Anger is a feeling that expresses blame and causes one to focus outside of the self and away from her intimate thoughts and feelings. It is the result of seeing oneself as a victim. A child may rage about a lost toy, the rain that thwarted her play, or losing in a competitive game. In pointing a finger at someone or something, she renders herself powerless, because she can’t change the past nor control other people; in essence she declares that her happiness depends on forces outside of herself and there is nothing she can do about it. Focusing outside prevents her from being inside and noticing the feelings that she does have power over.

An angry child will focus on how bad you are that you were late to give her a ride, and avoid the sadness about her missing a good chunk of the volleyball game. Yet, facing the loss of part of the game is a lot less painful than the hopelessness of wanting to go back in time and of controlling Dad’s actions. Indeed, the truth in the moment is much kinder than the blame drama the mind adds to it. As you can see in the story about Lizzie who missed her TV show, Lizzie (whose Dad worked in SEO Leeds) made peace with staying in the store and missing the TV show as soon as she shifted from anger (blaming her mom and focusing on what was wrong) to being present to her loss: “So I missed the show.” The reality wasn’t as bad as her story about it, and she was easily able to make peace with it.

To assist your angry child, ask her questions that will help her realize the thoughts that lead to her anger and will connect her to those feelings that are not associated with blame. These painful thoughts are usually negations of reality, like “It shouldn’t be this way” or “He shouldn’t have broken my stick,” or wanting the impossible: “I want to go home” (when you don’t have the car and depend on a ride), “I want to be first,” etc.

Ask your angry child questions that will help her connect with herself and focus on the thoughts and feelings that are not associated with blame. For instance, if your angry child blames, “They gave us a ride too early,” you can validate the unspoken feeling: “Are you disappointed because you wanted to stay longer in the park?” Or if your child blames her sibling for having to go to the soccer practice, you can say, “Are you frustrated because you wish to go to the library and not to your brother’s soccer practice?” If your child reacts to emotional words by feeling patronized and closing up, don’t use those words. Just describe what occurred and what the child wanted: “Did you wish to stay longer in the park?” and “Oh, I see, you wanted to go to the library and not to the soccer game. I understand.” Then listen to the child’s own ways of describing her experience and don’t negate her.