How can I help our young sons control their tempers? My husband comes from a long line of "angry men," and I'm beginning to see the same tendency in our kids. What should I do?
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 modeling inappropriate attitudes and behavior 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 details 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.
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.
How do you begin to take on such a challenge? 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' behavior. 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.
Our hope is that your husband will be able to step back, examine his own actions, take responsibility for his behavior, and make 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. Eventually the entire family should become involved in the counseling process. This is the best way to learn more effective ways of communicating and resolving conflict. Feel free to call our Counseling department for help in finding a licensed Christian counselor in your local area.
If, on the other hand, your husband won't acknowledge that he has a problem and simply responds to your concerns 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 counseling 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 get 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.
Anger Can Work for Us or Against Us: Gary Oliver defines anger and explains how to control this powerful emotion.
Changing an Angry Spirit