A tutoring student who was adopted by loving and involved parents was having some problems in school. Usually he’d bring his homework, pour out a few gripes and frustrations, and then get to the task at hand.
Today was different. I knew when I opened the door. There was a pained look in his eyes. We headed up the Frog Stairway to the room he usually used, but he suddenly froze, let out a groan, jerking a bit.
Instantly I gripped the banister by my side so he couldn’t see. I could clearly feel the harsh downward pressure. As I looked at him his eyes seemed frightened while his actions were highly aggressive.
I calmly remarked that his day must have been a tough one. He got a far off look in his eye and tightened his muscles and pushed harder. I held my ground to avoid a long fall down the stairs, gripping the bannister for dear life.
After holding the position for what seemed like forever, he looked at me and said, ‘I could do it, you know. I could push you. “I responded, “I know you could, but you won’t because you are a good person. And you’re my friend.”
He began to relax his push just a bit. I followed by, “I know whatever happened, you can work out. It may not go away, but it can get better.”
At that point, he turned and continued up the last few stairs and got to the task at hand: his homework.
During the session he was able to vent some of his frustration by remarks here and there after he had focused on the calm rhythm of his work.
I gently noted, “Words help even more than stairs when you’re upset.” He grinned just a bit and touched my arm. Before long he poured out his heart about his bad day.
That was the turning point in a long relationship of supporting his school work and his development into a fine young man. In later years, I continued to hear good things about him. He made himself a life of worth and significance. I am so proud of him:-)
This experience taught me a crucial technique in dealing with aggression: Empower, or at least accept, the anger and negative feelings to the extent that the person feels heard. Only then can you both get about the business of redirecting the energy in a positive way. (So often an angry child is told he or she should not be upset. Yet feelings are there, and must be recognized before they can be dealt with!)
Copyright by Hildra Tague. Obtain permission from author for use online or in print.