Last week we looked briefly at helping our children manage their anger, but this week, we’ll take a look at our own anger.  Now, we can’t do much about anger in another person, but there is one person whose anger we can influence – our own.  We are all capable of anger and some are more predisposed to it than others. Most of us have come across somebody who admits they’ve got a “short fuse” – or maybe we’re that person!  What makes us angry?  People around us not doing what we perceive to be their duties; things not working as we feel they should; or our not receiving what we feel we are entitled to are among the main causes.  Ouch! It’s worth asking ourselves after we’ve felt anger – did it fit into any of those categories? (Don’t be afraid to use the Anger Iceberg or Anger Volcano for yourself!) What parent hasn’t felt some anger when a child has not done something that they’ve been asked to do? Who among us hasn’t felt angry when our child has shown disrespect in the way they’ve answered us? 

Unfortunately, anger at one thing can lead to anger at something else. When we are in a state of anger, our minds have a tendency to search for past and present grievances we might have with that particular person and then bring them up.  It’s important to watch the ‘moment after anger’ too – sometimes the thoughts that come to mind may not be entirely accurate, but coloured by our anger. It puts us into a state of distrust and suspicion. Anger makes it really hard for us to focus on anything other than the thing we’re angry at.  It interferes with our ability to solve complex problems and impedes clear thinking.

Anger is an intense emotion and it tends to beget anger in the other person. The Bible has a verse that states exactly this – Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare (NLT). I remember a certain daughter of mine who had an amazing ability to “set me off” – okay, I have to be honest here, it was mutual. I remember thinking if she would only answer gently, I wouldn’t get so angry.  Of course, I failed to see that my harsh words did not deflect her anger in any way.  Thinking about those times and considering the reasons given above for anger, I probably felt that she wasn’t showing me the respect that I felt I was entitled to. It’s interesting because on re-reading the paragraph I’ve just written, I spoke of her setting me off, but that’s not actually true.  I may not have been able to control her words, but I certainly could have controlled my own responses – she didn’t make me angry, I chose to get angry. Ouch again! 

I need to say it isn’t wrong to get angry – the Bible again states in Ephesians 4:26 In your anger do not sin. Realistically, children need to know that some things do upset their parents, teachers and others. We need to ensure it doesn’t get out of control. So what can we do when we feel our anger rising?  The main thing is to stop, take some deep breaths and count to ten (not in 10s either!) Try to relax your body (check your hands, jaw areas and try and consciously relax them). Consider the best way to react.  If possible, delay discussion about the matter til you are feeling calmer. If you feel that you are going to get out of control, try to get away from the person or situation making you angry. Going for a brisk walk is a great way to walk off anger. (If you have a serious problem with anger, please ask for help). Most of us are going to have times when we blow it – when we get angry and feel regret afterwards.  What can we do then? Think about what happened, why, what could I have done differently and most important of all, apologise to the person who has borne the brunt of our tirade.  More than once, I had to apologise to my daughter – telling her that while it was right for me to not be happy with a situation, it was not right for me to lose control.

Jenny Billingham

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