We all have different ways of handling anger. At least part of the way we handle our anger is dependent upon how we are feeling at the moment. I am generally a calm person. However, if I am in an annoyed – kids kept me up, train was late, students were rude – mood, I can be cranky.
The other day, my children and I were in a parking lot as my older son had just completed a Karate lesson. The boys and I walked back to the parking lot, got in the car, and began sorting out snacks (they are ravenous at that hour). As they were finally content, I checked the mirrors and readied to back up and go home. All of a sudden, someone started banging on the front passenger door. “What the heck?” I wondered to myself. I looked up and saw an older gentlemen flailing his arms. He along with his wife were clearly angry at something. He was blabbering on in what I perceived to be Russian (there is a large Russian population in my town). In a moment, I realized he was not pontificating about the pros and cons of another Putin presidency but instead there was a scratch on his car. Clearly, he felt that the scratch was caused by my or my children’s negligence.
While I was not sure that my boys or I had caused the scratch, I apologized. He mimicked, “Sorry, sorry.” What did this man want? I asked him and at some point he told me to pull my car up. What? There was a brick wall in front of us and besides, what was the point of that request? I refused. He continued yelling and went and stood behind my car. Was he going to scratch up my car with his key, hold me there? I had no idea. I asked him, “What are you doing?” After a minute or so, he moved away. As I left, I apologized again and he was still yelling.
On the ride home, I asked the children if they remembered hitting the door by accident. While they said no, I reminded them to be very careful when getting out of the car. Even if they had hit the car, by that point, they probably would have been afraid to admit it. I tried to explain that the man was acting crazy because he was upset. When we are upset, we do not act reasonable. If you want something, you have to talk in a reasonable manner. My younger son brought up the incident throughout the rest of the day; as we were reading together at night, he said once more, “You shouldn’t yell, right daddy? You shouldn’t act crazy.” “Yes, that’s right,” I assured him. “We get angry but yelling does not accomplish anything.” Ironically, yelling makes the words louder but not more clear.
We try and teach our children the right way to handle things. Sometimes, those messages come through more clearly than others.