An Eight-Year-Old’s Message in Anger

The summer garage sales are so fun. My kids love them! I remember one Friday, a few months ago, there were a few set up around our neighborhood. The girls were ecstatic to go browse the treasures. But I had the girls’ chores cards set out and the jobs needed to be completed before the girls headed out.

Some did the chores willingly, others griped. One daughter complained when I made her re-do the shoe closet because the first time she organized it, she just moved a few things around. I explained I wanted her to match up all the shoes for the sisters to put away, stack the coloring books back into the art drawers, and toss socks into the washing machine.

She did the job—somewhat, and then I checked her work again and told her to do it over.

This little eight-year-old is a kind, gentle, sweet girl. So much so, that I see her get taken advantage of often by others and her boundaries get violated. So when she gets angry, she erupts. The anger is almost tangible—seeping from her. This is where she was now—doing her yell-scream thing, resisting to do any more chores. We battled and argued, me trying to get her to do the chore, her trying to exert her independence and boundaries.

PROBLEM: My eight-year-old was incredibly angry.

Finally, it clicked in me. She needed me to help her through this! I sat on the couch and called her over. I put my arm around her (she is also a very physical child—always asking and needing hugs). “Sweetie, what do you need right now?” I asked her.

Even though she is young, this girl is quite brilliant. She understands things beyond the literal. She remembers things and connects them to new ideas. I am always impressed with her. One night, she asked my husband, “Dad, do I express my love appropriately?” Yeah, those are the kinds of things she wonders about.

So I knew I didn’t need to tell her that her boundaries were invaded. I knew she would remember the superhero story about anger. And I knew she would understand that I was asking her what she needed to restore her boundaries.

She sighed. “I just need some fresh air.”

I knew this was probably code for, “I just need to go shop some garage sales,” but I respected the answer and said, “Okay. I’ll help with the closet and then you’ll be done.” (Which is what I’d been telling her the whole time—just not in that tone of voice.)

She said okay, then worked quickly to get it done. No more explosions. No more screaming. No more half-hearted efforts to clean the closet. She did exactly as I had asked, and it looked great. Then she ran out the door with a few of her dollars.

SOLUTION: I needed to recognize that by her actions, she was asking me to help her discover what her anger was telling her so she could get through this.

Looking back, I can see that the shift must always happen inside myself before it can happen in my kids. I have to have that little awakening that says, “Ask them the questions about their emotions now.” It takes me out of the moment, away from my irritation, my frustration, my own anger or sadness, and helps me bring them to their own awareness of what’s going on in them. This is a training for both of us. A perfecting for them, as well as for me too.

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