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How to Embrace Your Anger in Parenting  | Parent Coach | MegAnne Ford

How to Embrace Your Anger in Parenting

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How can we Harnessing Anger for Parenting Growth? For a long time, I saw anger as the villain, something to avoid at all costs.

Growing up, I was taught that anger was synonymous with bad behavior, something to be suppressed and hidden.

But as I've grown older and more educated in personal development, I've come to realize that anger isn't inherently bad.

It's simply an emotion, a signal from our inner selves that something isn't right.

Instead of viewing anger as the enemy, I've started to see it as a friend, a messenger with valuable insights to offer. When we push anger away or try to suppress it, we miss out on an opportunity for growth.

Embracing our anger, acknowledging its presence, and exploring its underlying causes can lead to profound personal and parenting growth. Listening to our anger doesn't mean acting on it or letting it control us.

It means giving ourselves permission to feel and acknowledge our emotions without judgment. By validating our anger and understanding its purpose, we can begin to address the root causes of our frustrations and make positive changes in our lives and relationships.

In the journey of parenting, anger can be a powerful catalyst for growth and self-awareness. By reframing our relationship with anger and learning to listen to its messages, we can transform it from a source of conflict into a tool for positive change.

Let's embrace our anger, harness its energy, and use it as a guiding force on our path to becoming more conscious and compassionate parents.

 

 

Listening to Anger Signals: A Path to Growth

As we begin to reframe our relationship with anger, we also reshape our response to dysregulation, recognizing it as a signal for change.

Just as thirst cues prompt us to hydrate and hunger cues prompt us to eat, listening to our emotional cues, including anger, guides us toward self-awareness and growth. Understanding the connection between anger and dysregulation, represented by HALT (Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness), empowers us to navigate challenging emotions with greater resilience.

Anger, when met with awareness and intention, becomes a catalyst for purposeful change and personal growth. By embracing the full spectrum of emotions, including anger, we create space for authenticity and connection in our own lives and in our relationships with our children, who innately respond to emotional signals and seek our support and guidance in navigating their own emotional landscapes.

Our relationship to anger, when viewed through the lens of the Seven Generations test, reveals its profound impact on future generations. This test, originating from efforts to dismantle racism and white supremacy culture, urges us to consider how our present actions will resonate through seven generations to come.

Imagine the ripple effect of our emotional responses today—how the anger we suppress or fail to address may manifest in future family dynamics, influencing the well-being of our children, grandchildren, and beyond.

By embracing the Seven Generations test in our personal lives, we expand our perspective beyond immediate concerns to encompass the long-term consequences of our choices. It prompts us to reflect not only on the outcomes we seek but also on the processes we employ, ensuring that our actions align with our values and contribute to a legacy of emotional intelligence, resilience, and positive change for generations to come.

 

What parent toolbox are you passing down?

In Positive Parenting 101, the cornerstone of our first class delves into the concept of inheriting toolboxes across generations. Generation after generation, we pass down these metaphorical toolboxes, laden with beliefs, behaviors, and coping mechanisms.

It's a continuous cycle—Generation One bequeaths their toolbox to Generation Two, who then refines it and passes it on to Generation Three, and so forth. But amidst this perpetual exchange, there comes a pivotal moment of introspection.

We pause, recognizing the unconscious inheritance, and strive to infuse consciousness into our familial legacies. This isn't about dismantling everything passed down but about supplementing, refining, and evolving these inherited toolboxes.

We embark on a journey of self-reflection, identifying what serves us, what needs enhancement, and what warrants abandonment. Through deliberate practice and growth, we cultivate new tools, enriching our personal toolbox and, in turn, the toolboxes we pass down to future generations.

The beauty lies not only in propelling forward but also in reaching back and sharing newfound wisdom with those who preceded us. Yet, amidst this transformation, we may encounter the pressure to conform, to achieve perfection—a pressure that often ignites the flames of anger. And so, we must ask ourselves, when will it be enough? When will we grant ourselves the grace to embrace imperfection and strive for growth at our own pace?

