Anger and Children – Apologies
Genuine apologies are relationship healers. Given that children learn by example, it is essential for parents to apologize when they have messed up. Apologies should not be bandied around like confetti but offered sincerely when appropriate. Equally, children need to be taught the importance of apologizing for unreasonable actions and behavior.
Therefore, apologies should be given on reflection and not during the heat of a drama. Young children can be told that when they have calmed down and thought about the way they have behaved, you would like them to give you an apology. This straightforward approach will help enable the child to consider their actions and understand what the boundaries of acceptable behavior are.
It will also avoid the issue of where a parent demands an apology during a tantrum or argument only to receive a half-hearted, insincere reply. In such cases, the child intuitively knows that the demand is in effect a verbal punishment. If applied consistently and from a young age, developing a culture of sincere apologizing will help the child to control their surges of anger through being aware what constitutes reasonable behavior.
Anger and Children – Compassion
Have your child take care of a pet or a plant, every day. The process of investing time and nurturing another life will develop compassion in the child, and in turn, compassion will help quell the fires of anger.
Furthermore, there are also therapeutic and social benefits applicable to all age groups (in particular people who live alone or who are elderly) associated with owning a pet and companionship. Benefits noted in various scientific studies related to owning a pet includes having healthier blood chemistry, a stronger immune system as well as lower incidences of depression and blood pressure. In fact, statistics reveal that heart patients who own a pet survive longer than those without one. Furthermore, taking care of a pet can be a great conversational icebreaker.
Although debate is still ongoing concerning keeping pets and allergies in children, a growing number of studies seem to indicate exposure in early years, particularly around newborn, decreases or has no increased effect on the risk of developing allergic disease e.g. Lodge et al. 2012, Carlsen et al. 2013.
Anger and Children – Forgiveness
By nature, most adults have a innate hierarchy of forgiveness: they find it easiest to forgive the actions of a child, less easy regarding a teenager and hardest when dealing with other adults. For example, most people acknowledge that:
- The best way to teach a child the concept of forgiveness is through their parents setting a good example and demonstrating it to them on a daily basis throughout their life. However,
- When considering older age groups and especially adults, forgiveness is not usually foremost in ones mind when they have been mistreated and deeply hurt. For many people the instinct is to exact some form of retaliation and retribution. Although it may not be easy, being able to forgive is very necessary for one’s own well-being. By not forgiving, you will suffer more than you need to through being consumed by bitterness, resentment and festering anger or rage. As Elizabeth Kenny says, “He who angers you conquers you.” You will continue to be hurt long after the actual offense took place and in so doing, will continue to empower the offender.
Unfortunately, many people struggle with the concept of forgiveness and are often confused about their feelings. For example, one of the most commonly faced dilemmas related to this issue involves, “If I forgive the person this time, will they just see me as being weak or someone whom they can ‘walk all over’?”
Therefore, to help clarify the concept of forgiveness, it is sometimes helpful to consider general misconceptions about it. Please bear in mind though, that some of the following points may be more applicable to teenagers/adults rather than young children.
General Misconceptions About Forgiveness
- Forgiving means that you forget about the offense.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Even though you forgive, you may never forget (and maybe shouldn’t) what happened to you. However, you can tell that you have truly forgiven an offense when you can remember it without experiencing the emotional pain connected with it.
- Forgiving means that you are saying that what occurred was OK.
Quite the opposite. We can forgive, but still see what happened to us as being unjust, unfair or unacceptable. For example, there are many things that our partners can do to us that we don’t deserve or that violate the contract, covenant or agreement you have with them. Yet, we can forgive by realizing that perhaps they were misguided or flawed and thus worthy of another chance.
- In order to forgive, you need to tell the person that you forgive them.
Actually, it can sometimes backfires if you go up to someone and say “I forgive you”, especially if they see themselves as the victim. Fact is, forgiveness occurs in your heart and not in the telling someone that you forgive them. There are exceptions to this, however, and circumstances under which you might want to discuss your forgiveness of them – but only if you think that it will not cause further harm. For example, your 12 year old child asks you for forgiveness following a series of reckless acts which has put the family in financial peril. After a sensible period of ‘rehabilitation’ and a clean record, you tell them that you now forgive him.
- Once you forgive someone you will trust them again immediately.
Forgiveness and trust do not necessarily equate. Even though one might be able to forgive a misdemeanor, it does not mean that one automatically trust the perpetrator. Trust is a precious item that is built over time and can be shattered in a moment. To trust the person immediately after being violated may indicate you are suffering from low self-esteem. Doing this may also send a message to the person that they may continue to violate your trust with little fear of actually having to suffer the consequences. Trust must be re-earned after an offense, based on good behavior – not just smooth words or empty promises.
- After forgiving, you will automatically feel positive feelings again toward the offender.
The opposite of anger is not love. When feelings of anger dissipate, we may be left with neutral ones and not those of a fuzzy, warm nature. In certain cases and depending on the gravity of the misdemeanor, it may prove impossible to ever rekindle the love feelings – even after forgiveness. This is common with ex-partners who learn to let go of the anger connected with the divorce issues, but never love each other again.
- Forgiveness occurs all at once.
Not necessarily. Maybe you can start by forgiving only 10% – just open the door – and then see how the person behaves. After a period of time, you might open the door a little wider and let go of a little more anger until you are truly able to forgive 100%.