Do your kids ever drive you so crazy that you want to act just like them, lay down on the floor kicking and screaming and flailing your arms to get all your excess energy out? Have you ever tried it? When was the last time you allowed yourself to express your own feelings with that level of intensity?
As parents, we have to learn to model for our children how to express our feelings in healthy ways. When we are not comfortable expressing our own feelings, it is very challenging to help our children to express theirs.
I find many women who are very uncomfortable expressing anger or being able to handle their own anger. Anger is a valid emotion and there is nothing wrong with getting mad. Sometimes we get so much anger stored up inside of us (as kids or adults) that we are afraid to unleash it for fear of what might happen.
This is why it is critical to create acceptable means of exploring anger with your children. I am not saying that it is okay to yell at your children or take your anger and frustration out on them, just like it would not be okay to have them dump their anger on someone else.
It is okay for you to say, “I am so angry at you right now, I need some time to cool off. Please go play for a few minutes and then we can talk.” Then take the time to cool off and go and make peace with your child. The reconnection piece is critical to maintaining healthy relationships with your kids or your spouse.
Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting, is clear that we all make mistakes and slip up. We scream at our kids because we are angry or frustrated and we speak in the heat of the moment, often saying something that we don’t mean. Everyone makes mistakes. The key is to accept responsibility and repair the damage. She teaches what she calls the 3 R’s – Rewind, Repair, Replay. When you inadvertently say something that you don’t mean, stop yourself, look at your child and say, “Rewind. I didn’t mean to say that, that was not nice of me and I am sorry.” You are repairing the emotional damage caused by yelling, insulting, invalidating, etc. Then say, “Let me try again. I love you very much. What you did was wrong and we don’t …(whatever the behavior is.) This simple 3 step tool goes a long way towards modeling to your children what it looks like to work through an argument and to reconnect with your loved ones.
Finally, find creative, fun ways for kids to get their feelings out. Join in and you get the chance to work through yours too. When you know a child is angry, frustrated or just too full of pent up emotions, try one of these activities. First, acknowledge the child’s feelings: “Wow, I can see how mad you are. Why don’t we go use up some of that energy.”
Ideas for dealing with pent up emotions, especially anger and frustration: Shred newspaper/recycled paper, have a pillow fight, bang on a big exercise ball (makes a great bouncy punching bag that will leave them in hysterics,) beat clay or play dough (give them a giant ball of it and let them pound it flat,) or get outside and dig in the dirt or sandbox. Being in the garden, playing in the dirt is very grounding for children and most kids don’t get enough time outdoors in the fresh air.
The key is not to let your emotions or theirs build up until someone explodes. If you need to have a tantrum, have one. You don’t have to do it in front of your kids but it’s okay for you to pound some pillows, too! When we release the emotions, we clear space emotionally and energetically for more love to flow in.
So go shred some paper, dig in the dirt and get physical with your kids. They will thank you for it.
Happy Parenting, Minette