Did you know anger is referred to as a secondary emotion? Anger is usually triggered by other emotions, oftentimes fear – fear of failure – fear of embarrassment – fear of getting hurt. Anger is part of our survival makeup, protecting and shielding us from other vulnerable feelings. I have encoded this small piece of information into my long-term cognitive and emotional memory to help me deal with some pretty volatile situations – at times with students, but more often so with parents.
At least once or twice per year I am called upon to meet with parents who have moved way past rational thought and are livid beyond measure. Armed with overflowing frustration, rigid body language, close-ended questions, and strong accusations, they appear at the doors of our school ready for a showdown. Though it may indicate a disturbing part of my psychological makeup, I really love meeting with these parents and working through concerns. I find if I can focus on the primary source of their anger, I am more likely to empathize rather than get defensive, and understand rather than judge.
This is an important lesson to remember during this start of school period. Keep in mind, we all have the same end goal of wanting what’s best for kids, and worried parents fears often come out as anger. Don’t take things personally. Just find some common ground of understanding and look beyond the raw behaviors. The emotional dust will eventually settle, and when it does, we don’t need our own emotional anger to be part of the memories of what has been left behind.