Quarantined and ANGRY! How Anger Affects the Family…

Anger is one of the most commonly reported problems in families today. It surfaces in a variety of forms, including domestic violence, child abuse, marital conflicts, sibling rivalry, and generational tensions. As families are experiencing the isolation and disconnect from normal support services, during COVID-19, they may become angrier and act out their fears and worries on one another.

Why do we direct our anger at people we know and love? Part of the answer is hidden in the dynamics of the family itself. Other answers come from the hectic pace of contemporary family life and our own thinking.

A family is a complex emotional system where every member affects other members. Unless a person takes drastic measures to emotionally cut themselves off from the family or physically moves away; they cannot escape the power of the family over their behavior. It is this complexity and the fact that so much of family dynamics are outside of member’s conscious awareness, that makes change difficult. Consequently, members feel helpless to change anger in the family.

Anger takes place in the family in three ways: It is inherent in family temperament; it carries over from other stressful systems (such as work); it serves a specific function in the family.

Temper, Temper! 

A temperament is defined “as a person’s customary manner of emotional response (Roget’s II, The New Thesaurus).” Everyone knows someone they would describe as having a “temper.” One member or more of the family can be moody, intense, reactive, and dislike change. These people could be said to have a feisty or difficult temperament. They have inherited a biology that reacts in a different manner to stressful life events. Temperament is not something that family members can completely change, but it is something that can be modified or adapted to.

Parents who understand this realize that they have not failed their children. They simply have a child with a different temperament. It also answers the question, for many parents, why they seem to have more discomfort relating to one child over another. The more dissimilar the temperament, between parent and child, the more difficult it is to understand and interact together. On the other hand, family members with similar temperaments may “rub” each other the wrong way. Two members with “tempers” will engage in more frequent arguments and power struggles than would two members with flexible temperaments.

Displaced Anger.

Another way that anger affects families is through displacement of anger from one system (i.e., work) to another system (i.e., home). Parents who had a rough day at work don’t automatically shed their frustrations on the way home. They can bring it home and react to other family members in a hostile and abusive manner. One answer why family members direct their anger at people they know and love is that it is safer to vent with people they know will not abandon them. The boss may fire someone for venting at them or another employee. A teacher may give a student a bad report for acting out at school. But family members usually stick by you, even if you get angry. Unfortunately, chronic venting at loved one’s will result in negative consequences. It breaks down members’ ability to feel safe and trust one another.

Anger is Power

Anger has specific social functions that signal us when there is a need that is unfulfilled or a problem that needs solving. The earliest example of this, in families, is seen in the newborn. When the baby is hungry, hurt, or wet, it cries. If responses to its needs are not immediate, it can become angry. The baby will shake and scream until that need is met.

Anger can be used to control other family members. The most common example of this is a small child throwing a “temper” tantrum. The purpose of the tantrum is to get mom or dad to comply with their wants. Older children and adults also throw tantrums. They use it to get children to comply or spouses to listen or siblings to leave them alone. While anger may be one way to gain control, in the short-term, it always backfires, destroying relationships, in the long-term.

Anger Toolbox.

Families do not have to continue to be victims of their own or other’s anger. They can use some simple tools to manage anger:

  • The first tool to managing anger is to take personal responsibility for it. Even if a member’s anger is due to temperament or an overbearing boss, take responsibility for your reaction and what you do with that anger. The destructive root of family anger is blame. The blame game only has losers, no winners.
  • The second tool is to find safe and healthy ways to vent your anger. Give yourself more time to get home so that you are not so upset from the day at work or school. Or ask family members for a few moments alone when you do get home so that you can detox yourself for the day’s stress. Find alternative outlets for the pressure that builds up through the day. Exercise, sports, and physical activities are good choices. Additionally, meditation, relaxation training, and healthy diets will ensure a much more powerful buffer to stress.
  • Thirdly, be aware of how you talk to yourself. If you find yourself reacting to a situation differently than other family members, you may be causing your own problems. What we say to ourselves about situations and other family members influence our emotions. Get help from a qualified therapist to work on changing how you view difficult problems in your life.
  • And lastly, increase your social support network. The more people you have to turn to in a time of crisis, the more resourceful you will feel. Some of these people may not be your family members. That’s all right. They are safe places to deal with anger so that time at home, with other members, is spent enjoying one another.


References:

Ellis, Albert Anger: How to Live With and Without it. New York: Carol Publishing Group. 1992.
Huxley, Ronald Love & Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group, Inc. 1998.
McKay, M., Rogers, P.D. & McKay, J. When Anger Hurts: Quieting the Storm Within. Oakland: New Harbinger. 1989.
Robins, Shani & Navaco, Raymond W. “Systems Conceptualization and Treatment of Anger.” Journal of Clinical Psychology. (1999). Vol. 55, No. 3, p. 325.

