The Four-Year-Old never gets angry. Never yells. Never stomps her feet. Never whines or groans or complains that I’m being unfair. Never tries to negotiate with me to get out of being punished. She comes when I call the first time, and always speaks to me in a respectful tone. She puts her toys away without being asked and never argues when it is time to turn off the TV, set the table, or take a bath. She takes herself to time out when she has done something wrong, or to her Peace Crevice when she needs a moment of calm to get those unpleasant emotions under control. The Four-Year-Old is perfect.
So we don’t need this book. I’m not entirely sure why it’s even on our bookshelves. The Four-Year-Old is calm, polite, and perfectly pleasant at all times.
Well, most of the time. OK, OK, much of the time. Well, really, I suppose the word I want is “often.” The Four-Year-Old is often calm, polite, and perfectly pleasant.
When she does seem to be struggling with her anger, though, I pull out this book and have a little extra story time with her a few hours later, after the immediate storm has passed. I like this book because it reminds me that my daughter’s struggles with her anger don’t make her a bad child or even a terribly difficult one. They make her a four-year-old, who needs her parents to help her figure out how to manage that anger, to express it in some healthy fashion, and not simply squash it down or use it as an excuse to lash out at others.
When I Feel Angry is part of a series of books written by a child psychologist to help children identify and understand their emotions. We have others in the series, including When I Miss You, When I Feel Scared, and When I Care About Others, but the book about anger is the one I turn to most often. The text talks about anger in a non-judgmental fashion, speaks matter-of-factly about several situations that could reasonably make a child angry, describes what the emotion itself feels like, and most importantly, offers several suggestions for what my daughter can do to handle her anger other than saying something mean, yelling, or hitting. The fact that the illustrations show a bunny and not a little girl somehow depersonalizes the discussion so that we can talk about managing anger objectively, without making my child feel as though she is in the wrong.
Does it help? I can’t speak for The Four-Year-Old, but it does help me. My daughter is funny, smart, and so verbally precocious that it is easy to forget that she’s only four. Four-Year-Olds, even verbally precocious ones, are still building their tool chests for dealing with anger and other emotional fallout from life’s setbacks. This book gives me a way to start helping her.
And now it’s your turn. How do you help your children deal with their anger? How do you deal with it yourself?