Reuben's had a couple of pretty rough moments this week. Things have made him really mad, and I have watched as his body and mind explode with frustration. How can such a small body deal with the amount of anger that is coursing through it?
Heck, I don't know. My body and mind are a good bit bigger than his, and I deal with anger that is way bigger than can fit inside of me. I have learnt in recent months that anger is all about adrenalin. That it floods your body and has to find some kind of outlet. I watch this happening in Reuben and I feel for him. I recognise what's going on in there and I know what it feels like.
My patience and energy levels are pretty low and there are so many things that I don't know how to manage when it comes to helping my kids. There are other times when I do know the right way, and I still don't do it. But one time this week as Reuben's little body flapped around the floor in frustration, I think I did it the way I want to. I sat with him, I spoke gentle words in between the yelling, and I waited. That is all. When he calmed down and I got him distracted for a few minutes, I employed a technique that was suggested to me a while ago. I grabbed a pen and paper and drew a happy face, a sad face and a mad face. He knew what it was about, we've done it a couple of times in less intense situations. I asked him to tell me which one he had felt like. He smiled, pointed to the mad face, and looked up at me, his face absolutely glowing. It seems to me that it just felt so good to tell me what it had felt like. I asked him how he felt now, and he pointed to the happy face. It unlocked the door to a remarkable conversation where I discussed how bad it feels when you're mad, and he told me what it was that led to him getting in to that state. It was gold.
Parents, I wonder if you have ever tried this with your little guys. If not, you may like to give it a go. I'm sure it's an idea that is familiar to many, but I'm glad I heard about it. I'm passionate about my kids learning how to recognise their feelings and verbalise them (and "let them out" if need be), and this has been a great way for Reuben to start.
Somewhere in the midst of this rather challenging week I put a question up on my facebook page asking parents how they mange their children's anger. There were no responses. This may have been a reluctance to share private family matters in a public space, or to get in to a discussion where different approaches might be critiqued. Or it may have just been a hard one to answer. But I would love to know, simply for the sake of helping me find my place on this - how do you manage anger with your kids? Is it ok for your children to be angry? How are they allowed to express it? How are they not allowed to express it? Would you be happy to share how it works in your family and how you worked out those guidelines? We won't do any critiquing. And as I read and ponder, I'll join in and let you know where we're heading with our family guidelines. Having some seems like a good idea.