Why are we so surprised when kids react normally, and get angry and lash out? All the reporting around teenager Peter Huhne’s vitriolic texts to his dad Chris seem to forget that Huhne’s son was naturally furious that his dad, the former Energy Secretary had forced his mother to take his speeding points and then run off with another woman. In my mind his anger and lashing out were surely a normal response. After all isn’t anger a defense against deeper feelings of fear, hurt, disappointment, and pain.
I saw the same thing today at a playgroup. My friend’s two year old was playing with a doll in a pram when another child came along, grabbed the doll and pushed the pram over. The two year old reacted as kids do and went ballistic, whacking the other child over. My friend then rushed over to make her apologise (fuelled by embarrassment she said later), which inevitably led to a bigger meltdown from the child. Later my friend told me that her daughter has a problem with anger. I don’t know if this is true but she doesn’t seem to have many more outbursts than my own two year old son. Plus I know if the same thing had happened to him, he would have reacted in exactly the same way.
I think it’s a hard lesson to learn as a parent but as a child psychologist I know says, one of our jobs is not only let get our kids express their anger but also learn to manage it by recognising what lies beneath it. In many cases I know I rush to stop the anger my children feel rather than let them find ways to manage it (I think probably because I’m not the best at managing my own angry outbursts). I’m told the best solution is not to stop the anger in it’s tracks, but to help them name the emotion and then help them find ways to make it better.
Which is why I think we should give this poor teenager a break rather than be shocked at his texts, which lets face it weren’t for the world to see. Let him get it his anger off his chest – after all surely that’s better than keeping it locked up inside to explode at a later date?
So what do you do when your kids get angry? Let us know your best calming tips.