When I was growing up, I didn’t know that anger is just a feeling. To me anger meant withdrawal of love. My mother didn’t tell me she was angry. She just wouldn’t speak to me for days. However, she did “speak” loud and clear with the look of disgust and disapproval on her face whenever she looked at me during those days of silence. My childlike mind twisted that to mean that people would stop loving me if I got angry.
Lynn Lott, co-author of several of the Positive Discipline books, and my dear friend and mentor, taught me that feelings are always okay. What we do about those feelings may not be okay. In other words, feeling angry is okay. Withdrawing love, or the many ways I expressed my anger, is not okay, (more about that later).
Knowing that anger is just a feeling, is always okay and may help change some old childhood beliefs. Recently I was feeling angry with a friend. Instead of following my previous pattern of trying to talk myself out of my anger, or making snide remarks, I said to my friend, "I want to tell you how angry I am, and I want you to still love me." I did and she did. When I took responsibility for my anger, instead of dancing around it, my friend was able to share her point of view. Then we apologized for our misperceptions and felt great again.
Many adults have not learned the valuable language of feelings. We are afraid that if we feel something we have to do something hurtful to others or ourselves. This is usually based on past experiences.
The Anger Wheel of Choice can help our children learn another way. During a calm time you can teach them that what they feel is always okay, and that what they do is not okay if the “doing” hurts others or themselves. You can show them the Anger Wheel of Choice and teach them these alternative ways of expressing their anger that does not hurt others.
In some classrooms students have individual laminated wheels of choice on their desks as a handy reference for focusing on solutions. Some schools have Wheels of Choice prominently displayed on playground walls or hallway bulletin boards. Students can make a Wheel of Choice for a variety of solutions. The process of making the wheel and the visual reminder of the choices available helps students feel a sense of capability and cooperation.
You might want to combine the Anger Wheel of Choice with the Positive Time-Out tool card, the Understanding the Brain tool card and the Focus on Solutions tool card. Let your children know that once they have expressed their feelings and calmed down, they might be able to think of more respectful ways to express their anger to another person, such as simply saying, “I’m angry at you right now. When we both feel better I hope we can find a solution that is respectful to both of us.”