Wow, that could have been me at 15 except without any of the presence of mind. I still find it really hard to talk about this - it feels sort of like a betrayal of the father that I truly love to even admit that he was and is like this. Recognize that none of the anger is about you - nothing you do, even things that someone might objectively say are "bad" - sassing, disobeying, whining - none of that deserves his level of angry response. My father would say that losing his temper shouldn't mean that he automatically is wrong about whatever we are discussing, but I know now that the temper is wrong in and of itself, as its own issue. Also, I discovered as a young adult that I had his temper too, but it had always been overshadowed by the intensity of his, and I had never been taught what to do about it. I've learned, primarily by thinking of how I wish he would act, and I'm trying to teach my oldest son, who has clearly inherited it. My dad has struggled with this, visibly. I know he wishes he didn't have this temper but also doesn't want to feel like a bad person - that's his struggle to deal with. I'm not going to give him a pass because he feels bad about it, but I'm also not going to condemn him because I know where he came from (legit crazy mother) and in every other way he is a wonderful father. It's a tough balancing act, you are already doing a good job with your insight into how it's about control and protecting himself, nothing to do with you. I found that giving surface agreement to things (allowing a hug even if I'm angry) and reserving space inside to say "this isn't right and I am right to not like it" worked for me until I could leave home, but whether that's a truly healthy response or not, I can't judge. We have a good relationship today, he is less angry, and I care less when he is angry, but it's not easy and I can feel, just by the fact that I want to cry at my desk right now, that it's changed me in ways a better parent would not have.
This news has been published by title Carolyn Hax Live: An Invitation Is Not A Subpoena (Friday, Jan. 23)
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