All too often I hear parents trying to repress their anger around their kids. Now this is not only unhealthy for you (repressed emotions actually create illness within the body) but it is also not great for your kids to grow up believing that some emotions are simply not ok to have. All emotions are a part of our human journey, and are messages from our unconscious mind regarding things we need to pay attention to or change in our lives.
Having said that, it is also worth noting that telling your child that THEY are making YOU angry, sad, irritated (or even happy) is simply too much responsibility to place on another human being, particularly a little one!
No one can MAKE you anything. Think about squeezing an orange. What comes out? I’m hoping that you’re saying “orange juice”! Not guava juice or pear juice or cherry flavoured Coca-Cola! Why? Because you only get out what is already within. So if your kids are pushing your buttons and there’s anger coming out, well then that’s what is within. Take responsibility for your own emotions. Own them – they’re yours.
However, this does not mean that you are not allowed to experience these emotions, and even experience them very strongly in the presence of your children. So how do we express strong negative emotions without damaging our kids and making them feel responsible for us and our emotional state? How do we teach them to take responsibility for THEIR own emotions and not blame you or their siblings or teachers or life for how it is that THEY are feeling?
It all starts with the little one-letter word “I”. “I am feeling soooo angry right now”, “I am feeling more and more and more irritated, so irritated that I could just scream”, “I am feeling ridiculously happy, like the luckiest person in the world”. As opposed to: “You are making me very angry”, “You are irritating me”, “You make your mom sooo happy”. Can you see the difference?
And these can be said with as much emotion or volume as you feel is appropriate. You can even step it up in ways that they can relate to and that gives them some warning about where you’re at… “I am about as angry as a pea right now… Now I’m as angry as a small cat… AND NOW I’M AS ANGRY AS A LARGE ELEPHANT!!!”
They will get the message. They will learn when to step away. They will learn how to experience strong emotional states themselves without lashing out at others. What they won’t learn is to take responsibility for you. What they won’t learn is to blame. What they won’t learn is to beat themselves up for your inner state.
This builds emotional maturity, responsibility and self-confidence. All emotions are ok, but how we choose to express them is what makes the biggest difference.