The Impact of Anger in Parenting

We have been discussing many issues surrounding the phenomenon of violence in our society. We have also been looking at the connection that shame has to violence and aggression. Most violence and aggression stems from the emotion of anger. Often, we learn about anger in how we were parented.

How parents use their anger matters

Is parental anger always a bad thing? No it is not. But it can be used destructively or constructively. According to Harold Bloomfield and Robert Kory in Inner Joy:

  • Anger that punishes is Destructive
  • Anger that communicates is Constructive
Destructive vs. constructive anger

Let’s look at their conclusions a bit more comprehensively.

Destructive anger can have many goals including to:

  • Control, dominate, overpower
  • Intimidate
  • Coerce
  • Get revenge
  • Blame, attack, shame embarrass
  • Block communication, avoid intimacy

The impact of Destructive Anger:

  • Weakens self-esteem
  • Creates impotence
  • Masks primary feeling with coldness
  • Inhibits communication
  • Leaves other person tense and bitter
  • Creates emotional distance
  • Damages trust in relationship
  • Unsatisfying for both people because of breakdown
  • Creates negative physical responses
  • Has cumulative effects of general hostility, distrust bitterness, divestment

On the other hand Constructive Anger has four goals, to:

The impact of Constructive Anger:

  • Contributes to the healing of emotional injury
  • Is not an attempt to attack, blame, shame, cause guilt, humiliation
  • Promotes communication of primary feelings
  • Promotes appropriate intensity of expression of true feelings
  • Creates relationship building: trust, sense of understanding, appreciation, connection, respect
  • Sets pattern for further communication
  • Lays groundwork for forgiving, letting go, moving on
mom and daughter hug
Constructive anger can be healing

Sometimes I think it is helpful to contrast and compare how an emotion or behavior can affect someone else, and in particular, our children.

What’s important to remember?

Anger, in and of itself, is not a destructive or unhealthy emotion. Rather, it is how we use our anger that makes it healthy or unhealthy.

It is my hope that by understanding the characteristics of constructive anger, we as parents can use anger appropriately with our children and give them a great model to learn from.

Gerry Vassar, President and CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Some information taken from Preventing Violence through Anger Management, 2006, Diane Wagenhals.

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