Want to know what I think is hands-down, bar-none, one of THE most important things you could ever teach your kids? Understanding, labeling, and coping with their emotions.
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Don't believe me? Let me give you some examples:
Jealousy- Jealous of your neighbors, jealous of something someone else has that you don't, jealous when someone you love gives too much attention for your liking to something or someone else.... what do you normally do? Get mad at that person/thing? I thought so :)
Frustration- When you are frustrated that your kids are destroying your house, that someone isn't listening to you.... what is your normal response? Anger?
(those are probably the 2 most common feelings that are covered up by anger- but I know adults who get mad when they are actually sad and could use a good cry, and I've even seen someone get mad when they were unsuspectingly surprised!)
Children are especially prone to expressing anger instead of their true emotions. Intense excitement for something can result in anger due to lack of patience or a misunderstanding of suspense. Embarrassment is often covered up by anger, and obviously frustration and jealousy.
It's not that most children WANT to feel mad... they just haven't quite figured out the more complex feelings they are experiencing besides Happy, Sad, and Mad.
So how can you help them?
Well now that you know that anger is a cover-up emotion, next time your child is upset about something instead of sending them straight to time-out, (click here for time-out alternatives)
TALK WITH THEM and get to the bottom of their true feelings.
Identify and label the feeling with them.
and Teach them proper coping mechanisms
FYI- There are a TON of healthy ways to cope!
It's perfectly OK to cry!
It's perfectly OK to feel the need to scream (but please scream in your room into a pillow because that's the respectful thing to do for those around you)
and it's perfectly OK to get upset. I'm not telling you that they (or you) should never be upset.
Anger is just usually the first emotion to show up! The trick is to break through it so you can process your feelings and find the appropriate coping mechanism!
Because people (and children) who get angry and don't know how to cope usually break things or harm others. Unprocessed anger is bad for the soul. It leads to hate, resentment, and sometimes violence.
Sometimes you don't need a coping mechanism at all! Once you realize that you weren't really mad, you were actually just really disappointed, or frustrated, or overwhelmed- you can just solve the problem causing the emotional distress to begin with!
For example, if your child is overwhelmed, teach him to take it one step at a time, help him with whatever it is that's overwhelming him, (in our house it's usually about picking up toys) Label the feeling for him so he can become aware of the difference between feeling angry and feeling overwhelmed.
This is a fantastic parenting tool by-the-way. Imagine the breakthroughs you can have with your children! Especially anger-prone children.
I created these Monster Emotion Cards as a Montessori-type aid in teaching my son more complex emotions. When I gave them too him we had a fun child-led discussion about each one. He had so many questions!
"What is this one feeling?"
me: "He's feeling frustrated"
"Why is he feeling frustrated?"
me: I don't know... when do you feel frustrated?"
"uuummm... I don't know."
me: "How about when Mommy is on the computer and doesn't listen to you?" (GUILTY!)
"Yes. That makes me feel VEEEERRY frustrated!"
I now have them taped on our fridge for easy referencing.
These would be fun to frame and decorate with as well