Responding to Anger With Love

mom’s hand with daughter’s hand, holding a necklace

Emmett erupted in anger at Orli yesterday. She was sitting on “his” chair. He was enraged, screaming at her to get off. A month ago, I would have responded with equal rage. I would have yelled at him, punished him, alienating him instead of connecting. I would have forgotten that as an 8-year-old, he hasn’t yet learned how to handle his anger. I don’t blame him. Many adults don’t know how to handle theirs.

But it’s something I’ve been working on. I’ve spent a lot of time understanding where the frustration comes from and how to stop it. And then I realized that as a human, anger is normal. We all experience it. It’s not something to be ashamed of or to stop. But how we handle our anger is another story.

This time, rather than returning Emmett’s screaming with my own, I got down to his level, looked him in the eyes and asked if I could help him calm down in another room. Surprised at my response and still fuming, he agreed. We sat among piles of dinosaurs and Legos until he was calm enough to hear me.

“It’s OK to be angry at your sister. As humans, we have feelings and anger is one of them. But it’s up to us to decide what to do with that anger. In the moment, it’s so easy to let it control us but that only makes things worse. So you get to decide. You have the power. Do you want to make a yucky choice and do something to make things worse? Or do you want to make a good choice and fix the thing that’s making you angry in a nice way? Remember what we always say before school? Make good choices. We can do the same when we are having big, ugly feelings. Make good choices.”

You know what? He listened. He asked me to help him make a good choice in this case and we practiced how he could have responded to his sister in a nicer way.

I think in the most difficult moments, it’s easy to forget that we have choices. We can let our emotions control our actions, or we can learn to feel them and then choose to make a situation better.

We can complain, or we can take action to fix. We can erupt in anger, or we can connect, heal and act with love. There are so many things out of our control, but how we respond to adversity isn’t one of them.

Make good choices.

The two necklaces I’m holding in the photograph are my Pillars Name Necklace, which can be customized with any name up to 8 characters in length.