Anger: Why Parents Won’t Talk About It

I distinctly remember an encounter we had while we were at a conference with a young couple whose infant was in a stroller.  These two young parents engaged our staff and began to talk about the struggles of parenting while the mother or mother-in-law approached us to chat and browse one of our parenting books we typically display for sale. Our staff deferred to her, basically not even considering helping the young couple with their parenting. Why? In order to do so, it would have been dishonoring to their mother or mother-in-law and likely would have created conflict.

Family loyalties directly affect your parenting

Grandma and baby
Family loyalties impact how we parent our children.

Particularly, many parents struggle with the very serious issue of anger. Some responses to my posts on anger have suggested that talking about anger is difficult. One reason is illustrated in the first paragraph: family loyalties. Family loyalties cause parents to feel pressure to preserve beliefs, attitudes and behaviors that are part of a family’s identity.

Family loyalties form an intricate tapestry within us

Another reason that parents are resistant to parenting information is because they have to acknowledge and address shame, guilt and regret for harm they feel or perceive they have done to their child. It is much easier to deny these feelings and perceptions than to address them, and very often parents do just that.

Parents can feel shame because of their child's anger.

Sometimes parents tell us they feel a great deal of angst when they witness their child’s anger. The angst occurs because as the parents see their child’s anger, they perceive their own pain and shame.  Thus, their child’s anger triggers the same anger in them though they are often not aware of this trigger.

Moreover, there are some parents who find parenting information difficult to understand, relate to, or apply; yet, they remain confused as to why they are angry at their children. (I must admit, some of the research is pretty confusing at times, and hearing an explanation from someone who understands it can be like turning on a light in a dark room.)

Life can be hard, and change certainly can be

Each child is different and our kids do not come with an instruction manual.

For some parents, change is hard, particularly when lives are busy with many tasks to perform each day, and especially with care for more than one child. Yes, it is hard enough just to get through some days, but then also to make serious changes as to how you react to your children can be overwhelming.

Change is hard whether it involves attitudes, beliefs or behaviors, and I believe we do not do a good job in our culture of supporting parents who are struggling to raise their children.

There is so much valuable information that can help parents, and yet, it seems that they receive little help with issues that they need to process in their own lives. Parenting is a hard job, with many challenges. Each child is different and no kid comes with an instruction manual.

How do we help parents break harmful family legacies?

However, if we are going to break the legacies of aggression and violence, we need to rally behind our parents and give them

  • A place to process their struggles
  • A way to receive quality information
  • Simple explanations for what they do not understand, and
  • Training to recognize their triggers and legacies related to anger.

Every parent should have someone to talk to in the middle of difficult situations. There is wisdom in numbers and experience, and I have never yet met parents who don’t have a number of concerns and questions about their kids.

I encourage parents to establish networks of support;  so, if angry moments come up, among special friends, there will be safety to discuss, be educated about and practice new ideas. It is a great way for all of us to grow as well as knock down the resistance to anger issues in our homes.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Information taken from Preventing Violence through Anger Management, 2006, Diane Wagenhals. Licensed Materials. All rights reserved.

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