“B” Is For Beliefs

By Leeza Carlone Steindorf 

Anger is a strong emotion.  It impacts us, children and adults, each in our own way. Think of the last time someone was angry at you, really angry. How did you feel inside? What did you not want to do, but maybe did anyway? What did you want to do, but perhaps refrained from?   

Our culture, media, art and our own history provide overwhelming evidence that this strong emotion equals power, that it has power over us, power over others, that we are subject to it.  No matter where or how we grew up, each of us carries our own beliefs about anger. Culturally, however, there are some deep seated and widely accepted beliefs about anger, especially in regard to raising children and parenting, that contribute to the tithers we work ourselves into. 

Beliefs keep anger in operation. 

As a tool, anger detours us from our goals. There are more effective ways to communicate and collaborate in your family. Consider how these three commonly held beliefs give anger the high status it does not deserve, and how they apply to your views and behaviors around anger. 

Common Belief #1 Anger equals power. 

Whether the red-faced politician, the minister pounding the pulpit in outrage, or the parent yelling at their child what they can and cannot do, anger appears powerful. We are riveted to listen and obey. However, the person angry is often feeling out of control; they just do not know it. Their habit is to fume and sputter to cover feelings of helplessness. They may not like the outrageous event, political agenda or the child’s behavior, but anger is not the only, or best, response. Anger is not an indicator of power and strength, but rather of uncertainty and helplessness. The most powerful leaders, and parents, are those who are clear, calm and collected. “Ok, sounds good,” you say, “but how do I get there?” Read on… 

Common Belief #2 It just makes me so angry 

It is not what happens that makes you angry, but your feelings are generated by your perception  of things. Just consider … is it the child lying that turns up your temper, or the feeling you cannot trust them, or that you have raised “a liar”, or maybe that this is surely their start down the road of delinquency? That idea is not that far-fetched. The next time you are angry, ask yourself – “What am I afraid of here?” And then quietly listen for the answer. You can then go about getting angry, or not, but making the connection between your uncertainty and your anger will be very useful.  

Common Belief #3 Anger is the best motivator.  

When we see how people hop to it when someone “blows their top,” we could believe anger is a good motivator. But it is not as effective as you may believe. Think back to your own parents and how they used anger. How truly motivated were you to help, change, or improve when they used anger? Maybe you acted, but how was the experience for you? And how was the outcome? 

The fear induced by anger in most people pulls the emergency brake that engages our reptilian brain for fight, flight or freezing. We go into emergency mode when we perceive danger (not only of physical harm) such as being excluded from a family event, losing a privilege to go out with friends, or experiencing words or actions we find degrading or hurtful. In that state, we do not use our frontal lobe, the one that helps us think clearly, make good decisions, identify solutions. We are motivated by fear from our back brain. We react and the result is not the best we have to offer. 

Change the belief, change the outcome. 

Here are some beliefs you can try on instead as you move down the anger management road.  

Empowering Belief #1 Clarity and calm allow self-control. If you were clear about what you want to say or do, how to get what you want, or how to get your kids to start or stop doing something, you would not have to get angry. Get clear and calm and you keep control to figure out what you want and how to get it. 

Empowering Belief #2 My response is always my choice.  Your responses are internally generated, not externally driven. It is not what happens that controls you. You are in charge of yourself, always. When you feel solid in your abilities, clear about what you want and sure about your decision, there’s no need to be angry. You may not like what happened, but you do not need to get detoured by anger. Your response is your choice. 

Empowering Belief #3 Authenticity and clarity motivate best. Get clear about what you want to achieve. You know what you do not want (the reason you are angry), so figure out what you do want. Then, from your heart, state the optimal outcome. Your kids may not jump at the chance to do their homework, clean the kitchen or stop fighting with their sibling, but they will be clear about what is expected of them. They have a destination to move toward.  

Parents usually ask me then, if they do not get angry, how do they get their kids to cooperate? When you have shifted how you deal with unwanted situations and behavior to the best of your ability, without anger, then setting up rules in the house and establishing non-negotiables will give you the cooperative circumstances you are trying to achieve. To set up discipline that really works, see the online training module of Discipline with Dignity in the online training Parenting Success Blueprint or the book Connected Parent, Empowered Child. 

Anger does not control you. Your beliefs drive your emotions. Identify your beliefs and change them to work for you. When anger is no longer your tool of choice, there are plenty of tools to help you get what you want so you can enjoy your kids, your parenting, and your life.  

Leeza Carlone Steindorf is a parenting educator, parenting coach and the award-winning author of Connected Parent, Empowered Child. She delivers a powerful message and practical tools to individuals and organizations worldwide who are ready to break through limitations and create radical permanent change. As an acclaimed international thought leader in organizational transformation and personal development in 35+ cultures, her coaching, trainings and talks inspire and empower. Leeza is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council, a Canfield Success Trainer and former Tony Robbins Results Coach. Her certifications include ICF Executive and Life Coach (ACC), Trainer and Group Facilitator, NonViolent Communication Trainer and Mediator. Connect with Leeza at www.LeezaSteindorf.com.