“Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter 8: “Mad Is Not Bad”

One of the most difficult things for a parent to do is to acknowledge a child’s intense expressions of anger – and to validate that anger as real.”

Have you ever struggled with that? Or with helping your child manage what behavior is acceptable when they are angry?

The authors validate in this chapter that as parents we can be very uncomfortable with anger as an emotion coming from our children.  And mothers in the audience, we can be even more uncomfortable at times because many women are peacemakers by nature and by conditioning.  The authors relate many stories within this chapter where parents recount how they were not allowed to express anger.

Anger is not a bad emotion.  To me, it is an emotion that is a warning bell, and one that often covers up feelings of frustration, fear or unmet needs.

Our job as parents is to accept anger as a normal emotion and to recognize that the angry things children say are not the same as actions.  This by itself is helpful, although the authors write, “There are no miraculous responses that will make intense feelings of fear, rage, sadness, and jealously just disappear in a cloud of smoke.”   This points to what many parents do:   listen to these strong emotions for a bit, acknowledge these emotions, but once they do this they expect the child to “get better” and move on.  How hard it can be to let our children work through their own feelings!

This chapter also talks about how some parents give in to their children a lot because they worry about the child and the child’s anger and what will happen if the child gets angry.  Many times they are actually not worried that the child will hurt himself or herself or the parent, but that the child will hate them.

The authors write in response to this:  “No parent is comfortable watching a child losing it, and we have to stop them from hurting themselves or us.  Children have moments when they really do hate us, but we can’t allow that to stop us from setting limits, no matter how mad they get.  It helps if we don’t automatically assume that a child’s angry response proves that there is something wrong with us……  To one parent, one of the authors said, “You can expect to be tested, but try not to let his extreme behavior make you back down.  It won’t always work- that is, it won’t prevent your son from being upset and challenging you.  But the alternative is to abdicate your role as parent.”

This chapter has a list made of acceptable and non-acceptable ways children express their anger as made by parent participants in one of the author’s workshops.  It was an interesting list, and I encourage those of you who have the book take a look at it!  There was also an interesting discussion regarding what you, as an adult, do to express your anger – and how some adults never want to admit to being angry.

There is also a section on when children talk back or “talk fresh” as it is referred to in the book.  This can be a hot button for so many parents, and I wish this section was longer since it only provided one situation.

One of the closing statements to this chapter is this: “anger can lead to positive action. It is a signal that something isn’t right – and the power of the angry emotion can serve as a catalyst for bringing about change.”  I agree with this, and have written many posts around this notion before.

What did you all think of this chapter?

Many blessings,

4 thoughts on ““Love And Anger: The Parental Dilemma”–Chapter 8: “Mad Is Not Bad”

  1. hi carrie, this is a great topic to address. only yesterday, i was telling my just turned 3yearold that it was ok to be angry but not to hit. i wasnt sure exactly what to tell him was ok, so i said when mommy is angry she breathes deeply or makes a grunting sound! 🙂

  2. I think this chapter sounds great. I can remember my mother telling me I wasn’t really angry with her – just her power over me, and it was so hurtful and actually incorrect. So I’m pleased that you mentioned that for short times our children do really hate us.
    I agree anger is a sign of something else being out of kilter. For our boys it’s either disconnection or being overwhelmed.

    Another thing we differentiate between is violence and anger.

  3. We’ve struggled with this for sometime now and I really don’t know how to show the difference between anger and violence to our daughter. (we’ve tried the ‘hit a pillow instead!’ and encouraged her to say “I’m sooo angry!”) but when she’s engrossed in play and her sister (or anyone) changes something or ruins an important aspect – the claws come out and it’s so quick that it’s over before we can say “claw the pillow!”. The worst part is that i can see where she’s coming from but it doesn’t make it ok and since trying to fit in at kindy we (the kindy teachers and I) have basically tried to quash her temper- which is terrible but we need to survive. I want to validate her feelings but is doing it after the fact still valid?

    • Kate – Is she Kindy aged? I don’t know as you need to validate much, but be able to channel her behavior into something else. If she is being aggressive, there must be a consequence and there must be resitution. The consequence, if her hands and feet forget what they are doing is she must go by an adult for a time and engage those hands in meaningful, helpful work. Then restitution must be made to help the person whom she has hurt. I think acknowledging frustration can be helpful for some children, but it sounds more as if it all goes too fast to really say, “Let’s try this..” etc. In her case, a warning of activity change may be helpful, a strong rhythm to things may be helpful. It sounds as if this is happening at school and home, so I also wonder about things such as diet, food sensitivities, sleep, enough physical exercise, if she is in involved in a lot of things outside of school and home…
      Don’t know if any of those things are helpful…
      Take what resonates with you,

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