I recently witnessed anger at its highest point during an open day at a school in Kigali. I had been admiring two boys chatting and playing spiritedly like they were the best of friends when one of them suddenly stopped and began shouting his voice hoarse in anger.
His friend George, as I learnt later, had made a very unpleasant remark about him. So infuriated was Mark that he pounced on George, punching him with heavy blows and kicks to the ground.
Their teacher leapt up and had to use a lot of force to stop Mark from injuring the boy further. Mark was not remorseful at all but I could read guilt on his face when all attention was turned toward him. In defence, he said his friend had insinuated that he was a donkey.
He confessed that sometimes he found it difficult to control his temper, then apologised, even though he still insisted he had a right to teach George a lesson for insulting him.
Often, we think that we have a right to get angry but the truth is, there is never legitimate reason to express it violently. For instance, it was evident the small boy thought he had a perfect right to beat up his friend for the nasty remark. But he did not have any right to react that way.
Of course it is difficult for the attacker to understand that his friend had a right to call him donkey but he had a choice to either to take it as an insult or not to. All he needs is to simply remind himself that it is his friend’s opinion against his.
If he looks at it this way, then he would have no reason to get angry. This will help the child not to get emotionally disturbed. If adults knew exactly how to help children control their anger it would achieve the elusive goal of having a new generation of adults free of hostility and, therefore, make peace a universal reality.
Unfortunately, we are so poorly equipped to understand the psychology of hate that we cannot expect people to deal with one another in a spirit of love. Psychologists maintain that we have as much control over our anger and resentment as we have over other negative emotions. However, all is not lost; if we instructed our children properly, it is possible to nurture in them a spirit of self-control. When confronted, they can keep their cool.
One expert says about children who learned to manage their anger: “Not that these children were made humourless or colourless because they capped their stormy reactions. No indeed. What happened was that they became more colourful and relaxed, more sensible in their dealings with others and thus they treated them better in turn. Their lives became happy rather than periodically stormy. And, not being torn apart with these violent internal forces they could give full attention to their budding creative skills.”
The problem with anger is that most children, (and adults), are fearful of losing their inclination towards anger. Anger is the sword and shield they wield to protect themselves from an attacking and frustrating world. It is no wonder that in their minds, giving up such useful weaponry is like total surrender.
In the minds of most children and adults, anger is equated to firmness. “No one is going to push me around,” they swear. Their assumption is, to stand one’s ground, one must be fierce and growl like a lion that has just caught its prey.
To the angry child, there is no way one can be firm and peaceful at the same time. Yet such is the lesson he will have to learn if he is to have a peaceful life and if this is ever to be a peaceful world.
A child must be guided on how to handle the frustration. This means showing him how he can do his best to stop being treated unfairly by others. If he did nothing they would only tend to be more mean. However, if he got angry each time he was frustrated by someone then his only solution would likely be some form of physical violence.
This is often totally uncalled for because there are better solutions. For instance, in the case of Mark, he could have asked his friend George what was really on his mind that caused him to make such an unkind remark.
By showing his continued friendship and understanding, his friend might have retracted his hasty statement. If this did not work he could take the matter to his teachers who might have had a talk with the boy.