It’s time for another Ask Dr. Leman, “My kids and I are always angry, how do we stop it?” In today’s episode, Dr. Leman discusses the cause of your child’s anger and how you can immediately take steps to redirect their behavior. Learn more about Dr. Leman at BirthOrderGuy.com.
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Doug: Well, hello. I’m Doug Turpening.
Andrea: And I’m Andrea.
Doug: And we are so glad that you’re with us today to add to your parenting tool box. And if this is your first time with us, just to let you know, this is for your education and entertainment purposes only. If the subject matter has any concerns for you or your child, please go seek a local professional for help.
Well, I am so thankful for those of you that have sent in your questions, and that you continue to go to birthorderguy.com/podcast question, hit the microphone and record them. And I’m really excited for Ann’s question today, so let’s jump into it.
Ann: Hi. I wanna thank you for doing your podcast, they’ve all been so helpful to me. I have a question about managing anger. I have four kids: the older three are boys, their ages are eight, six and five, and the youngest is a girl, she’s two. And i wanna know how to help them when they are angry, and I wanna know how to model healthy ways of handling my own anger. I know they’ve learned the wrong ways from watching me, and I don’t know how to help them. I don’t know what to say when they are angry, and I don’t know how to handle my own anger when I’m angry.
What I do is, I’ll yell or scream, or hit the kitchen counter, or just lock myself in a room and cry. The kids, they will hit each other, the younger two will throw things or kick things, they’ll all yell and scream when they’re angry.
If you can tell me what to do when I am angry, and how to help them when they are angry, we would greatly appreciate it. Thank you so much. Bye.
Dr. Leman: You know, one of the best talks I ever heard in my life was in a small church, in a pasture, had a sermon titled “How To Be Good and Angry”, and we always think that anger is negative and that’s not always the case. Anger is a human emotion, we all have it from time to time, but you, Ann, have learned to react in your family growing up. You didn’t share much about that, but suffice to say that you learned as a young kid, it was either the way you got your way with people or how you kept people away from you, sort of an emotional stiff-arm, you learned to get angry and that warded people off. Four kids later and you got those three boys close in years, eight, seven, and five if I remember right, and then a little two-year-old girl. Oh my goodness. You unleash that anger at those boys, and you’ve got Barnum and Bailey circus incarnate in your home on a daily basis.
Now, you’re the adult so we’re gonna deal with you. Where does the anger come from? I just said you’ve learned a set of skills based upon reactions, I know they’re there, but I wanna push the point a little bit. Where did it come from? Who is the manufacturer of the anger? Who manufactures it? Where is the distributee for Ann’s anger? Is that in another state, in another town? Or could it be that she not only produces the anger, she’s the manufacturer, she’s the distributee. And this gets us off into purpose of behavior.
Now, things that probably happen on a daily basis in your life, they build up, and you’re probably one of those people that lets things build up to a point where just little spark creates a huge explosion from you. You’re sitting there trying to get some work done in the kitchen and the boys are doing their dog and pony show, and you’re so silly Ann, you tell yourself “They’re gonna stop that. Certainly they know better than to throw the basketball against the wall.” No. There’s some humor here, Ann. They’re kids, they’re dumb as mud. That’s why God gave us parents, to help these kids, we wanna shape them up.
When things start to happen in your home, let’s just start with the three boys, as soon as it starts, act. Now, what does that mean, “act”? It means, depending upon where you live, the climate, the weather, etc., you might take two of the boys and put ’em outside, who happen to be fighting at the time, or maybe all three of ’em. Or you might walk in and just say, “Hey, Mom is very angry. Mom is very upset what’s going on in here.” And turn your back and walk away. That’s good discipline, they don’t like it when mom is mad. But my key point to you is, as soon as it starts you go in and say something, because chances are when you say something as soon as it starts you’re not gonna be angry ’cause it takes a while to bring to boil.
I’m so dumb, I was making my oatmeal yesterday morning and I realized I put the water on the pan, I like the old fashioned stuff, and I just dumped the oats in with the water, cold water, and put it on the stove. And I’m thinking, “You’re an idiot, Leman. You’re supposed to boil the water and then put the oats in.” One of the other stupid things I do in life is I forget to turn it down. If you don’t turn it down, what happens to the oatmeal? It’s all over the stove and it’s hard to get off, and that’s why you turn to simmer.
