I am 10 years old, I have three older brothers who sometimes drive me INSANE! They tease me and I get really mad. We don’t physically fight, we mostly just argue, but I always feel really bad after I’ve cooled down (I have sort of a hot temper). I wanted to know if you had any advice on how to not react so rudely when they’re not very nice. I’m not trying to pick on my brothers by writing this letter. They are nice most of the time.
Dear Miss E.,
First of all, I think it’s pretty amazing that at 10 years old, you’re taking responsibility for your reactions. Yes, you can certainly change them! And I would venture to guess that once you do, your brothers will stop teasing you, because they are probably only doing it for your reaction. I can’t say exactly why boys do this, but it seems to be a part of boy nature. I’ve seen a teasing dynamic play out between boys and girls since I was young, and I see it come up very occasionally between my son and daughter who are normally very good companions. My son (who is older) gets a little gleam in his eye and says something he knows will make his sister upset.
Now, I know it’s not fun to lose your cool, because I’ve certainly been there! However, it’s so empowering when you learn to control your reactions. And I believe we can learn to handle any difficult situation with calm, respect, and compassion for the other person.
As a starting point, it’s important not to compare our challenges with those of other people because we are all very different in ways that may not be obvious. For example, we are all born with different temperaments, and these give us inherent strengths and weaknesses. So if having a hot temper is a weakness for you, you probably have the strength to balance it out. Perhaps you have an overall very warm character, which sometimes comes out as flashes of anger but most of the time as being very loving and caring. You might have a sister or friend who doesn’t get angry easily, but she might be very critical and struggle to be loving and caring. The point is, it’s great to be inspired by the strengths of others, but it’s not good to compare yourself in a way that makes you feel depressed, because then you have lost sight of your own strengths.
The truth is, all of us are carrying some burdens; it’s just that for some people these burdens are less obvious. A couple of years ago, I read a book by a therapist whose clients were celebrities and other rich, powerful people; the take-home was that even people with great success and status carry heavy loads, it’s just that their struggles were not obvious.
I find it helpful to approach weaknesses as wonderful opportunities to develop new strengths. In the same way that if we are born with strong legs but weak arms we may choose to do pushups and other exercises to strengthen our upper body muscles, so too can we take a targeted approach with any aspect of our character and develop greater strength there.
There are, of course, many techniques to control bursts of anger, here are ones I’ve found helpful:
- Stop before it gets big. See if you can notice when you feel the steam start to build up inside of you and call a halt to your interaction. You can do this by simply telling your brother that you are starting to get up upset and you want to stop talking and calm down. If the conversation is important, you can resume it after you feel calm again.
- Prepare your words. Think of some specific phrases ahead of time that you can say to your brothers to stop the argument. These should feel true and natural to you (it may be helpful to practice them in your head or out loud until they feel right). Keep the phrases simple, polite, and as positive as possible. For example, instead of saying, “Stop it! You’re making me mad! I’m not talking to you anymore!” try something like, “[Name of brother], please stop. I feel upset. I want to calm down now.” You can follow this up by walking away to your room or outside or somewhere else where you can calm down. Talking to your parents might help too.
- Visualize success. Imagine yourself handling these situations with calm and ease. Pro athletes and successful people in other fields spend time visualizing how they are going to act to get their desired outcomes, because if you have a clear map in your mind, it is much easier to then get yourself there in real life.
- Forgive. When you do lose your temper, it’s important to be able to forgive yourself and the other person. All of us make mistakes, and this is how we learn. One thing I’ve found helpful is to repeat the phrase, “[Name], I forgive you,” until I feel calm and loving again.
The last thing I would suggest is to make an effort to treat your brothers with a little extra respect. There is a classic Chinese book called “Di Zi Gui,” which teaches children how to treat members of their family. For siblings, it says, “The older brother’s friendly, the younger shows respect; such harmony is what your parents should expect.”
I think there is real wisdom in this. When boys feel respected and appreciated, it brings out their better nature.
Do you have a family or relationship question for our advice columnist, Dear June? Send it to DearJune@EpochTimes.com or Attn: Dear June, The Epoch Times, 5 Penn Plaza, 8th Fl. New York, NY, 10001
June Kellum is a married mother of three and longtime Epoch Times journalist covering family, relationships, and health topics.