Have you ever had the feeling that you need to scream your lungs out? We do. Not very often. But still, quite often. Kids, husbands, colleagues. They all have secret talents to drive one crazy.
Being yourself and being honest towards your children- and others for that matter – is very important. When it comes to anger, rage and fury it is not that easy. Screaming and shouting is not compatible with the picture of the patient and understanding mum, or the calm and diplomatic colleague one usually wants to be perceived as.
From time to time it just explodes – not from inside the head – but from deep down within – and there is often little opportunity to consider beforehand the pedagogical sides of the outburst. Because it just happens.
And just to be clear – we are talking about non-violent anger here. Corporal punishment – even if the offspring did unspeakable things – hitting your child (or an annoying colleague) is a no-go.
So – to what extent is it ok to show anger – and to be angry? Especially considering our parenting role? Tantrums are common at an early age – they are our way of strongly saying we disagree with our surroundings. Being part of our social vocabulary anger is a tool to make our voice heard. It earns respect – but can also create fear. The first you would want from your children – the second preferably not. How to make that balance? Our kids should experience the full menu of human emotions – otherwise they will grow up believing it is natural not to show your feelings. This could be much worse than having your mother screaming at you (occasionally). However a golden rule for the times we’re out of line is to make sure to explain why Mummy turned all red in the face and different profanities and unknown words came out like pearls on a string. At the same time they see that Mum is a real person – with normal feelings and reactions. And they might already guess where their tantrums are coming from.
Anger is seen differently in various cultures. Being from Mediterranean and Scandinavian cultural backgrounds we have references to quite distinct and differing approaches to the legitimacy of anger. What can be perceived by others as loud shouting is a normal conversation among Greeks. However for a Norwegian, being yelled at is being perceived as a slap in the face. The southern way seems to follow a rationale of getting it all out there. The more cool and Nordic approach highly values reaching a consensus as implicitly and silent as possible.
Working in an international environment there are numerous examples of how irritation – and yes also anger – is being expressed differently. A requirement when you work in such a place is to be open for a whole range of different kinds of outbursts: from the top-of-your-lung-screams-down-the-hallway to the more silent aggression responses. And not take anything especially personally. And being able to laugh about it later. There are lessons to be learnt. Some situations call for direct and maybe even a loud intervention. Other contexts benefits from a silent-treatment, or maybe just a slight frown.
Shouldn’t there be an equivalent to the “good cry” when it comes to anger? And how much rage could be considered constructive? If at the end of the day it leads to a good discussion or increased positive inter-family (or inter-collegial) understanding it definitely can.
Conclusion is: Adults too are allowed to have tantrums.