 

Navigating the Depths: When is it Enough?

As we navigate generational legacies, we inevitably encounter the question: when is it enough?

It's tempting to believe that time alone will mend the rifts and soothe our frustrations, but such a notion is a fallacy. Instead, let's embrace the diversity of experiences and toolboxes passed down through generations. Each individual carries a unique set of tools, and it's through this lens of individuality that we must approach our journey with anger.

By cultivating sensitivity to our own triggers, we unveil invaluable insights into our personal toolboxes—identifying gaps and areas ripe for growth. Failure to embark on this introspective journey leaves us susceptible to blind spots, those elusive aspects of ourselves that evade our awareness. But by acknowledging and addressing these blind spots, we empower ourselves to navigate life's challenges with clarity and grace.



How do I see my own blind spots?

I recall a moment with my coach, Rachel, where I sought guidance on uncovering my own blind spots. Her response, with a hint of humor, reminded me of the inherent challenge: blind spots, by definition, evade our vision.

This concept resonates deeply, especially in the realm of parenting, where navigating without mirrors leaves us susceptible to these elusive aspects of ourselves.

One such blind spot that emerges in our relationship with anger is projection—an ingrained tendency to attribute our own unacceptable thoughts or feelings to others. T

his pattern of projection often manifests as blame-shifting, where we instinctively fault external factors for our anger, perpetuating a cycle of resentment and misunderstanding. By shedding light on these patterns and redefining our relationship with anger, we pave the way for deeper understanding and healthier emotional expression.

Common examples:

  1. "You never listen to me until I yell." This statement shifts the blame onto the other person's actions for causing the speaker's anger, much like how they may have been blamed for their parent's actions in the past.

  2. "If you didn't make me so angry, I wouldn't have to yell." This phrase places responsibility for the speaker's emotional state onto the other person's behavior, reinforcing the idea that external factors dictate their anger.

  3. "I hate it when you do that; it makes me so angry." Here, the focus is on the other person's actions as the source of the speaker's anger, rather than acknowledging and addressing the speaker's emotions directly.

  4. "You're always so mean; I can't stand you right now." By labeling the other person's behavior as the cause of their anger, the speaker deflects accountability and fails to address the underlying emotions driving their reaction.

 

With new awareness, you can change that to:

  1. "I'm feeling frustrated right now; let's work together to find a solution." This response acknowledges the speaker's emotions without attributing blame to the other person, fostering collaboration rather than conflict.

  2. "I'm experiencing anger, and I need some time to cool down. Let's revisit this discussion later." By taking responsibility for their own emotions and proposing a constructive approach to addressing them, the speaker avoids projecting their feelings onto the other person.

  3. "I notice that I'm feeling upset when certain things happen. Can we talk about how we can handle these situations differently in the future?" This statement focuses on identifying triggers and finding mutually beneficial solutions rather than assigning fault or blame.

  4. "I'm feeling overwhelmed right now, and I need some space to process my emotions. Let's revisit this conversation when I'm in a better headspace." By expressing their needs and boundaries clearly, the speaker prioritizes self-care while keeping the lines of communication open for future discussion.

 

What is projection?

Illuminating is when we project or blame or have to find a reason or defense for that unwanted experience; it's often because the person doing it has a trait or a desire that's too difficult to acknowledge. Rather than confronting it, they cast it away or onto someone else. From the article "What is Projection" on Psychology Today, it says this functions to preserve their self-esteem, making difficult emotions more tolerable.

It's easier to attack or witness wrongdoing in another person than confront that possibility in our own behavior. How a person acts towards the target of that projection might reflect how they really feel about themselves.

So, if we take all of those projections, we came up with, "You never listen unless I yell,"

What might that be illuminating? "I hate that yelling is a tool I use. I hate that I feel so powerless that I have to yell in order to feel like anything gets done."

