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January 8, 2024

Letting Children Express Anger

Children inevitably become angry with their parents from time to time. Should they be allowed to express that emotion, and if so, precisely how?

If a child is prohibited from expressing his or her negative frustrations toward his or her mother or father, that individual will often vent those feelings through what psychologists call "passive aggression." Maybe he'll pout or wet the bed or get bad grades in school. Perhaps she'll become depressed or eat too much. Usually, children aren’t aware that these behaviors are being fueled by anger. The behaviors are simply unconscious ways of expressing accumulated hostility toward parents.

It is important, therefore, to allow children to vent anger when it is intense. On the other hand, I firmly believe that they should also be taught to be respectful to their parents. It is not appropriate to permit name-calling, back talk, or sassiness and disrespect. Instead, children should be assured that they can say anything to their parents, including very negative feelings, as long as it's expressed in a respectful manner.

For example, "You embarrassed me in front of my friends," or, "I don't think I got my fair share," or, "Sometimes I think you love Billy more than me." Those are appropriate responses. "I hate you" and "You are so stupid!" are not acceptable retorts.

By following this general guideline, we're teaching children how to deal with anger in appropriate ways. That skill might come in handy with a future husband or wife.


From the book Dr. Dobson’s Handbook of Family Advice.  

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