Ann, you need a way of turning yourself to simmer, and acting on things as soon as it comes up is one of the best ways to control that little anger that’s in you. But you also have to understand that there’s a purpose of nature of your anger, it’s one of the ways that you’ve learned to get your way in life or keep people away from you. I’d be interested to know I you use anger with your husband. Now see, if your husband is real authoritarian, real strong, you may not use anger with your husband. And it’s interesting that you would not use it with your husband, but you would use it with your children, and you have to ask the question, “Why?” If this is so knee-jerk and it’s just there, why isn’t it used with everybody? Because you discern on a daily basis where you can use your anger and when you can’t. What I’m saying is you’ve learned how to play that game with anger.
You’re saying, “Hey Leman, listen, I’m calling in ’cause I need some help.” I’m trying to give you help. Deal with it as soon as it comes, get good at expressing what’s bothering you. In your marriage, if there’s things that need to be discussed, don’t sweep ’em under the rug, bring ’em up, talk about ’em, write ’em down. Say, “Honey, I’d like your opinion about something.” Again, my all time best tip to women everywhere I don’t ask your husband questions, and don’t ask your kids questions for that matter, but husbands hate questions. But if you say, “Honey, I need your opinion on something. There’s something that really bothers me and I’m not sure if it’s … if I should be bothered by it or not. I’d like your opinion on it.” It’s a way of getting into the relationship without getting angry and getting him to participate in the discussion.
Anyway, those are the basic things that I would share with you about anger. You produce it, you manufacture it, you distribute it. When you say, “You make me angry,” that’s really not true. We make ourselves angry based upon what somebody else said or did.
Doug: So in my thinking, I just gotta work harder to control my anger, and I just gotta buckle down and be aware of it. What would you say to me if I were to tell you, that’s how I got rid of anger?
Dr. Leman: I would say there’s times you just got to say, “Hey, this makes me really angry,” and express the anger. See, I think I’ve used this analogy with you guys before, but it’s such a good one. If someone could get me a better analogy, send it to me, I’d love to use it. But when we were kids, we would blow up a balloon and we’d get it pretty well full, and then we’d grab the neck of the balloon and we’d pull on it and make that terrible sound to drive your sister or your brother or your parents wacko. You know what I’m saying? But when you pull on the neck of the balloon, even though it makes that terrible sound, air comes out and the probability of that balloon exploding is almost nil. Why? Because it’s not fully inflated.
The analogy is that when you get to say what’s in your heart and mind, and you open up your mouth and you let those words come out, you are lessening the probability of the explosiveness that could come with anger. You talk about things that make you angry. It’s good to use the term “I feel angry,” and what I said at the beginning was anger is a very natural emotion, all of us have it. When Jesus walked this earth, guess what? He got angry. None of us are above anger, so it’s part and parcel to [inaudible 00:09:33] noticing that I have a problem with anger, noticing that it can be destructive in relationships. It can cut people at the knees, so to speak, you can just take people down by being critical and angry. And many times when we’re that way, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we’re angry about something that we thought or we did, and we have the way of taking it out on other people. That’s all I’m saying, Doug.
Andrea: So, Dr. Leman, she’s asking how can we change this? And I’ve got an eight-year-old, and a six-year-old, and a five-year-old, is it too late for those boys? What’s the prognosis for them not being angry men?
Dr. Leman: Well, those kids have all been trained in anger already, and it’s a good guess that probably two of the three kids are pretty angry people from time to time. They’ve grown up with a mom who’s angry, and they probably have those skill sets already enveloped in their life. Now, we know personality forms in the first five, six years of life, so those three kids, basically their personalities are formed. But as mom learns herself about anger, and the fact that she creates it and produces it and distributes it, she can share that with her kids and she can have open discussions about it’s okay to be angry but it’s not okay to be personal, vindictive, revengeful, etc. towards your brother or your sister. It’s better to just go in and talk about what made you angry.
It’s in that spirit of things that you take care of the anger with the children, but like Doug said earlier, you take care of yourself first. And so, most of our time on this question was devoted to mom for a reason.
Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: We gotta get mom to stop distributing that anger around the house if there’s any hope of getting the kids to walk a little different direction.
