Many parents send an angry child to her room to “calm down.” After all, what else can we do? We certainly can’t reason with her when she’s furious. It’s no time to teach lessons or ask for an apology. She needs to calm down.
If we send our angry child to his room, he will indeed calm down, eventually. He’ll also have gotten some clear messages:
- No one is listening to what’s upsetting you.
- No one is going to help you solve the problem you’re experiencing.
- Anger is bad.
- You’re being bad because you feel angry at us.
- Your anger scares us. You’re on your own when it comes to managing those big scary feelings in a responsible way–we don’t know how to help you.
- When you’re angry, the best thing to do is to stuff those feelings. (Of course, that means they’re no longer under your conscious control, and will burst out again soon in unmanageable ways.)
No wonder so many of us develop anger-management issues that last into adulthood, whether that means we yell at our kids, throw tantrums with our partner, or overeat to avoid acknowledging our anger.