"When in conflict with someone ASK: What do you need to give me what I need?"
We have been working with anger in our household lately.
Managing my own anger has been a struggle for me ever since my first child was born. It was as if his birth - or at least the sleep deprivation that went with it - unleashed my anger.
I was mad at my husband. I was mad at my baby. I was mad at EVERYONE.
Mostly, of course, I was mad at myself.
What I finally realized after much reading and meditating and class-taking and soul-searching was that my anger was me sending a message to myself, pointing out where I needed to make a change, set a boundary, or speak up for myself.
So often I would end up angry and in conflict because I thought I couldn't both get what I wanted or needed and give the other person (my child, my spouse, my friend) what they wanted or needed, but I have found that this is rarely true. (Props here to my husband who already knew this, and had been trying to teach me for years ;)
It may be true that we both can't get everything we want or need, but with good communication we can usually each get some part of what we want or need.
So now I am trying to teach this to my sons.
Especially my first-born because he is starting to want things, to ask for things, beyond his basic needs and to get angry when he doesn't get what he wants. And, of course, his anger looks a lot like mine - screaming, slamming doors, walking furiously out of rooms - because he learned how to do anger from me when I didn't even know he was watching.
The irony is, I don't understand his anger. I mean, I understand it because I have felt it, but I don't understand why he is using it on me.
I pride myself on being a reasonable parent. I try to listen to my sons when they talk and to give their wants and needs the same consideration I would give a request from my husband or a friend. But the past 8 years of reasonableness are getting me nowhere these days except on the receiving end of loud screams of, "I hate you!!! You're so stupid!!! You don't love me at all!!!"
None of my initial reactions to this new phase have been very effective: laughing it off, ignoring it, yelling back....so recently we have implemented a new plan: STOP. TELL. ASK.
STOP yelling. TELL me how you are feeling. ASK for what you want or need.
It's our version of "What do you need to give me what I need?" and it seems to be working, at least a little bit. It doesn't stop the initial barrage of screaming, but it does help it to de-escalate pretty quickly and move into a place where we can each get a bit of what we want or need sooner.
And sometimes, that can feel like a miracle.