When I was in the 3rd grade I attended an anger management class. It was a program my elementary school offered for the troubled kids. The ones who acted out and defied authority.
When I tell people I attended anger management at the tender age of 8 they usually express extreme surprise.
Like, what was so wrong with me that I had to attend a program that teaches me how to manage my emotions?
Read that again, and listen to how ridiculous it sounds.
Fast forward about 20 years later, and I had an epiphany. A moment of clarity, if you will. I always thought there was something wrong with me because I had to attend anger management in 3rd grade with 4 other troublemakers. But now I see things differently.
I would venture to say that each and every student at that elementary school should have been required to take some form of an emotional management class.
Let me break it down to you like this in the form of an analogy.
Suppose a person with HIV comes up to you to have a conversation. You see that person as perfectly healthy because their sickness has no external symptoms.
On the other hand what if you run into a person with the chicken-pox?
You’ll probably wonder why that person is in your face instead of seeking help for their apparent illness.
So here I was in third grade, and whatever I was dealing with was seeping out in my behavior. “There must be something wrong with Taneka because she’s acting out.”
In other words, my symptoms were external.
But what about the other kids?
What about the ones who struggled silently?
What about the ones who were fine at the moment, but would later need to know how to manage their emotions?
Many of those kids, now adults, are struggling today.
Everyone who needs help won’t cry for help.
The teacher probably didn’t know this, but I actually paid very close attention in my anger management class. I just didn’t understand how what she was teaching me would actually help me in my day-to-day life.
The dots weren’t connecting. It took me years to actually process what I had learned and weave it into my ever-growing character.
Now I find myself using the tactics and strategies I learned, not because I still get angry, but because I’m a human being with emotions. And humans need to learn how to manage those emotions.
I know this all seems random. I mean I don’t usually write on this topic.
But here’s the truth. I have conversations with people my age and older, and many times I see a real lack of self-awareness, and an inability to process emotions in a healthy way.
Which can also lead to an inability to empathize and communicate effectively. As a matter of fact, my generation deeply admires people with high self-awareness because it’s so rare.
Am I saying I have it all together because my troublesome behavior put me on a steep learning curve? No, but I am a proponent of youth being taught more than academics in school. I am a proponent of parents asking their children how their day went. I am a proponent of youth programs in churches doing more than bible study.
This is my heart because I know what it’s like to be a part of systems that only extend help to the ones who are crying out for it. There is more work to do to remove the stigma surrounding therapy and counseling.
I'd love to see the day when programs like the one I attended in 3rd grade are offered to all students, not just the ones crying out for help.