Real Relationship Advice
Monkey see, monkey do. Our kids are sponges that mimic us even to the genetic level. We try to do our best as parents but we can’t control life and sometimes things happen. We believe most parents try to keep it together and avoid traumatizing our little ones. The problem with this is that by avoiding certain feelings in front of our children we give them the impression that those emotions, which are completely normal, are a cause for shame. Many adults have issues with how to deal with anger because their parents either denied the existence of anger or showed them a corrupted expression of the same.
As parents, we walk the fine line between being super-people and totally accessible to our children. Anger is a normal expression of emotion and yet we tend to stifle it wherever we see it. The demands to ‘stop fighting’ and ‘don’t scream’ are packing a message beyond that you want peace in your home. It is sending the message that these expressions of anger are not good. We teach them through ‘discipline’ that anger is something that children do not get to express. We command that they repress it.
Some parents will tell a child to avoid conflict while others will encourage their children to swing away. If your home is a place of subtle to not so subtle violence then you will express your anger with some forms of physicality. If your family keeps it bottled up then you will be uptight and unable to access the power of your anger.
As parents of a child with on the Spectrum, we worked very hard to identify feelings for her so that she could better discern body language and understand the music behind the words. What science has found is that all parents should assist their kids with identifying emotions. We know that young children identify feelings as being universal and all-encompassing. When we are angry, we are furious! Older kids, generally after the age of 8, can see that many emotions can be experienced at the same time. Also, after early adolescence, the personality of the child begins to develop independence and oppositional behavior or rebellion becomes a means of differentiating from parents. For these rebels without a clue, anger becomes muddled with this internal revolution.
Adults who are violent usually learn this from their parents. Whether Daddy was a little indiscreet with a belt or perhaps Mom only could express her anger with Dad with a few slaps, these messages stuck. Just like kids tend to mimic their Mommy’s and Daddy’s, it does not stop with the cute stuff. If we drink socially, they will drink. If we are alcoholics, they will either drink excessively or they will be teetotalers who are best described as ‘dry drunks’. If we express our anger inappropriately, through name-calling, victimy and passive aggressively, they will act the same way. If we hit, they will hit or find someone to hit them.
We have a responsibility to our progeny to give them the best chance of being successful. We send them to the best schools, make them brush twice a day, make them eat their fruits and veggies and avoid too much candy but we spend little to no time teaching them about feelings. Some day we will include teaching emotions along with potty training and flossing. Until that day, take a minute and tell your kids how you feel and ask them how they feel.