Anger is a difficult emotion for many children and adults to understand and to manage. While anger is a normal emotional reaction to a perceived or real threat, it can get too big and out of control very quickly. And among other things, anger can leave us feeling overwhelmed, confused, tired, empty, and lonely.
When do you traditionally pull out the thermometer to take your child’s temperature? Perhaps when your child does not seem to be behaving like themselves, such as when they are more lethargic, irritable, or when your child feels hot to the touch, looks pale, or when they express they are not feeling well.
Depending on what the thermometer reads, your reaction will likely be different, right? Suppose you find your child has a high fever. As a parent, you may decide to immediately call the doctor, give medicine to lower the temperature, have your child take a cool bath, and rest. If the temperature is ‘slightly above normal,’ you may monitor the situation and take the temperature again. You may still keep your child home and give medicine but you may not feel it is necessary to call the doctor. Finally, if your child’s temperature is ‘normal,’ you may decide to simply continue with your child’s regular daily routine and reassess later in the day.
It is clear that the thermometer is a useful tool that tells us important information about your child’s current physical health. So now imagine applying this tool to measure your child’s feelings or current mental health state.
What is Anger?
Anger is an emotional reaction to a real or perceived threat. Anger signals to us that something is wrong. Anger is a normal feeling we may experience when our personal DANGER alarms are turned on. Anger helps to prepare the body to “fight” when the “fight, flight or freeze” response of the autonomic nervous system has been triggered. That is, anger gives us the energy we need to right wrongs or combat threats. The problem with anger is that it can get too big and out of control very quickly. This is what happens when the little spark becomes a flame and then a raging fire. And, in general, it does not feel good in your body to be mad or to have someone be mad at you.
How we learn to cope with our own anger and teach anger management to our children is a different story.