Angry mom needs help

My teens won’t talk to me because I am so explosive. I even slapped my daughter. Help! Try to let go of ideas of “right and wrong”, says our elder. You all deserve a more peaceful future.

Dear EWC

I am a very explosive mom. My husband has pointed out that my teenagers won’t talk to me about things because they are afraid I will end up at def-con 100 as soon as they do. Recently we discovered our oldest (16) is having sex, vaping, smoking weed and allowing unlicensed drivers to drive her car. My husband’s reaction was too laid back for me and of course my reaction was immediate anger and explosion on this child. I have had anger issues all of my life that I can recall, being raised by an abusive alcoholic father, left by my mother with him when we were five and nine, and spending weekends with abusive alcoholic relatives. I overreact to everything my kids do. I see right and wrong; my husband sees gray. Technology hasn’t helped with my kids. They seem to keep making mistakes, sending inappropriate pics via Snapchat etc. This came to a head tonight when I slapped my 16-year-old daughter across the face for defying me yet again. Help! My husband and I don’t agree and I am out of disciplinary ideas. Stripping them of technology, cars, jobs, etc., is not working either. I am seriously frustrated.

Grandpa-Matt replies

It appears that your husband and you have different rules regarding child raising, and that you can’t support each other’s attitude on the subject. There is no objective reality about the “right” course of action because your reality is whatever you think it is. Consider this explanation from The Dancing Wu Li Masters, by Gary Zukov:

Reality is what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is what we believe.
What we believe is based upon our perceptions.
What we perceive depends upon what we look for.
What we look for depends upon what we think.
What we think determines what we perceive.
What we perceive determines what we believe.
What we believe determines what we take to be true.
What we take to be true is our Reality.

What I now address is not about your husband, but about you, and your reality. You see things as black and white, right or wrong, good or bad. I’d like you to consider an alternative way of looking at things by exploring the concept that there is no right or wrong, but, instead, the realization that there are consequences for all negative activity. This removes the judgement from the action and requires one to deal with the consequences. Thus, everything becomes a learning, and not a cause for retribution or punishment. For example, setting rules for breaking a curfew will cause X result, and if broken the teen can choose their behavior understanding the pre-set consequences. The teen gets the choice, without the emotional baggage of discipline. This is because they made the choice and must learn to live with it.

I do understand that you see your role as a mother to raise your children to be respectful of family and society rules, to keep out of trouble, and to learn to be responsible and accountable for their actions. Many parents raise children in the same way family dogs have been trained and domesticated. What they use is reward and punishment. The reward is loving, appreciation, attention, approval, caring, hugs, etc. The punishment is emotionally withholding of those things and giving us their expressions of negativity, and sometimes also use physical punishment. It works with the very young, up to a point. After that, our attempts to control and manipulate them to become ‘good citizens’ gets more challenging unless we have prepared them to be responsible and accountable along the way. While I am not a therapist, I think that when we attempt to protect our kids, we don’t permit them to make mistakes. They don’t get enough opportunity to learn from those mistakes along the way.

By protecting them in that fashion, when they get to become teenagers, they are unprepared to assume responsibility for their behavior. Unfortunately, another complication shows up. As teens, they are internally driven to attempt to separate themselves and to ‘be their own person’ without the necessary experience of the consequence of misbehaving.

Physically disciplining your daughter, causing upset is impractical, unsuccessful and hurtful to the both of you. Your daughter might not set out to defy you, but is attempting to set boundaries. This is a necessary maturing step for everyone to achieve. To understand where they are going with this, I suggest you read this article:

Now, let’s look at your anger. In my experience, anger comes from a desire to control either the situation, the people involved or one’s self. What they often do to justify their anger is to take on the role of a victim and blame everyone else for their upset. They blame others, family, institutions, government, and or strangers for the way they interact with them.

You are 100 percent in charge of your thoughts and emotions. No one can make you happy or angry. You are the ruler in your universe and responsible for all the actions and reactions in your life. Nobody can upset you without your consent. For example if someone told you to “Cheer up”, whose choice is it? Maybe you do and maybe you don’t. All emotions, both positive and negative, give you a choice how to respond. It is one thing to feel angry. It is another thing to choose what to do with that anger. You always have a choice about that.

Each of us has expectations of other people. Some of these expectations are irrational. For example, “You should always treat me with respect,” might be one of the rules for other people’s behavior. If they don’t always do that, you get hurt, upset and angry. The trouble with that “rule” or expectation that you set up in your mind is that no one can always do anything. That rule calls for perfection. You have set up a trap for yourself when you see anyone breaking that “rule”, and anger arises. We are all human and sometimes fail. We sabotage a relationship every time we expect perfection!

What I am suggesting to you is to give up the idea of perfection, and trade it in for the standard of excellence. Being excellent, one can fail from time to time and still be acceptable.

You are the Ruler in your universe, and when you see violations, anger results. The quickest way out of that trap is to modify the rules that you have for others. It might be like, “You should treat me with respect as much and as often as possible”, leaving room for people to be human. We all fail sometimes. If you view others as excellent people and allow them to not live up to your rigid standards, you will all be happier.

Emotional upsets often last longer than you would ideally want. There is a technique based on neuroscience that can be very helpful. One useful article that I suggest to you is called, The 90 Second Rule to Control Your Emotions. If you want to know how to be more self-controlled, this article spells out the chemical basis of what goes on when your anger hijacks your mind, and suggests a way to handle things:

I do have the idea that the desire to control is often based on the thought that unless you are in control, you wouldn’t be able to handle or cope with situations that come up. If you can recognize that you are a survivor, no matter what happens, and you can cope with whatever life throws at you, you will not need to control, manipulate or dominate the circumstances in your life!

I think that you might look into anger management courses or family therapy if you can’t see any other way to come to a peaceful resolution in your family. Each of you deserves a more peaceful and loving future.

Letter #: 449475
Category: Family

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