On a radio interview this week the host asked me a pointed question. “How should mom deal with the situation when Dad is yelling at the teen in an over-the-top way? Should she step in? Should she keep her mouth shut?”
I didn’t hesitate for a second because the question comes up all the time. Some Dads can be hotheaded, and if we want to be honest with ourselves, as moms we can be too. Emotional fury has no gender preference. And unfortunately it is a common occurrence in most homes.
We feel free to “be our true selves” with the ones we most love.
Family can also be where the most emotional wounding can take place.
Feeling the wrath of another person is hard to experience let alone watch as it unfolds before our very eyes. We’ve all been there with the hurt and pain that comes with anger and defensiveness from another person. And we don’t want our child to feel similar pain.
Ironically, God allowed that tormenting pain to come crashing into my life this week from someone who was/is very dear and precious to me.
Notice my “was/is” statement. I’m still trying to process our relationship.
“Does this person love me? Or loathe me? Does this person care about me or my feelings? Does this person really have my best interest at heart? Do I want to continue loving this person the way I have in the past? Should I cut off my feelings from this person so I won’t be hurt in the future? How should I re-define our relationship based on this new knowledge of who this person truly is?”
It’s the mind’s way of self-protection. It’s the only way I can feel in control of my current circumstance.
It’s no different for our kids. When they experience the anger from a parent, they might not be equipped to verbally process the pain like I am, but they feel it.
It took me a while to process my emotions over the incident this week. You see, I wasn’t taught as a child to look at how I feel in a given situation. I couldn’t easily put words to my emotion.
Finally, with a friend’s help, I was given a word list. Betrayed. Angry. Unloved. Violated. All these were only the tip of the iceberg.
Taken for granted. Not worth the effort to really be known. And more feelings continue to surface.
I want connection and a sincere apology.
The person has attempted to connect without dealing with my pain. A “life will continue as normal” mentality has entered our relationship. But I’m scarred.
Think about our kids. Every interaction where there is unresolved conflict results in damage to the relationship. We may think that things are fine, but underneath the surface something is still brewing. Mistrust is seeping in and most likely, as a parent, we have no idea we have affected our kids.
If we stand by and say nothing when the other parent is yelling at our teen, we are communicating (non-verbally, of course) to our child that “Dad (or Mom) is right and they deserve it”. If we enter into the shouting match taking one side over the other, then one of them is going to feel disrespected and damage that relationship.
It becomes what most of us consider a no win situation. With either choice someone is hurt.
As I shared with the radio host, if the other parent is being verbally or physically abusive with our teen, we need to take action to stop the situation. When emotions are high someone has to be the adult in the room and if that means stepping between our teen and the other parent or calling the police then do so. Those are extreme circumstances and not the ones most moms deal with on a routine basis.
Most times parents just want control of a situation with their kids. Either the parent is upset at something the teen did or didn’t do and wants their kid to “get the message”. Or the teen is making a request that seems unreasonable and brings fear to the parent. Either way, emotions rise, and the parent has learned that using his voice by screaming and reading a child the riot act will get the teen’s attention.
But how can we (the other parent) deescalate the situation?
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.”
- Try walking into the room and gently putting your hand on your spouse’s shoulder. Sometimes touch will soothe the anger and quiet the mind.
- If the hand doesn’t work, try speaking into the situation. “I can tell that both of you are upset. Can we take a break to calm down and finish this conversation later this evening?”
- Give your spouse some time to calm down and then try to have conversation about the circumstances. “I know you are really upset about this. It’s hard to be a parent and to know what is most important for our kids to learn. You are a good dad and you want the best for ______. (Continue talking in positive language). What do you think you could do to resolve this issue without damaging the relationship? Then talk through how to interact with the child in a more healthy manner. (Remember, your spouse may not have had this modeled for him in a healthy way. Give him the benefit of the doubt. He does love your child even if he doesn’t know how to deal with the conflict or his emotions.)
- Encourage your spouse to re-engage with an apology to your child for getting so upset.
- If all goes well, you are on your way to healthier family relationships.
But what if your spouse is not open to this kind of coaching and encouragement?
Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places…”
- Let your child know that you don’t condone their father’s behavior and that you are sorry for what they had to experience.
- After apologizing for their dad’s behavior, sit with your child’s pain.
- Allow them to talk. Help your teen identify their emotions. Soothe them as best you can.
- Normalize dad’s behavior. “All of us have blind-spots. Your dad was never taught how to control his feelings and at times they explode. I’m sorry that you seem to get the brunt of those. You know that your dad loves you, right?” (Talk about the things Dad does right and help your child see that Dad really does love him.)
- Apologize again–this time you are sorry you can’t change Dad’s behavior. Let your child know that you love them and you love their dad as well.
- Talk through strategies the child could use the next time this occurs. Teach him how to de-escalate the tension.
- Give your teen lots of hugs and support until he has worked through the emotion.
- Pray with your child that God will do a mighty work in his father’s heart.
May God bless you as you attempt to restore the relationships in your home.
“Let go…and Let God”,
Want to practice some of these skills in a safe environment? Want to learn more ways to work through the shouting matches in your home and resolve conflict in a healthy way?
Join us at our Deflating Defensiveness Training Retreat May 30-June 3, 2018. Nina Roesner and I will pair up to not only give you the skills, but help you put together a plan specific to your own personal circumstances. You’ll be encouraged and leave with a new perspective on how relationships can be more fulfilling in your own home.