Stop the Violence: Teach Anger Management
We are the home of the brave and the land of the free. We are also the land of the violent. Other countries do not understand why Americans are so violent, and neither do we. They say there are 99 guns for every 100 people. But the issue is not handguns. Take away the handguns and there will be stabbings. We think the issue is violence on television. But why is there violence on television in the first place? Because we demand it. Some of us think that the issue is policing. Yet, the most brutal and sustained violence in this country takes place behind closed doors, where police cannot go until it is too late.
There is no violence without anger. There is no violence against children, against women, against minorities, against employees, against strangers, against motorists, against students, against teachers, against spouses without anger. We are a nation of people at war with each other and ourselves. But why do we persist in attributing violent behavior to “disgruntled employees,” or “trigger happy teenagers,” or “stressed out husbands”? The issue of violence is not handguns, or poverty, or jobs, it is anger. Stopping the violence is not the issue, the issue is managingÂ anger.
The antidote to violence, then, is not to ban TV violence or put everyone in jail. A more practical solution might be to educate people about anger when they are young. We can teach our fourth graders the ins and outs of anger management, as we are now teaching them the ins and outs of computers. We could teach them what anger is, instead of teaching them to deny that they have any. We could teach them that they have more than one choice: bang! We could teach them how to avoid taking anger provoking accusations personally.
If we can teach our young people how to solve such everyday schoolyard problems, they can use each of these encounters as a “growth opportunity”. With each opportunity to problem solve, our kids will bestow upon themselves the feelings of accomplishment, success, confidence that they can do it again. Each time they do it, they get stronger in all these positive feelings about themselves.
The catch is that it takes courage to do something new. It’s scary to do something different for the first time. That’s why most kids don’t do it. They keep doing it the old way, knowing in advance that it won’t work, but hoping each time that it will. We can teach young people what courage is, it is doing something hard and doing it anyways.
For instance, when aÂ young boy is called a dirty name at school, he can be given the choice between the old way and the new way. He can scream back an equally painful epithet, or he can choose to say, “That makes me angry.” He can take a deep breath, write out his anger, he can make up his own choices, so as long as they are not reflex reactions that require no thought at all. If he is angry at a girl, he can be shown how to express his anger at her as one equal human being to another: “It makes me angry when you do that.” For her part, she can learn to stop trying to make him understand her point of view, which only makes things worse, and to choose to say, “I’m sorry you are so angry.” It is better to learn these things in school than wait until they become full grown sparring partners.
AdultsÂ can teach young menÂ how to use focusing questions, such as “What was the worst part about it? What angered you the most when that happened? When else have you felt like that?â€ This will enable them to sort out and replace the negative, unrealistic expectations that are encouraging them to solve their anger problems with their fists.
Adults can learn to validate a child’s anger by asking: “What angered you the most when Tanya called you names?” Let the child find out where his vulnerabilities are, so that he can identify his triggers himself. Next, we can model how to invalidate someoneâ€™s anger and say: “Don’t be angry. It’s no big deal. Don’t get mad, there is no point in getting even.” And we can teach young people how to validate each other’s anger by saying: “I don’t blame you for being angry, I’d be angry, too if that happened to me. It sounds really painful. I can tell your hurt.” This is not hate, it is not discouragement, it is not abandonment. It is showing respect for a fellow human being by telling the truth.
Tags: Anger Management, Archive
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