Lynn Lott, co-author of several of the Positive Discipline books, and my dear friend and mentor, taught me that feelings are always okay. What we do about those feelings may not be okay. In other words, feeling angry is okay. Withdrawing love, or the many ways I expressed my anger, is not okay, (more about that later).
Knowing that anger is just a feeling and is always okay is quite different from dispelling those old childhood beliefs. Just the other day I said to Lynn, I want to tell you how angry I am at you right now, and I want you to still love me. I did, and she did.
Before I clearly told her I was angry and why, I did my “mischief” around anger. I tried to talk myself out of my anger. Didn’t work. I found ways to throw in snide remarks of blame and judgment—little digs here and there—not a clean way to express anger.
When I finally took responsibility for my feelings of anger and why, Lynn was able to hear me, share her perceptions, and apologize for not being more sensitive to my perceptions.
Many adults have not learned the valuable language of feelings. We are afraid that if we feel something we have to do something hurtful to others or ourselves. This is usually based on past experiences.
The Anger Wheel of Choice can help our children learn another way. During a calm time you can teach them that what they feel is always okay, and that what they do is not okay if the “doing” hurts others or themselves. You can show them the wheel of choice and teach them these alternative ways of expressing their anger that does not hurt others.
You might want to combine the Anger Wheel of Choice with the Positive Time-Out tool card, the Understanding the Brain tool card and the Focus on Solutions tool card. Let your children know that once they have expressed their feelings and calmed down, they might be able to think of more respectful ways to express their anger to another person, such as simply saying, “I’m angry at you right now. When we both feel better I hope we can find a solution that is respectful to both of us.”
It is just possible, that if children learn these life skills, they would feel more capable and confident, would experience more loving relationships with others, and would be instruments of peace in the world.