Tantrums and Tirades: Dealing with Anger in the Family #EmotionalSmarts

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April 3, 2014

Of course, it’s the morning I blew up at my daughter that I planned on attending the Tantrums and Tirades: Dealing with Anger in the Family panel. Part of me thought I should turn in my mom card in shame since I clearly failed. But if anything, these presenters allowed me to keep the card – along with a process to deal with these types of situations. The discussion was part of a series being developed in partnership with SocialMoms, If You Can, and the editorial team at GreatSchools.

This benevolent team of experts included:

* Moderator, Carol Lloyd, GreatSchools executive editor
* Marc Brackett, founder of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence
* Deborah Tillman, America’s Supernanny

As Lloyd says it best, all kids have melt-downs and all parents lose it sometimes. Anger is a trigger in our society. Although Brackett and Tillman come from very different spheres — one hailing from an Ivy League university, the other a reality TV star — their experience with anger in families has left them with very similar conclusions. Both urge parents to plan ahead and be intentional about their response to anger. Marc explained that we all feel a trajectory of emotion from less intense to more — from mildly annoyed to entirely enraged. Our goal is to identify the feeling early to stop escalation. We don’t ask children not to feel angry, but instead need to model for them how to deal with it.

The wisdom flying around this discussion could fill pages. I urge you to watch it in its entirety below. Here are a few of the major tips given by each expert:

Deborah Tillman

* Children often don’t really know why they’re angry because it’s usually not what’s on the surface. There’s a whole lot under anger. Take the time to communicate with each other; listen without passing judgment. This communication can take many forms: a conversation, a song, a letter, or anything else that allows for real emotion.

* Teach the skills they need rather than just solve the problem at hand. Children are button pushers. Stay calm, model effective behavior, and practice so that you can respond rather than react.

Marc Brackett

* Think of five words that describe you as a parent at your very best. Imagine you as that parent or your “best self.” In times of anger, take ownership of that situation by shifting attention away from the child and onto your desire to be your “best self.” React out of an image of a loving or empathetic or happy parent. When your internal resources are depleted by stress, work, exhaustion, or life in general, take a moment to again put on that “best self.”

* Focus on prevention. Identify your triggers, or the things that cause you to react. Then think about what your typical response would be in the face of that trigger. Rewind in your mind and imagine yourself reacting from your “best self.” This serves as practice for when Life throws those triggers at you.

I leave you with some of their final thoughts. Deborah says, “It’s not about MAKING this child. It’s about RAISING this child.” Marc encourages us to “be the role model. It takes a lot… knowledge, skills, and a high degree of self-awareness.”

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