Dealing with the Soul and Emotions

Everyone struggles with how to deal with their emotions. This is especially challenging for children whose neurological development has not matured to the point that they can use more rational thinking to deal with their emotions. It becomes even more problematic if our children have suffered a traumatic event or experienced toxic stress. 

Trauma and toxic stress impair all areas of development for children causing them to act and think below their chronological age. We call this gap “Age vs. Stage” to reference how a 16-year-old can act socially and emotionally like a 6-year-old. Often, the age that the child experienced the trauma is the emotional age they get stuck at even while the rest of them advance in years. This can open the eyes for many caregivers who are puzzled by the age vs stage problem. 

Adults don’t always have good solutions to this problem, however. We may not really know how to manage our own emotions. Perhaps we have had our own trauma that shuts us down when overwhelmed by stress or we haven’t had many examples of what healthy, responsible adults do with their intense feelings and so, we limp along with our own developmental journey. 

What most adults do is stuff their feelings. They might do this by dissociating from their bodily reactions and disconnect from extreme feelings of intimacy or closeness. They might push the feelings down until the boil over in a fit of rage, with everyone around the just waiting for the next volcanic explosion. They might try to be super reasonable and lecture their family and be perfectionistic with expectations no one can live up to. 

The healthier answer is not to try and live from our emotions at all! The secret is that you can change your emotions by changing what you believe. When you wake up in the morning, don’t ask yourself “How do I feel today?” Ask yourself, instead “What do I believe today?”

Families who are faith-based believe many things they don’t always practice. For example, we believe that God will take care of all our needs but we spend hours being worried. Our beliefs must go deeper into our subconscious minds where habits exist. You don’t think about how to do certain things in life, like driving your car or make dinner, because those thought structures are set in our subconscious mind so that we can spend more energy on other conscious thoughts and actions. Practicing what we preach has to become a natural reaction to life’s challenges as well. 

Faith-based families have a strange distrust of their own souls as well. Our souls comprise our body, mind, and will. Perhaps we distrust them because we haven’t changed our subconscious habits yet. This will be an on-going process, for sure, and one we can start modeling for our children as well. We also have to live healthy lifestyles, eating good food, engaging in playful activities, and getting rest and exercise. 

Our beliefs allow us to overcome shame from our past. This is what causes traumatized children (and adults) from believing they deserve a good life because they are unworthy of love, unwanted by biological parents, and damaged in some way – maybe many ways. This negative belief results in the sabotage of success, self-injurious behavior, suicidal ideations, depression, anxiety, and fear. This list could go on…

God’s mercies are supposed to be “new every morning” and the same level of grace should be extended to ourselves as well as to other. We need to offer this to our traumatized children, as well. Whatever happened yesterday must be forgiven and our thought life must be taken captive. 

A powerful tool for ourselves and for our families is to make biblical declarations – out loud! Life or death is on the tongue and what we say can steer the direction of our lives (Proverbs 18:21; James 3). Speaking out our new beliefs is an act of faith because we may not feel that what we are saying is true but we are not letting our emotions guide our beliefs, we are letting our beliefs direct our emotions. 

Renewing the mind is how we are to live our faith governed lives and it is a continual process of maturity for our children and will help to close the age vs. stage gap (Romans 12:1-1). 

Start your declarations with the words “I believe” and see what happens to your own mindset as well as to your child’s attitude and behaviors.

“I believe” that I have all the grace I need to face any challenge or problem that comes up for me today.

“I believe” that I am worthy of love and the love of God, who is love, overflows from me to everyone I encounter today.

“I believe” that I am trustworthy, kind, and tenderhearted. I am able to forgive other people who have hurt by and not live in bitterness or seek revenge. 

  • “I believe” that my prayers are powerful.
  • “I believe” I am great at relationships and making friends.
  • “I believe”  that my family is blessed and I am a blessing to everyone around me.
  • “I believe” God is on my side and doesn’t hate me or punish me. 
  • “I believe” I can think right thoughts and make good decisions.
  • “I believe” that I am successful and have the ability to think and act creatively today.
  • “I believe” today is a new day, full of new mercies, and I can be happy and rejoice in it. 
  • “I believe” that the joy of the Lord is my strength. 
  • “I believe” I do not have a spirit of fear and God gives me power, love, and a sound mind. 
  • “I believe” that I can control what I say and everything from my lips speak love, live, and encouragement. 
  • “I believe” that I can remember everything I am studying and will accomplish everything that needs to get down today. 
  • “I believe” that believing the truth sets me free of fear and depression. 