What is that inviting me to change inside of me? The projection, "You make me so angry I wouldn't have to yell," reveals, "I feel uncomfortable holding my anger. I just want you to listen to me to appease me so that I don't have to experience my anger. I hate experiencing anger. I would do anything to avoid expressing my anger. Anger feels unsafe to me."

That's hard to look at, that's hard to hold if we're not practiced in holding that.

We start to become aware of, like, what is the use illuminating in me, and how can I start to listen to those so that then I can start to become aware of those unconscious cycles that just get passed down and downagain.

How can we start to just pause and reflect and say, instead of focusing and investing in factors of change—time, age, size, preferences—that reactive state, how can I start to invest in those factors of growth—maturity, knowledge, regulations, skills—so that I can become responsive?

How can I start to re-identify my own relationship with anger so that I can start to step into growth over just settling for change?

Because generations will change, technologies will change, our experience and our relationship with that will grow when we are aware and purposeful of that growth, so that we can start to break those cycles, so that we can grow in those cycles, not to villainize it, but to start celebrating it.

 

How can we Resolve anger?

So, there are four things I want to call out that help resolve anger and help us respond to anger:

1. Setting and agreeing on clear expectations: Being on the same page so that if I ask the parent what the expectation is and I ask the child what the expectation is, both of those answers would be the same.

The tool to use there are agreements. Agreements feel formalized. They feel like, "Oh, why do I have to have all these notes everywhere? Why do we have to write things down?" We write things down to get on the same page. The number one reason that people get angry at each other and get engaged in a power struggle is because there are unmet expectations on either side. Either you said something that the child misunderstood, or the child said something that you misunderstood. It's about getting on the same page.

2. Power Equity: The second tool that resolves anger is power equity. By power equity, I mean that you control you, and they control them.

We can do this through child-led routines, getting the children on board with building, and setting the routine so that we do not force them to do those things. We help hold them accountable through the childhood routine. It's messy, it's awkward, it's uncomfortable because it is a tool that was not passed down to us. The tool here that was passed down to us is, "Do this or else." We become a telling parent, the parent who says, "Come on, I need you to go do this. You gotta go do this. This is just the way it is," right? And the child is like, "Why?" They're calling out the power inequity.

3. Alignment with Values: The third tool that resolves anger is getting in alignment with values. If we want a child to respect us, that invites us to say, "Well, how are we showing up to respect the child?"

That's getting in alignment with those values. They learn respect because they know and experience respect, and then respect is the tool that they have to give back. We do that through connection, validation, mirroring, and saying, "I see you. I understand what is going on in your world. I don't have to agree with it. I don't have to condone it. I have to communicate in ways that say, 'I get you. I see you. I hear you. I understand it has changed me and the way that I respond.' It's by doing our part: being present, attuning, resonating, and building trust."

4. Conflict Resolution: The final tool is working for conflict resolution. In my online parenting class and program, Clear and Kind Parents, I go in-depth on this.

We went deep into sibling work, identifying and re-switching the question from "How do I get them to get along?" or "I have to get them to treat each other nicely" to "I am open to practicing new conflict resolution." The conflict is coming up; how can I show up in ways to help resolve it without fixing, without rescuing?

A specific tool here would be family meetings. How can we bring our issues to the table so that we can find conflict resolution together? So that everybody has clear expectations, that everybody is on the same page, that there is power equity among everyone, and that we are all in alignment with our values.

 

Anger is not the Villain

Anger is not a villain. Anger is a messenger. 

Further questions to ask yourself:

Are you listening to the message, and are we in alignment to make sure that we've delivered the right message?

Are we making the child the message, or are we calling into light that the message is communicating things to us, and how can we get very clear on that?

What is your own relationship to anger?

Have you ever even thought to dig into it and explore it?

What messages about anger did you receive as a child?

What beliefs about anger do you want your future generations to have, putting to the test that seven generations test?

When we think about expressing anger, what is it that we hope that their relationship will be?

 

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