Emotional Termites

Emotional Termites

Dealing with anger provides a major challenge in parenting. Anger occurs naturally within families- even healthy, functional families must deal with it. The powerful, emotional force of anger can lend itself to helpful or harmful purposes. Although anger is unavoidable, how families handle it is a matter of choice. When anger is mishandled, it becomes destructive to family relationships both emotionally and physically. The damage is like that of emotional termites eating away at the relationships.

Some parents consider themselves good at handling their anger because they are not physically abusing their children. Sadly, many parents and children damage family relationships with emotionally abusive angry words, tantrums and deeds. Each incident of mishandled anger scars others and pushes them away. The cumulative effect of years of mishandled anger matches the emotional effects of a major trauma.

Common examples of mishandled anger include name calling, criticizing the person (rather than the behavior) and yelling. Each of these actions results in shaming the target person. Sadly, the person attacking treats others like stray animals rather than family members. The use of put downs, digs and insults function like emotional termites destroying the fragile relationships.

Since the expression of anger is learned, problem habits can be undone. Undoing anger patterns, such as tantrums, involves changing one’s way of thinking about anger and how it is expressed. People learn that anger allows them to get their way at the expense of others. Once they learn that there is a pay off to anger, they are reluctant to get their needs met in other ways.

Some ways to change thinking about anger and how it is expressed include the following:

  • Count the cost: much like grocery shopping, where a wise consumer will consider the cost of each item, a wise parent will consider the cost of each angry outburst directed at their child. No parent can afford the emotional, relational and health cost associated with mishandled anger. A few episodes of mishandled anger leads to years of shame and grief. Count cost and ask yourself who is benefiting from your outburst.
  • Redirect anger: Redirecting anger into tasks provides a helpful outlet for this powerful emotion. Cleaning, splitting wood, exercise and yard work are some strenuous tasks that help reduce the agitation associated with anger.
  • Maintenance Tune-up: Anger can also signal that relationship needs are in disrepair. Since angry outbursts damage relationships, restoring and maintaining relationships are vitally important. Maintaining relationships is a helpful preventative of angry outbursts.
  • Self-improvement is critical in battling emotional termites. Find out what 101 experts have to say to help you improve your life.

The maxim that ‘children learn what they are taught’ remains true. A child raised with bitter words will soon have a bitter heart. As parents, our actions show them how to deal with anger. When we don’t handle anger properly, they learn lifetime habits of mishandled anger.