Anger is a powerful emotion, yet over and over, women have often been chastised for expressing their frustrations and rage. And kids are watching. A strength of the 2015 Pixar film INSIDE OUT is that the five emotions in the main character’s head (Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust, and Anger) are shown as a crucial part of young Riley’s development and growth. Anger has a role to play in the film and the everyday lives of girls. Here are five ways to help your daughter express anger in a healthy manner versus keeping the emotion bottled up.
Five Ways to Help Your Daughter Express Anger
1) Help her recognize the root cause.
Often our anger has a root cause that needs to be addressed. However, if girls are never allowed or taught to confront their emotions, those causes will go unresolved and continue to cause unhappiness.
When children are little, tantrums and yelling are the best tools they have to express themselves. Once they reach an age where verbal expression is possible, parents need to listen to why their child is angry. Letting your daughter know that her frustration is understood helps her feel confident with expressing it in the future. A child who grows up in a home where her opinions are acknowledged, and bouts of anger recognized, will be better prepared for processing the emotion when she is older, both socially and professionally.
2) Use your daughter’s anger as a tool for cooperation.
“Listen to my child’s anger? Have you tried understanding a screaming toddler or a raging teenager?” Okay, good point. However, anger can be used as a tool to increase cooperation. When your child is angry, the best action is to understand their anger and acknowledge it. There may be a genuine problem, and if that’s the case, you can work together to address it.
More likely than not, your child is probably just throwing a tantrum to throw one. Even so, trying to understand their anger will show them that they are allowed to express themselves. And that your daughter can take you seriously. Discipline will not seem as harsh or unjustified because at least they understand you are not purposely trying to “ruin their lives” just because you can.
3) Allow your daughter to fight for her beliefs.
It may be surprising, but girls can begin to understand important values at a very young age. As caregivers, we must allow our daughters to feel confident about their morals. Anger is often necessary to defend values and beliefs. Unfortunately, it is far too easy to feel silenced, especially in settings where it feels as if your opinions have never been taken seriously.
The kind of self-assuredness necessary to make your voice heard is not an easy trait to learn. If it isn’t something you grew up with, it takes years to become comfortable with the behavior. Girls can begin to lose their sense of self by constantly feeling the need to repress their genuine emotions. Your daughter might start to question if a specific situation makes her upset or if it isn’t that big of a deal and she’s overreacting. By allowing her to advocate for her beliefs from a young age, parents can instill confidence that will benefit their daughters throughout life.
4) Discipline is necessary. Silencing is not.
The trail of thought which leads girls into repressing their genuine emotions can guide them into dangerous territory (and unbalanced relationships). After a certain point, if anger never amounts to a change, you begin to accept and feel helpless about the problems causing your pain. “What’s the point?” a girl may think when contemplating whether or not to discuss her frustration. If this girl has never had the opportunity to express her anger in the past, what will make her speak up when she is truly in a dangerous situation?
When disciplining our children, we should avoid language that makes our daughters feel they can no longer express themselves. A discipline that begins with phrases such as “I understand” or “I’m listening” can be followed up with discussion about what is appropriate or not. By beginning the talk in a supportive manner, your daughter will understand that the act of expressing her opinions is not what you are addressing.
5) Teach your daughter to express herself in nonverbal ways.
There are many ways anger can be shown that avoid hurting the people close to us. Body language and gestures are essential social-emotional skills. Show your children through your tone, posture, and general attitude that screaming or fighting is not the only way to communicate opinions. While using words is undoubtedly very useful, not every display of anger needs to end in a high-intensity debate. Instead, your daughter can calmly display her anger, and you can both approach the root cause peacefully.
We must allow our daughters to embrace all of their emotions. Even the difficult ones because often those can be the most important. For too long, women were expected to simply regulate their feelings, take everything with a grain of salt, and suffer in silence. Help your daughters learn to express themselves fearlessly without worry that their anger will be used against them or go unacknowledged. Allow that change to begin in your own home.
Written by Nadia Syed
Top image by Stephen Andrews from Pexels
Second image by Annie Spratt on Unsplash