Andrea: Sure, yeah. Well, that’s hopeful, though, for those boys, that we do have her be real frank with them and say “Hey guys, I’m working on my anger, I’m learning some new things. And so I’m gonna … I wanna pass it on to you as I learn because I don’t want you guys to have the same issue.”
Dr. Leman: And just for fun, everybody think of the kid that you butt heads with the most. Got it?
Andrea: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: Well, that’s the kid that’s most like you, not the least like you. The most like you. When you have similar personalities, you got two people who know exactly how life ought to be, that’s where the natural conflict is at the highest. You need ways of de-fanging that conversation. “I could be wrong, but …” “I may not know what I’m talking about, but …” “I might be way out in left field on this one, but …” and then you slip that commercial announcement, whatever that thought is, to your husband, to your child, to yourself if you must.
But we’re products of our environment and we learn to be the person we are, so you think your way to behavioral change, and that’s what people need to understand. And so, for the Ann’s of the world, there’s a social situation that comes up, you feel the anger well up inside of you, what do you normally do?
Doug: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: Tell yourself what you do. “All right, now what’s the new Ann gonna do different?” That’s the litmus test. Can you make that synapse from Behavior A to Behavior B? If you do, you’ll be on the journey to correcting behavior that you say you don’t want in your life. Will you revert back to anger? You will, as sure as the sun’s gonna shine tomorrow, in most states. That anger will … it’s always there. I think it was St. Paul said, “The canal nature of man is always there.” So you’ll fall back on that, you just … you have to move on and forgiveness has to be a part of your life on a daily basis, and you realized how imperfect you are. I’ve said many times, when you understand how imperfect you are, only then can you really be the person that I think God would have you be on this earth.
Doug: So, I really appreciate you saying that, ’cause I was just about to say can we [inaudible 00:13:53] and those of us that struggle with this, some hope that we actually can overcome it because we’ve tried to stop it for years with failure, and you just gave it to us. I’m just gonna re-say it ’cause it’s so good, and if I get it wrong correct me. A, you’ve got to imagine yourself when you get angry. B, you’ve got to imagine yourself, how the “new you” is gonna respond to that. And then … And you’ve got to visualize it and actually see it and yourself doing it, and then B, when you mess up again forgive yourself. Realize that you’re on a journey to getting better. Did I get that close?
Dr. Leman: Yeah. You should be a preacher.
Doug: Aw, no. Well Ann, and to all of you that are out there, I’m telling you what Dr. Leman is telling us is different, is absolutely right. It made a difference in my life, I can’t agree enough with A, you have to believe you can control it, and then once you believe you can control it you start to control it, and then it makes all the difference.
The other thing, for me, definitely may not, I don’t know if you wanna speak this real quickly, you said it, you are destroying your relationships around you in ways that are just unbelievably harmful for the long-term.
Andrea: Yeah. I’m so glad, Ann, that you had the courage to bring this question up, and you’re on the right track. Just starting down the track of asking “What do I do?”
Doug: Yep. There’s lots of “Ann’s”.
Dr. Leman: Yeah. Yeah, kudos to Ann. That’s so good of you to pick up on that, Andrea. That’s not easy even to ask that question. And Ann, I know how you feel, ’cause after you rag on your kids you tell yourself, you have a conversation with yourself that goes like this, “I am the worst mother in the world. What’s wrong with me?” And quite frankly, there’s nothing wrong with you, but you’ve learned to be the person you are. And the good news is, you can unlearn that behavior.
Doug: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Dr. Leman: Now, it’s not easy but it’s simple. There’s a simple paradigm to follow, and we talked about it on this podcast. I hope and pray you’ll put that to use A.S.A.P.
Doug: Well, thank you again, Ann, for asking the question. Again, if you didn’t go get the book “Have A New You” when it was on sale last week, I can’t encourage you enough. That’s why we’re telling you guys to get the books now, they are absolutely fabulous. To help you have the exercises that he’s talking about, to really get it deep within you.
So Ann, and everybody else that sends in questions, thank you, thank you, thank you. We look forward to continuing to answer your questions and seeing that parenting tool box grow.
Andrea: Have a great day.
Doug: We look forward to the next time. Take care.