We’ve tried everything we can think of to help our son with his anger and nothing seems to help. The more we try to help the more he resists and the more frustrated we get. Any suggestions?
Of all the God-given emotions anger is the most difficult to deal with. Parents struggle more with their own anger than with any other emotion. They also report having more difficulty dealing with their children’s anger.
Anger is a God-given emotion and can be expressed in unhealthy and destructive or healthy and constructive ways. It’s one of the most misunderstood, frequently experienced, and most powerful of all the emotions.
Anger is energy and when we experience anger epinephrine and norepinephrine are pumped into our central and peripheral nervous systems and our body goes on alert—we are ready to react or respond. Unfortunately, most people react in ways that are destructive and harmful since they’ve never learned how to deal with anger in healthy ways.
Most importantly, anger is always a secondary emotion caused by a primary emotion such as fear, hurt or frustration. So whenever your son has anger he always has one or more of those three primary emotions.
While unhealthy anger has tremendous potential for harm, healthy anger has tremendous potential for good. Healthy anger can be a signal, an alarm, a warning sign that something is wrong, that a boundary is being violated, that we are in danger, that there has been an injustice.
As always, the best way to teach our kids is to not just talk about truth but to model it. As your son see’s you experience and express your anger in healthy ways he is much more likely to do the same. Specifically, you can both model and help him:
- Be aware of his anger.
- Process it.
- Accept responsibility for it.
- Decide who or what is going to have control—him or his anger.
- Identify the cause—remember that the primary emotion is almost always hurt, and/or frustration and/or fear.
- Choose his responses (to react or respond) and develop his own solutions.
- Review his responses and what he learned from them.
One of the greatest gifts you can give your son is learning how to manage his anger. The energy of anger, when wisely invested, can provide greater focus and intensity and lead to greater productivity. Martin Luther said: “When I am angry I can write, pray and preach well, for then my whole temperament is quickened, my understanding sharpened, and all mundane vexations and temptations are gone.”