Q&A: How can I stop my sons from inheriting my husband's anger?Written by Focus on the Family
What's inside this article
Question: My husband comes from a long line of "angry men." Now I’m beginning to see the same tendency in our young sons. What can I do to help them control their tempers?
If you want to help your boys, start by encouraging your husband to get some help with his anger problem. In other words, deal with the issue at its source. It seems clear that your husband is modelling inappropriate attitudes and behaviour in the home, and that your sons are imitating him. This is to be expected. After all, kids learn how to deal with life and relationships from their parents. Naturally, it’s impossible to make definitive statements without more detailed and intimate information about your family history, but based on what you’ve told us we strongly suspect that your husband is angry because he had an angry father. Now he’s passing that pattern along to your sons.
Understanding "generational sin"
The Bible calls this "generational sin." Your husband, through no fault of his own, was sinned against by his angry father. That in turn has caused him to sin against his wife and kids by taking out his anger on them. There’s a pattern here that needs to be broken, and the primary responsibility for breaking it rests with you and your husband – not with your children.
What you can do
How do you begin to tackle such a challenging task? We suggest that you start slow and simple. Wait until your husband is in a good mood and then approach him in love with your concerns about the patterns you’ve observed in your family. Don’t blame or accuse. Instead, gently let him know that you’re disturbed about the anger that’s been surfacing in your sons’ behaviour. Ask him to think carefully and prayerfully about this situation and consider the possibility that the boys may be picking up this style and method of dealing with their problems from their dad.
When to seek professional counselling
Our hope is that your husband will be able to step back, examine his own actions, take responsibility for his behaviour, and implement the necessary changes. If he is willing to move forward in this direction, the first step is to find a good therapist who has experience dealing with anger management. Our counselling department here at Focus on the Family Canada can help you find a licensed Christian counsellor in your local area; you can contact them Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. Pacific time at 1.800.661.9800. Eventually the entire family should become involved in the counselling process. This is the best way to learn more effective ways of communicating and resolving conflict.
If, on the other hand, your husband won’t acknowledge that he has a problem and simply responds to your overtures with more anger or blame, you will need to look elsewhere for help and encouragement. Perhaps you have some close friends or relatives who would be willing to come alongside you and support you. You may even want to consider the option of seeking professional counselling on your own. Though we’re sorry to have to mention it, it’s important to add that you should find a safe place to go if the situation becomes threatening. Don’t hesitate to call the proper authorities if you ever feel that you or your children are in physical danger.
In the meantime, it would also be a good idea to procure a copy of Dr. James Dobson’s book Love Must Be Tough and read it from cover to cover. This volume will teach you the steps you may need to take in order to help your husband and protect yourself and your children if circumstances take a turn for the worse. It can be ordered by calling our offices or visiting our online store.
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