Experience with anger may leave you with the idea that all anger is bad. Yelling at your children for cooperation doesn't leave you feeling very positively. Watching your children fight when they are angry doesn't give you any warm feelings either. But, anger does have its purpose in our lives and can teach us a thing or two about how to have healthier, happier relationships.
Here are five ways that anger can be a good thing:
1. Anger protects. When your child is in danger your mind will automatically kick into a “fight or flight” reaction that can result in anger. You don't have time to stop and ponder a course of action when your child is in the middle of the street! Anger short cuts our thinking brain to allow us to act quickly. This is nature's way of protecting your family from harm.
2. Anger signals. The purpose of anger is to destroy problems in our lives, not our relationships. When something needs to dramatically change, anger not only lets you know but it gives you the power to do something about it. For example, if your child's doctor won't listen to your concerns, getting angry can stir things up and get a problem diagnosed and solved.
3. Anger rules. Your child left his toys all over the house again! Tired of yelling at your child to get his cooperation. That only reinforces the annoying behavior. Your anger may be telling you that expectations are too high, the rule is not clear enough, or that you are not following through on consequences consistently. Use the energy of your anger to communicate the rule (again) and then follow it up with consistent, age appropriate discipline.
4. Anger talks. What we say to ourselves affects our emotional state. If we tell ourselves we are bad parents then we may act like bad parents. If we tell ourselves we are doing the best we can under stressful circumstances we will react with less hostility and frustration. Practice listening to that little "anger voice" and challenge some of the misperceptions you hold of yourself and your child. Ask some honest friends to help you be objective in your inner inventory. If what you are saying to yourself is true, use this information to make changes in your parent/child relationship.
5. Anger teaches. Our anger management styles are learned from our own parents. If Mom was a yeller, we may follow her example, even if we vowed never to yell at our kids. Fortunately, if you learned one anger expression style you can learn another. Separate the idea that feeling anger is bad. That is natural and unavoidable but what you do with those hot emotions is completely under your control -- with some practice. Allow yourself permission to find new ways to cope with daily parenting hassles by taking a class or reading a book on anger management.