Don’t worry if you don’t always feel what you say is true. Don’t be concerned or deterred if your children don’t agree with your declarations, at first. I believe that if you practice these declarations and start to create your own personal list that you will see incredible changes in your own heart and the heart of your family, today and over time!

Take a free online course to help your family heal at FamilyHealer.tv

Dear Anger Diary

diary

Have you ever kept a diary? Maybe as a child, you did. I still do although I am not as diligent with it as I used to be. Using a diary is a simple way to manage your anger. Anger triggers and solutions are very predictable. Unfortunately, we miss the clues to both of these anger management tips and continue to repeat the negative process of outburst and tantrums.

Every day for two weeks, write in a diary using this four-step anger management process:

1. List what made you angry.
2. List how angry it made you feel on a scale from 1 to 10, one being cool and calm and 10 being a major rage.
3. Put a plus sign (+) down if you handled it well and a minus sign (-) if you didn’t.
4. Write what you will try next time this situation presents itself.

After two weeks are over go back and see what you have learned. You will be surprised by how much info you gathered in a short time and how much insight and change you have accomplished.

Coming soon: The Anger Toolbox ecourse! Join our newsletter now to get more info when it arrives…

Punishment is outdated…or is it?

Punishment is outdated…or is it it? How faith-based families discipline their children

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

One of the most frequently used methods of parenting is spanking. Shocking? Yes, but parenting polls continue to report that parents “fall back” to old habits of when they where parented. In the past, American society advocated for parents to spank their children. A sign of good parenting used to be if you spanked your disobedient child or not. Today, the American attitude is just the opposite. If a parent spanks their child, they are considered abusive and threatened to be reported to the authorities.

The reason for this shift in parenting methods is obvious: Too many parents spank out of anger and hurt their children. There is another reason for not spanking that is a lot more reasonable: it isn’t effective and there are so many other parenting tools that can be used. Long-term, negative outcomes of spanking is delinquency, substance abuse, and psychological problems.

Punishment and Discipline is not the same thing. Punishment refers to threatening, hitting, or using harsh treatment that might include prolonged isolation, humiliation and shaming behaviors. Discipline is about teaching or guiding children in the right direction so that they can be responsible people.

Christian parents use the verse, from the Bible, that “whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” Proverbs 13:24. This verse has nothing to do with hitting children. It is all about guiding children and being a moral leader and example to them.

Another verse states: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4. Parents that use punishment do not produce children who feel happy and confident. It teaches them to be sneakier and models force as an answer to problems.

If parents today really thought about their own upbringing, they would remember that spanking didn’t help them. Many would tell stories that were terrifying and painful, emotionally and physically. Why use that method to parents our own children? Better to find tools that work.

Get a special report on the 4 Reasons Children Misbehave and how you can redirect your child to be responsible and fun to be around. Click here now!

How to Have a SAFER Home!

Fear destroys families and why you must make it “feel” safer

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Fear is one of the biggest reasons for family power struggles and defiance in children. It shifts the atmosphere of the home and causes use to react instead of acting in a safe and sane manner toward one another. All families fight. You can create a S.A.F.E.R. H.O.M.E. to battle against problems instead of people you love.

Are you in a constant power struggle with your children? Feeling a little helpless to manage the continual arguments and competition between children in your home? Tired of yelling, bribing, and negotiating to get cooperation? Well here is a 9 step plan to help you create a “safer home”:

S = Stop what you are doing. Your probably reacting to the stress of the situation and making things worse. Take some time to…

A = Assess the situation, environment, mood and motivations of your child(ren). What are they doing? Why are they doing it? How are you handling it? Who is involved? Just notice for now…

F =Focus on one problem or priority to address. Don’t try to tackle all the issues. Try and address the core issue that affects the most people/variables. This will allow you to…

E = Empathize with your child’s feelings. State: “I can understand how you would feel this way or want to act in a certain way, however…”

R = Respond (versus reacting) by offering alternative solutions or asking for responses from the children to come up with the alternatives themselves. This activates all areas of the brain through empathy development (right brain and emotional centers of the brain) and logical thought (left brain and cause and effect areas of the brain)…

H = Help children with suggestions for things they could try if they cannot come up with their own or if they won’t do it. “Would you like some ideas? What if we do x or y?”…

O = Offer choices. Would you rather share the toy or find a new one? Brush teeth before or after putting on your pajamas? The more choices and the smaller they are spread out through the day the more compliance you will get. Choices mean power but only offer ones you can live with and be ready to…

M = Maintain your position when they go for that third choice you didn’t offer them. If they do this, you know you are playing a game that no one will win. You may have to be a broken record and repeat the choice two choices two times (this is important to only do it twice) and then…

E = Execute the choice everyone agreed to or take action if they can’t or won’t agree to one. You chose A or B. This is “do or die” when it comes to parenting. Be ready to stick to your choice and don’t back down. If you do, you give total control back to your child. The fight might be tough today but tomorrow it will be easier and easier the day after that until finally it will be a rare day that you have to fight it at all. Won’t that be nice and safe?

