Anger has it’s benefits, it gives us a source of energy, of release and in some cases even acknowledgement and attention. However anger is a great mask, especially in children. It is a process they use for communicating that which they cannot verbally say, perhaps because they have not yet acquired the language or communication skills to be able to do so, perhaps because although they have the skills to articulate what they need to say, a kind of emotional or mental blockage prevents them from doing it.
Instead of saying the words that would have them express the feeling they are feeling, or the worried thought that they hold in their mind, they instead, act it out. They demonstrate their frustration with their behaviour and hope that someone in their lives will understand that they are in effect, communicating in code; and they hope beyond that, that the code can be cracked.
Being angry is like popping balloon filled with hot popcorn kernels – once all the anger has burst out, it creates a mess that needs sweeping back together but the happening of it is explosive and appears to be unpreventable. It is preventable. Think about what you would do if you had a balloon full of hot popcorn kernels and you could see it was on the brink of exploding, you would do something about it. You wouldn’t just sit back with your fingers in your ears – would you?
Take it off the heat: If you had a balloon filled with hot popcorn kernels, you’d remove whatever the source of heat was, or remove it from the source of heat that is aggravating it. It’s the same with angry children. If you get all feisty and agitated back at them, you’re adding in more heat. If it’s a sibling that is irritating them separate them or at least distract them from each other. Give them a chance to cool off.
Undo the knot at the top: This requires a great deal of commitment and patience because knots can be very tightly tied to keep in all that stuff. Our emotions are the same. It’s likely that there is one thing, the one thing that if you tackled it and unravelled it, it would undo that balloon that is holding in all the bursting popcorn. In NLP we know that emotions that relate to similar emotional events are, in a way, kept together. It means that something that caused a significant reaction in the past, can re-surface in an emotional form when something similar (and perhaps seeming less significant than the original event) happens later on. When we tackle the one big worry/bad memory, the positive effect of resolving it also positively affects any other related memories and worries.
Give your balloon a thicker skin: To be clear, that is not so that it can house hot little kernels more successfully. We don’t want to encourage children to be able to just manage their anger better because it doesn’t resolve the real issue of what particular violation keeps causing the anger to occur. The purpose of having a thicker skin is to stop what may have been perceived as the external influencer that could cause an explosion from happening. For example, if you have a full balloon, filled with hot popcorn kernels, it’s a good idea to avoid going to the hedgehog disco. That’s just looking for trouble. However if you really have to have hedgehogs in your life, then you should at least be certain that your ballon skin is thick enough to not go pop when it accidentally bumps into a hedgehog who is in defence mode.
At NLP4Kids we work with angry children in three key ways, one is keeping them to take responsibility for cooling down their anger. We help them to resolve any worries, memories or misinterpretations that may be causing the anger to surface and we also equip them with techniques for better dealing with the past triggers in the future.
By Gemma Bailey www.NLP4Kids.org/gemma-bailey