Anger - The Secondary Emotion

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Anger is an emotion that children experience to varying degrees and very differently. I use the term secondary emotion in this case only because I will be discussing anger as an emotion that has been triggered by another feeling or circumstance. That means that to understand or solve an anger issue it is necessary to work with children to understand what is happening before they become or ‘feel’ angry. This is a slow process and requires children to be on an age where they can be ‘self aware’. Some feelings before anger may include feeling afraid, disrespected, offended, pressured, humiliated, embarrassed or trapped. See our follow up posts and upcoming resources for some examples of how children may experience anger. Ie. Volcano, Fireworks or Broken Glass.
Getting a child to identify what anger looks or perhaps feels like for them is a step in identifying cause and finding solutions that work (more on that in upcoming resources).

My personal experience is that both my children respond differently when they are angry. This is because of their personality differences. Children may respond actively to anger, that is some children attack the target or someone or something else verbally or physically when they feel angry. Some children may respond more passively, sulking, feeling hostility or building up tension.

My 9yo - a social, active, outgoing child has always when getting angry said “I can’t control myself, my brain made me do it” at times I have heard from other children with similar personalities say “ I’m afraid, I can’t control it” or “I feel out of control”.

My 8yo - a more black and white child, who is cautious and diligent and when angry ‘sulks’ or retreats or becomes quiet or cries, drew this picture last year (out of his own he’d been working on it for a while at bed time).

He showed me this feeling chart and I found it interesting and asked him what does angry 'look' like and he clenched his jaw and let out a throaty clenched jaw grumble ”grrr”. Amazing, all that tension and no outburst, no tantrum or shouting – just a closed clenched jaw and a groan. Still anger but who would know? and often not something I would have to ‘treat’ or ‘process’? Compare this reaction to the child who throws items of furniture or hits and kicks or screams loudly. It has made me more aware that perhaps this ‘unprocessed’ anger could be contributing to his nightmares or night terrors?

So how does anger l'ook' for you or your child? Do you notice when your ‘calmer’ child is angry? What does your child do when they get angry?


Little Billies said...

Eleanor, I love this!! Both kids what angry looks like and what makes them angry... It was consistent with their personalities and Sokol interesting. Mr 5 clenched his jaw and fists and pulled a face and he told me hat this happens when people touch his belongings..... Miss 3 stomped her feet and told me she does this when people don't do what she wants them to do. How well they know themselves already!! And what great insights to teach them a more appropriate response!

Parent with Potential said...

Thanks for your feedback and most of all for trying this at home. I am glad to see it worked for your children too. Also, that they could give you a trigger experience or examples of when they have felt angry.

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