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Use Your Words…

Children have to learn to use their words in order to manage their emotions. In order for parents to model this type of control, they have to show that they can handle their children’s frustrations and anger in a calm, response-able manner. This way the child will not come to believe that their feelings are too big to be managed or will get too out of control to be controlled with their words. Parents who respond to anger and frustration with anger and frustration will magnify the emotions and create a belief that emotions rule us instead of the other way around.

Take back control of your home: 101 Parenting Tools: Building the Family of Your Dreams

Is It Talking Back or Assertiveness: How to teach appropriate behavior

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Parents will tell me that they want a child who can speak their mind and express themselves in an articulate and assertive manner but no one enjoys a child who argues, talks back or refuses to do anything they are asked to do. Typically, we call this latter description: Oppositional or Defiant behavior. 

Clinically, it is describe as any person who shows a pattern of…

A.  negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least 6 months, during which four (or more) of the following are present:
(1) often loses temper
(2) often argues with adults
(3) often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
(4) often deliberately annoys people
(5) often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
(6) is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
(7) is often angry and resentful
(8) is often spiteful or vindictive

It is hard to differentiate between talking back and being assertive. When this is the case, I suggest that parents have children “Redo” a defiant comment or action. Ask the child to repeat what they want in a different tone of voice, manner of approach or without the tantrum or door slamming. It is important that parents stay as calm as possible. Take a few deep breaths and ask the child to do the same and then have them “Redo” the behavior one to five times. The reason for the longer repetition is that not only does it reinforce the behavior in a positive manner and teach a more appropriate social skill but it also “satiates” (read “bores the child”) the inappropriate behavior. Children hate boring tasks but will feel rewarded when they get what they want through appropriate words and actions. 

Hey, try this on your husband too 🙂

Learn more power parenting tools with Ron Huxley’s parenting book: 

Love and Limits: Achieving a Balance in Parenting

A recent article by Scientific American reviews desperate attempts to change unruly teen behavior around. One of the toughest challenges is to reach an adolescent who is angry, defiant and acting out in destructive ways. Confrontational strategies and harsh punishment, the article explains, has only short-term benefits. No studies prove lasting results from this type of “scared straight” intervention. So what does work? The article ends with this summarization: 

results show that merely imposing harsh discipline on young offenders or frightening them is unlikely to help them refrain from problematic behavior. Instead teens must learn enduring tools—including better social skills, ways to communicate with parents and peers, and anger management techniques—that help them avoid future aggression. Several effective interventions do just that, including cognitive-behavior therapy, a method intended to change maladaptive thinking patterns and behaviors, and multisystemic therapy, in which parents, schools and communities develop programs to reinforce positive behaviors. Another well-supported method, aimed at improving behavior in at-risk children younger than eight years, is parent-child interaction therapy. Parents are coached by therapists in real time to respond to a child’s behavior in ways that strengthen the parent-child bond and provide incentives for cooperation [see “Behave!” by Ingrid Wickelgren; Scientific American Mind, March/April 2014].”

What can you do to strengthen your bond with your child? How can you reach his or her heart, locked behind a wall of pain and anger? Don’t expect overnight miracles. Turning your defiant teen around will require consistency and continual micro-shifts of change in you and your child. You will probably blow it on days and be exhausted from the effort on others. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Focus on who the child will be and not on who they have been or what they are doing. Consequences are natural and necessary. Boundaries are even more important! Just don’t equate your love with positive behavior. Nothing your child does should make you love him or her any less and nothing can make you love them more. Love just is…

Anger Management: “Jump!”

by Ron Huxley, LMFT

Four frogs were sitting on a log and one decides to
jump. How many frogs are left? Still four. Deciding to jump does not
mean that the frog actually did jump. Managing our anger is often the
same. We decide to make a change in our attitudes and behaviors but
we never “get off the log.” The difference between the person who
succeeds in managing anger in their life and the one who doesn’t is
commitment. One must be committed to change if it is to become a
reality. There are no easy alternatives. Stopping the destructive
path of anger is hard work and takes courage and discipline. 

Today, write out a statement of commitment to
changing the role of anger in your life. Make it strong and make it
clear. It can be as long as you like but there can not be any
ambiguities in your language. No “maybes.” No “trying.” Just “doing.”
Oh, you will mess up and you will fall a few times but you have to go
back to your statement and do it again. How many times? As many times
as it takes until anger is your slave and not the other way around.