If you’ve ever experienced the backlash of someone’s anger you might have very good reason to think that anger is a negative emotion. But anger itself is not bad—it’s what you do with it that determines its value. Anger can inspire you to take action against injustice, or it can cause you to use someone else as a verbal or physical whipping post.
It seems that almost weekly young adults are taking their anger out on others in unprecedented levels of school violence. Does this level of hate and anger develop overnight? Does it have one traceable trigger? You don’t have to dig very deep to know that the answer is no. There are deeper-rooted issues and circumstances that facilitate these attacks.
The greatest influence a child receives comes from within the home. I am not saying that all angry children are the result of bad parenting. But if you can recognize the simple ways in which anger can be instilled and then provoked, you may be able to prevent it.
Unless you would like to raise angry children. If that’s the case, follow these principles to elevate the chances of little Timmy having anger issues throughout his life:
- Tolerate a lack of marital harmony. There are few things that cause more confusion for children than discord in the home. Even if you are not yelling and fighting in front of them, children can sense disunity from a mile away. This confusion frequently manifests as unresolved anger.
- Keep a child-centered home. If you think it’s healthy to make everything revolve around your children, think again. Studies have shown that an overwhelming amount of focus and attention creates anxiety in children.
- Model sinful anger. We all know that “Do as I say, not as I do,” isn’t effective parenting. Yet so many parents honestly believe that kids won’t learn from their inappropriate displays of anger. When kids inevitably do copy their parents’ behavior, it is often punished. This is the definition of hypocritical. Children only respond to what you say when it is reinforced by what you do.
- Practice favoritism. If I had a nickel for every client who was angry over how her parents disciplined her harshly while letting her siblings get away with things, I would be a rich woman. There is nothing wrong with being naturally drawn to one child over another, but you must keep your preferences in check and maintain the same set of rules and consequences for each child.
- Don’t admit mistakes. You are not perfect. When you try to appear that way to your children, you create a sense of injustice within them. They do not expect you to be always right, but they do expect you to admit when you’re wrong—just as you expect them to admit when they are wrong. This will not give them the upper hand. Quite the contrary, it will build their trust in you.
- Don’t listen to your child’s opinion. Many parents are so focused on their perception of truth that they simply ignore their child’s input. Granted, you do need to curb a child’s lying, exaggerating and deflecting blame. But this behavior can be broken when you truly listen to their side, understand what they are trying to communicate and respond accordingly.
- Break promises. If you want to ruin your child’s trust and make them angrier than the Hulk, break your promises. Just because your child doesn’t yell or get violent doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting inside. Many children mask their anger as hurt feelings and they don’t know how to process them. One failed promise will likely not anger your child for life, but repeated breakings can.
There are many more ways you can create an angry child: Chastening him in front of others, ridiculing or mocking her (even in private), setting unrealistic expectations and comparing him to others are just a few more that can contribute to your child’s overall disposition.
I didn’t create this list to scare you or to make you walk on eggshells. My intention is to help you recognize that children’s fragile souls need nurturing and developing—and they continue to need it until well into their 20s.
Take the time to avoid these principles and your chances of raising a well-adjusted child who can handle his anger in a constructive way is infinitely greater.