This continues a new series of posts excerpted from Monkeytraps in Everyday Life: A Guide for Control Addicts (in press). It’s about psychological monkeytraps: what they are, how they work, and how recovering control addicts can learn to notice when they’ve trapped themselves by trying to control what cannot or should not be controlled. Read the introduction to the series here.
Trap 11: Child, angry
Step 1: I experience discomfort.
I am upset by my child’s angry behavior.
Step 2: I misread the discomfort.
“I must make this behavior go away.”
Step 3: I try to control the discomfort.
I punish my child for expressing anger.
Step 4: My attempt fails.
Punishment makes my child angrier.
Step 5: I misread the failure.
“My punishments are not severe enough.”
Step 6: I experience discomfort.
My child’s anger and my upset both worsen.
Kids and anger
“The truth about rage is that it only dissolves when it is really heard and understood, without reservation.”
~ Carl Rogers
Acknowledging the anger, as well as the more threatening feelings under the anger
If you can keep yourself from getting triggered and acknowledge why your child is upset, his anger will begin to calm. That will help him feel safe enough to feel the more vulnerable emotions driving the anger. Once the child can let himself experience his grief over the broken treasure, his hurt that his mother was unfair, his shame when he didn’t know the answer in class, or his fear when his classmate threatened him, those feelings begin to heal. As those vulnerable feelings begin to fade away, he no longer needs his anger to defend against them — so the anger vanishes.
By contrast, if we don’t help kids feel safe enough to feel those underlying emotions, they will just keep losing their tempers, because they don’t have any other way to cope with the upsets inside them. These kids often seem to have “a chip on their shoulder” because they lug around resentments; a feeling that life is against them. They’re always ready to get angry.
~ 10 Tips to Help Your Child Deal with Anger at AhHa parenting