Family movie night! Popcorn. Blankets. Laughter and excitement. What could be better?!? But movies can be even more than that. Movies can also be life lessons and opportunities for conversations with our kids. If there’s a challenge in life, there’s likely a film that explores it. And speaking of challenges: anger is a HUGE challenge in lots of homes. To help you tackle anger in your family, we picked four movies that could be the centerpiece of your next family movie night.
1. Inside Out
The premise: Eleven-year-old Riley has five emotions: joy, sadness, fear, disgust, and anger. Each is personified by by an animated character who helps her navigate big changes in her life. But when a few of her feelings go missing, Riley feels empty.
Talking points: Every emotion has a purpose, and has important messages for us. Even anger. In the movie, what are Anger’s messages? What is Anger trying to protect?
When we don’t listen to those messages, or when we suppress our feelings, it hurts. All of our emotions want us to react in some way. Especially anger. Watch for the moments in the movie when Anger is silenced. Watch for moments when Anger takes control. How did Riley react? When our kids allow anger – or any emotion – to take over, they may make impulsive decisions, or say and do things that they regret. Can your kids think of moments when their anger took control? What message where they getting from their anger?
Additional questions for kids: In the movie, what did Anger look like? What do you think your anger looks like? When your anger wants to take over, what are your other emotions trying to say or do? What are some safe and appropriate ways to handle anger?
2. Wreck-It Ralph
The premise: Ralph is a video game bad guy with a bit of a temper. His job is to “wreck” things, so that the video game hero, Fix-It Felix, can, well, fix it. But the townspeople shun and exclude him because of his actions, and he begins to believe that he truly is a bad person. One day, he runs away from the bullying and stereotypes, and sets out to find acceptance and prove that his temper doesn’t define him.
Talking points: Our emotions, our words, and our actions can’t define us. We are so much more than that. From time to time, we all say and do things that we regret. But that doesn’t make us bad people. Notice the bad things that Ralph does, AND the good things. When does he show kindness?
Can your kids think of times when they were labeled because of something they did or said? Have they ever labeled themselves?
Belonging and acceptance are basic human needs. Being excluded hurts, and bullying affects almost every child. Everyone in the family can share their our experiences with bullying, both being bullied, and perhaps even times when were were guilty of bullying. Examine how our actions and words affect others. We can also discuss ways to practice compassion and empathy toward others and ourselves.
Additional questions for kids: How could the town’s people shown more compassion toward Ralph? How can we use our anger to protect and defend ourselves, and others, rather than by hurting people or wrecking things? How could you handle bullying situations in the future? How do you know when you need a reset? What can you do to regroup when you have big feelings like anger?
3. Angry Birds
The premise: To manage angry outbursts, several birds in the community attend anger management therapy. But one day, the birds notice that pigs have taken over the island. Their anger kicks into high gear, and they must decide if they should fight back.
Talking points: Anger is a normal emotion children can learn to express in safe, healthy and appropriate ways. As we discuss situations that cause us to feel anger, we can compare inappropriate expressions of anger, like throwing things or exploding, with appropriate expressions, such as retreating to a quiet room, taking deep breaths, pushing against a wall, or scrubbing the shower — yeah, right :).
Anger’s job is to protect us. When the birds feel angry, can you figure out what it is that they’re protecting? Can everyone in the house take a moment to talk about the last time they felt angry? Then can each person think about what their anger might have been trying to protect?
Additional questions for kids: What are some ways your anger has been explosive in the past? What triggers your anger? How do you know when and how to harness your anger for good? What strategies can you use to manage anger in appropriate, safe and healthy ways?
4. Return of the Jedi
The premise: Luke Skywalker is a warrior with special a special power called the Force. The Force requires him to be in tune with his emotions, to feel them flow through him and hear the messages they send him. It requires peacefulness and mindfulness. But his rage-filled father (spoiler alert, it’s Darth Vader) wants him to use the Dark Side of the Force, where he’ll let his anger take over and fuel his actions.
Talking points: All emotions, even “dark side” emotions like anger, fear, aggression, and hate, are a normal part of the human experience. Luke feels anger. Luke feels fear. But he doesn’t let those feelings control him like they control Vader. Luke knows those feelings are uncomfortable, but he also knows that they will pass. Look for the moments when Luke feels challenging emotions, and talk about how he takes time to think before he acts. Similarly, look for the moments when Darth Vader acts impulsively on his anger
When does Luke demonstrate mindfulness? Can your kids think of ways that they can use mindfulness to help them reframe challenging situations. Parents should share their own, as well.
Additional questions for kids: What makes you feel anger? How did Luke reframe his anger? How can you do the same? What mindfulness techniques can you practice the next time you feel anger?
If you find that shows and movies are an affective way to talk about feelings in your home, then check out GoCharge!, the amazing anger transformation program from GoZen! Complete with talking points, learning targets, and printable worksheets, this animated program is the next step in your child’s anger transformation journey.