Anger and Violence

Driving in to work today, it was probably easy to notice that there are a lot of angry people out there. Angry adults, unfortunately, provide angry role models for the children in their lives. All of us, not just parents and grandparents, should be concerned about teaching our children to deal with anger in nonviolent ways.

Violence, which can be defined as intense anger, expressed in a way that hurts others, is something no parent wants their children to experience. Yet, it can be difficult to know what to do about it, when examples of it are so easily accessible on television, in the movies, and all over social media.

Parents may say, “Don’t feel this way,” or “Don’t behave this way,” to their kids, but it has little or no effect. What does work? First, teach your kids to differentiate between violent feelings, which everyone has from time to time, and violent behavior, which should not be condoned or tolerated.

Then, set a good example. Children imitate and learn from what they see. This doesn’t mean that you don’t fly off the handle once in a while, but it does mean that most of the time you keep your temper under control. Parents also want to set firm limits on physical expressions of hostility and violence. Over time, this helps kids develop their own internal system of self-control.

At the same time, you want to give your kids safe outlets for expressing hostile or angry feelings. Help them tell you what they are feeling in words, or say something like, “I know you are really mad at your brother right now and feel like you might want to hit him. I can’t let you do that. That is not right. How can we channel that negative energy into something more positive?”

Then, bring the child into the decision-making process (in an age-appropriate manner), to find positive ways to channel those feelings. You are helping them develop their own replacement picture for a positive end result – a skill that will prove invaluable throughout their lives. And, by turning a “have to” into a “want to,” you both will have greater success in changing destructive behavior patterns that can follow the child into adulthood.