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Teaching Anger = Teaching Love

Jenny Arndt Family, Kids

It is easy to teach love.  For me to teach love to my children, it is easy.  Compassion, empathy, kindness… these seem like basic and simple to explain and experience.  To teach anger, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated.  Do we want to teach our children to be angry?  It is becoming essential in our house these days.  Not just managing our anger but embracing it fully.  I am being pushed out of my comfort zone and having to learn this myself.   I have a past history of repressing my anger, of turning an optimistic shoulder to it and pretending it isn’t there.  But anger doesn’t go away, like a big beautiful red flower of fire it grows.

I lost it on my 4 year old the other day.  Forget about grace, maturity and emotional responsibility.  Out of my mind and overwhelmed I just oozed my bad feelings all over the place. Closing in on the most challenging year of my life so far, I reached my capacity.  And Felix was the one who was there to receive my fury.  Now there is no question that my son, with his all consuming, self-centered, four-old-intentions, can push my buttons.  It takes a lot of patience to remain calm and centered as I co-exist with this little autocrat, but he is not the reason for my rage.  I had been confining my anger for too long and it wanted out.

Life is so wise.  My son and I are both walking along a similar emotional path right now; we are both experiencing high levels of anger and frustration.  I am learning by observing my little man navigate his world.  I am learning by guiding him through his disappointments and frustrations how important it is to acknowledge our emotions and find constructive ways to move through them.

Anger is a difficult one for me.  It is uncomfortable and awkward.  I feel a lot of guilt surrounding my anger, especially when it is expressed towards my children.  But guilt is not constructive, nor is it effective.  Guilt is a way to gain power over others and the last people I want to steal power from is my kids.  I attempt to replace guilt with humility and use this experience as an opportunity to evolve and maybe even teach my son an invaluable life skill.

So along with teaching love, I teach anger.  A Buddhist teacher once told me that anger is the outcome of expectation and attachment.  I relate to this.  That feeling of putting your energy towards something, wanting, expecting, and needing and up comes a wall and the energy stops.  Then comes the tension, being stuck and the rising up of the anger.  A Christian teacher once told me that frustration is the separation from God.  I relate to this as well.  We want things to happen – they don’t.  We expect people to be a certain way – they aren’t.  We want to take a shower – the baby has diarrhea.  We build a lego castle – the dog knocks it over.  Such is life.

The beautiful irony is that teaching anger and teaching love is the same thing.  In order to embrace our anger and let it go we need to love life, love chaos, love each other and ultimately love ourselves.  Now when I get angry I don’t turn away from it.  I name it and breathe.  Felix said to me today, “Mommy I feel bad and I want to throw something” I gave him a hug and told him that I loved him.  He is learning. I am learning.  Life is wise.

Big love. Jenny

Jenny ArndtTeaching Anger = Teaching Love