I spend a lot of time teaching kids that anger is OK. I never really learned how to handle it in a healthy way growing up. (I don’t blame you for this, Mom. You did an awesome job.) But in those days the way you raised kids was to be polite and submissive.
Today we are trying to teach kids that anger is a normal emotion, it’s OK to have it, and how to manage it in healthy ways. But that doesn’t always help when it’s MY anger I’m dealing with.
As a provider I learned quickly that ranting, raving, and yelling basically accomplish nothing when it comes to working with kids. At best it gets their attention. At worst, it creates kids who walk around ranting at everybody else.
I do have a yelling voice and I use it as sparingly as possible. I save it for times of real danger, like a child walking toward the street, or something that’s just totally unacceptable, like Susie slamming Joey to the ground.
So when I’m angry I choose my response carefully, knowing that my tone of voice is crucial in these moments. For example, this morning the girls were jumping on the couch and they broke my boys’ collectible Harry Potter DVD box set. (It was a pretty awesome Hogwarts chest. I think I can fix it.) I wanted to say, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO BREAK TOYS A THOUSAND TIMES AND NOW I’M REALLY P.O’D!!! AAAAAAGGGGGHHHHH!”
But I kept that inside.
What I did say was, “I am really so upset because you broke something that belongs to my boys. They’re going to be upset too.” And I made them wait to go outside while I attempted to fix it. (Couldn’t. Need tools, believe it or not.)
Anyway in that situation I couldn’t really blame the jumping girls because it was Older Son and/or Younger Son who left the box on the couch. But I showed them I was angry and upset without losing it on them. Miss A even said she was sorry and she didn’t do it!
Later on in the yard I had to use my “I mean business” tone. This is probably the best tone of voice you can ever have as a provider. SuperNanny does a great exercise where she has parents stand in front of a mirror and practice this tone. It means, this is my answer and my answer is final. Don’t even bother negotiating because it won’t work. And most of the time, the kids know it.
I was using that voice because Miss D was splashing other kids in the pool. Nobody liked it. That hose water is really cold. So I told her in my nice provider voice, “Please don’t splash people!” She did it again. Once more, nicely. On her third splash, I took her out of the pool and set her down.
Now we switch to the I Mean Business voice: “Miss D, I took you out of the pool because you wouldn’t stop splashing people.”
She was OK with it. She rode on the bouncy horse for a few minutes while I went back to what I was doing. After about five minutes I said cheerily, “Miss D, you can go back in the pool but no more splashing!” She looked at me and kept riding that horse, but went back to the pool later. And guess what – no splashing!
I used a quick, easy, simple consequence and then touched base with her. That’s all it takes. We moved on without anyone having hurt feelings – I expressed myself, protected the other kids, and she got the message without feeling shamed. Beautiful.
What I have found is that expressing anger in these ways lets kids know you’re disappointed in them, but you still love them, and you expect better next time. There is no need to scare or upset them to get your point across. In fact she probably trusts me more for it.
And when I get really angry, I’ll go back inside and slam a door or two. My husband loves that.