness, fear, jealousy, anxiety and so on running under or over the anger.
Feeling into what the anger feels like in your body can help you see what else is going on. This can be hard to do in the heat of the moment. Removing yourself from wihat is simulating your anger can help with this.
It can feel good
Letting anger take over can feel powerful, potent and even effective at getting the situation under control again. And that is the powerful part of anger, it gives a great amount of energy to making something happen.
You may like to try different ways to use the powerful energy. That power creates the impetus to say something. Taking deep breaths and centering yourself before expressing what needs to be said can help the message get across.
Anger that is not expressed doesn’t just go away
Controlling yourself to not speak of what angers you may stop you yelling and screaming but the anger still remains. It can be stored in your body as resentment that will continue to seek ways to be heard.
If you are supressing your anger, it is important to find an outlet. It may be making time to speak of it later when you are not so angry, or write it down so you can process it.
Anger can be expressed in different ways
Just because I am angry doesn’t mean that I have to yell and scream, there are other ways to express anger. Seeing your anger and finding less aggressive ways to express it can make it easier for the other person to hear you.
Taking deep breaths, leaving the room, feeling your feet, imagining a circle of fire around you, these are all ways you can work with that fiery energy of anger. Then when you are past feeling like exploding, you can speak your truth.
Anger is more likely to happen when you are alone with your kids
Yet seems that when we are alone with our kids we are more likely to express our anger.
Making yourself accountable to your kids can help with this. This involves talking to your kids about how you don’t what to yell and express your anger in that way and keeping the dialogue open about it.
What about shame?
A lot of parents feel huge amounts of shame when they express their anger by yelling. Shame kicks in when the self-talk goes from, “I don’t feel good about how I dealt with my anger” to “I am a bad person”.
We all have times of anger and if the shame monster jumps on your back about it, find someone to talk to about it that understands you. Shame grows weaker in the light of understanding.
We all feel anger at times and it is such an important part of our experience of life. It protects us, gets us to speak up for injustice and for those who can’t be heard. It also has the power to breakdown connections, invoke fear and diminish trust. And if we don’t express it, it eats us from the inside out. Tricky stuff.
As a mother, I am on the rocky and imperfect moment-by-moment journey to own, hear and express my anger with compassion, care and honesty. Some days it is easy and some days I am only just holding it together. And each day I learn from it.
I would love to hear about how you are doing with your relationship with anger in the comments below.
For more information on working with the emotions in the throws of parenthood check out Trish’s Website www.connectful.me