…dirty words; or so we once thought. I read a quote the other day when reading the book, 9 Things a Leader Must Do that stated: “You can tell as much about a man by looking at the things he hates as you can by looking at the things he loves.” The author went on to explain that a man that hates child abuse, inequities, racism, injustice, disrespect and etc…tells you who he is. You get the picture. I liked that.
I’ve always thought of hate and anger as being associated with negativity. We do not want our children to be angry hateful human beings. However, I began to think that we could learn so much about our children if we began to observe their anger and fits of frustration (yes, even those terrible twos) with the idea that perhaps we could learn more from understanding their anger than their good behavior.
Children often understand so much more than they have the skills to articulate, thus they often experience tremendous frustration. A scream of “I hate you”, often simply means, “I am so frustrated that this simple sentence contains the only words that I know use that state I am upset.” They do not really hate you, they perhaps “hate” something that they SHOULD hate. Perhaps they witnessed someone being bullied, perhaps someone said something very painful to them and they do not have the verbal skills needed to ask their friend to stop. Consider the possibility that a two year old is having a “terrible twos tantrum” because they really did have the toy first. They are upset because someone jerked it from their hand and they KNOW it wasn’t fair. They possibly have a sense of justice at a young age. Good, careful observation and positive guidance with loving words as well as positive conflict resolution could be very positive for all involved. Instead, too often, we focus on the child showing the anger instead of working to understand the source of the anger. Too many times, a child gets labeled as being angry because the adults didn’t take the time to understand the cause; they simply treated the symptom.
Often we judge actions but we fail to look beyond the action to understand what prompted the action. Remember that children are “learning” to process so many different emotions and are affected by so many outside triggers. If adults take the time to roll back the mask from the dirtiness of hate and anger…you can truly see the beauty of what once was believed to be ugly. Let’s not judge the action unless we are confident that we have “all the facts”. I am NOT suggesting that we do not hold children accountable for their actions. We certainly need to teach children that they cannot hit in anger and etc…but I am suggesting that as parents and educators that we seek to understand. It will reveal so much to us about our children. It can reveal beautiful news about our children. What makes them angry and what they hate can reveal what great children they are as well as what amazing adults they are going to become.
Written by: Donna McClintock, COO Children’s Choice Learning Centers