It can be argued that anger is not a feeling, but a reaction to a feeling.
* When your child says hurtful things to you, you feel sad, or hurt, and react by yelling at her to go to her room until she has something nice to say.
* When your partner doesn’t follow through with what they said they would do, you feel disappointed, and react by insulting their character- calling them lazy or accusing them of never following through.
* When your kids are preventing you from getting out of the house on time in the morning, and you realize you are going to be late for work yet again, you feel overwhelmed, and react by yelling at them.
* When your partner has been working long hours and you have been by yourself with the kids for four days, you feel depleted, and react by dismissing their attempt to connect with you.
Your anger is almost always justified, or understandable, but it isn’t effective in the long run.
* Sending your daughter to her room will not teach her to be careful with her words.
* Attacking your partner’s character will not make them more likely to follow through with things.
* Yelling at your kids will not motivate them to be more efficient with their morning routine.
* Dismissing your partner’s bid for connection will not fulfill your need for self-care.
Expressing your anger through yelling, shaming, or withholding affection seems to provide results because the recipient of your anger typically changes their behavior in the moment pretty quickly.
But at what cost? Disconnection? Hurt? Broken trust? Teaching them the same ineffective means of problem solving?
I’ve never come across a parent who feels good about the fact that they yelled at their child, regardless of the behaviors that precipitated it.
So, let’s try something different. Let’s try going beneath the anger and identifying the feeling and the need, and expressing those instead.
Continuing with the above examples, that process may look something like this:
* I feel really hurt when you say those things to me. It’s okay for you to be angry at me, but I need you to express it in a different way.
* I feel disappointed that you didn’t make that happen. What would help you to remember things that are outside your normal routine? Maybe a reminder on your phone? Let me know if you need help coming up with ideas.
* I’m feeling really overwhelmed because there is a lot that still needs to be done before we can leave. Can you help me right now? Later tonight, we can figure out a plan to help us get out the door faster in the mornings.
* I’m happy you are home, but I feel really depleted right now, and need some time to myself to recharge. Let’s find some time to connect later today, or tomorrow.
New ways of doing things are rarely easy.
But, the first time you hear your child say something like, “I feel sad when you take my things without asking- please make sure to check with me first next time”, to their sibling, instead of yelling at them, you will see that it was worth the effort.
Take it from me, a recovering yeller…