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Parenting children's emotions

'Anger management’ is a bit of a misnomer, isn’t it? The whole point is that anger is a strong emotion: visceral, real, explosive, and often spontaneous. We can all have problems with it from time to time – ‘He has a short fuse’ and ‘Where did that come from?’

Anger can be caused by a huge range of reasons such as annoyance, frustration, agitation, hurt feelings, and embarrassment. Add into the mix tiredness, hunger, and stress, and it can all make a lethal combination. And that’s not to mention what happens with teenagers and hormones!

Some people deal with anger by lashing out with words or fists, while others harbour the feeling away and let it stew. The first, ironically, is probably healthier, as it releases the tension and emotion, whilst the second may be more destructive to someone’s wellbeing.

So, if your child is yelling and shouting, possibly throwing things, stomping, and slamming doors, be reassured. They may be angry, yes, but they are expressing it and starting to explore ways to let their thoughts and feelings be known. Anger is an understandable and real emotion – better to let it out than allow it to fester and turn into something worse.

And then there's the 'Naughty Step'.

The concept of the 'naughty step' probably would win the prize for one of the most mis-sold ideas of all time. Parents around the western world have bought into a concept that, when you realise how polar opposite the IDEA and the PRACTICE are, can cause your jaw to drop.

The original idea for 'the step' was; to help youngsters learn to identify and cope with their emotions, especially anger. Parents were encouraged to take their child aside, talk to them briefly, and then ask them to move to a quiet spot to breathe, calm down, and come to terms with their emotions. A bottom step of the household stairs would be an ideal place, away from the problem. Thus, they were learning to create a 'safe' space, a place to retreat to when overwhelmed, a shelter when their emotions become too much, before they overflowed. As they grew up, it was hoped they could take this concept and adapt it for themselves.

This is where the mis-selling takes place. Instead of creating an emotional oasis, the step became a place of punishment, or banishment when things went wrong. Some parents thought they were being encouraged to tell a child off for releasing emotions. Thus, children grew up thinking that being angry was wrong; that it was naughty and should not be revealed. Instead of learning to deal with anger, they learnt to repress it and feel guilty about it.

Thus, an original great idea which was intended to help children grow as a person, may well have ended up doing damage.

Of course, it is never too late. Helping anyone learn to step back, take breaths, and assess their feelings is good for anyone, young or old.

Feelings are not bad.  It's what we do with them that matters.

Matthew Shroff
Director of Wellbeing

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