The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 25, 2023 - 1:43:06

A child psychologist’s insights on anger

Katie van Schaijik, Aug 14, 2009

I’m reading a book I wish I’d read 20 years ago, before my children were born. It’s called Between Parent and Child, by Dr. Haim G. Ginott. It includes some insights relevant to our discussion of anger, and not, I think, unrelated to the prudishness problem.

In our own childhood, we were not taught how to deal with anger as a fact of life. We were made to feel guilty for experiencing anger and sinful for expressing it. We were led to believe that to be angry is to be bad…With our own children, we try to be patient; in fact, so patient that sooner or later we must explode. We are afraid that our anger may be harmful to our children, so we hold it in, as a skin diver hold his breath…
Emotionally healthy parents are not saints. They’re aware of their anger and respect it. They use their anger as a source of information, an indication of their caring. Their words are congruent with their feelings. [His emphasis.]
There is a place for parental anger in child education. In fact, failure to get angry at certain moments would only convey to the child indifference, not goodness. Those who care cannot altogether shun anger. This does not mean that children can withstand floods of fury and violence; it means only that they can stand and understand anger that says, “There are limits to my tolerance.”

I would be very interested in hearing what Personalist Project adviser, Danish psychologist Dr. Peter Damgaard-Hansen would say to this. He has done a lot of important work on the problem of anger and I suspect would have a different take.