How Will I Ever Get Over The Anger I Feel Toward My Child?

Over the past few months, we’ve been inundated with emails asking this question. We get it. We’ve felt it. We’ve been there. And here’s what we have to say about it.

Father-son serious talk

Sometimes I nod feverishly when I read through emails from readers who pour their broken hearts out. Sometimes I forget to actually hit reply because I’m so engrossed in the pain they are sharing with me. Their son has pushed them to the edge with his behavior…held the entire family hostage…traumatized his younger brothers and sisters to the point of everyone needing therapy…disrupted any ounce of a normal life.

Their daughter chases after every toxic, superficial relationship…throws herself at an abusive boyfriend…takes money from people who just want control…bends over backwards to make sure those toxic people are happy, but rejects any sort of normal, genuine affection from a caring mom and dad who love her deeply and will never stop fighting for her heart.

And the result? Anger. Frustration. Exhaustion. Then an email in the middle of the night from a distraught mother telling me the full story of her son and concluding with, “I’m just so angry with him I can’t see straight!” An email dripping with heartbreak from a father whose daughter continually rejects him, saying, “I don’t know how to overcome these angry feelings I have toward her. I love her, but I can’t get past feeling this way! What should I do?” Hundreds upon hundreds of words poured out on a computer screen, longing for hope, searching for answers, wondering if there will ever be a day when they don’t feel this way.

And so, I nod. I grieve. I identify with these broken parents because I’m one of them. We’ve been there. More times than I can count.

I’ve been so angry with my son over his choices I couldn’t look at him…for days. There was a time I thought the darkest thoughts a parent could think about their child. Six years ago, out of my deep-seeded anger toward him and the way he had victimized my other kids, I actually told him I didn’t care if he went away and never came back. I hate that I said that. If only I could travel into the past and retrieve those words.

Much like you, I’ve shaken my fists at the heavens and searched for answers. I’ve stepped aside and given full reign to my anger but it’s gotten me nowhere. Also much like you, I’m certain. A few years ago, I almost concluded that I would always be angry with my child, until I discovered some truth that transformed the way I looked at him, and all of this. And because I get you, I want to share it with you…

  1. My anger was pointed in the wrong direction. I realized that everything my child was doing was a result of living in a world filled with brokenness. Yes, he was making these choices, but the root of those choices was something bigger than just a bad kid doing bad things (more on that in a minute). Instead of giving into my anger and always pointing it toward him, I needed to, instead, be angry at a broken world, where addiction, abuse, and neglect flow through the streets like open sewers.
  2. He’s speaking from a place of trauma I’ll never understand. Long before he came into our care, he was malnourished, neglected, and abused. This left a deep wound in him that I will never understand. He’s always in a fight for survival. I never went without food growing up. I always had a warm home with parents who took care of me. I never had to be afraid that my needs would go unmet. This place of trauma speaks out through our kids and it often looks like a poorly behaved kid who’s intent is to destroy every good thing. But it’s not…
  3. He may do bad things, but he’s not a bad kid. My child has one of the biggest, most compassionate hearts I’ve ever seen in any human being. He loves people genuinely. You wouldn’t believe it in the times where he’s flipped out, destroyed things in our home, called my wife every vulgar word known to mankind, or victimized my other children, but he does. Yes, he has done some very bad things in the past. But he’s not a bad kid with a dark heart. He’s a wounded kid with a broken heart because of his difficult past.

Trust me, friend! I get the anger. I get the emotions you feel. I have felt them to the deepest degree possible. I have thrown my hands up, conceded that this is the best it’s gonna get, and concluded that my kid is just a bad kid. Frankly it’s easier to go this route. I don’t have to put any effort into drawing this conclusion. However, it’s a fight to believe in anything more. It takes the life out of you to continually keep your head up, and stay positive, about your out-of-control child. But I must believe this about him. I lose hope if I refuse to believe this.

When all hell is breaking loose in your home, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. Even now, as you read this, you’re thinking, “Yeah…but….I really think my kid IS a bad kid and she DOES want to bring harm.” It may certainly feel this way often. But I promise you this- if you take some time to refocus your perspective, and consider the origin of his or her behavior, and the place they’re really speaking from, you may just discover some truth that will set you free from the anger you feel toward them.

Question: Have you struggled with anger over your child’s poor behavior? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Frances Lugo

    I’ve felt the anger. I still do. Especially in the past six months when our son has accused us of doing unspeakable things to him triggering visits from DCF. I knew from the start how much help he would need but never this. Never being accused of causing suffering or pain to our own little boy. It has tested our marriage to the very core. Talks of divorce have even surfaced. Sometimes I ask myself if it’s even worth it. Should I just let them take him? Even though all is a lie? Should I keep testing the limits of our 25 year marriage and pray we never doubt each other and that our love is strong and will overcome all of this? Should I tell my husband how much I dread being alone with our son with fear of being accused again? The anger is real and the guilt of feeling this way towards our boy is even worse. I wonder which is worse – the increasing anger or the consumeing guilt?

    • Frances. my heart is breaking for you guys right now. I wish I could take it all away for you. We’ve been there in many regards. Do you have a trusted pastor, counselor, or therapist you could reach out to? Also- do you have access to respite care so you guys can find healing?

  • Karin Knapp

    I have an adopted daughter with ODD/RAD and oh has she pushed me over the edge many, many times. What has helped me is to understand the brain a bit better.. Watching Nancy Thomas’ DVDs “When love is not enough” was very helpful. These children’s brains are most active in the back which is the area for fear and anger, and they feel comfortable when it is fueled. Whenever I respond in anger I am fueling that area. To stop myself and understand this and try to break the cycle has been most helpful although challenging. What has helped even more was to get a brain map done. It is SO hard to deal with something we can’t see!! But once you have a brain map (which can be done at a neurotherapist and is pretty inexpensive) it all becomes so much clearer. Yes, being angry at her does not help. I need to be angry at the drugs that caused this. My daughter has just started neurotherapy and I feel hopeful.

    • Karin, I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing this!

  • JCS

    I stumbled on this 30 minutes after a stranger appeared at my door telling me that my 21-year-old son had stayed at their house one night and stolen 5 rings from the bathroom counter on his way out. My dream had always been that he would start stealing from people who DON’T know us, so then we wouldn’t have to hear about it. But alas, when he left their house, he left his wallet there, and his driver’s license has our address on it. Sigh. So now even people who don’t know us are finding us. I encouraged him to report my son to the police, but he won’t because they don’t have any proof. No one ever does. J. is very sneaky about stealing. You always know it’s him, but you can never prove it. It makes me sad. Of course, J. says he didn’t do it, but he always says that, even if you find the stuff in his room. He has not lived with us for three years, for all the same reasons the writer mentioned. I had to protect the younger ones, not to mention myself. It’s sad. But I can’t help someone who doesn’t want it. Lord knows I’ve tried!

    • Oh man, we totally know how this goes. I am so sorry you are dealing with this. So defeating and so frustrating. Hang in there.

  • Jennifer Redmond DeBeltz

    I am so ashamed of how I have been handling my kids lately but in the midst of hell I say the wrong things that cut like a knife. My oldest (11) just spent a week in a Psychriatric hospital for his Behavior and threatening to kill himself. Trying to not walk on eggshells with him. His triggers are His brother (10) who has severe FAS and his Autistic sister (8). The rages we have been seeing from the oldest and now my daughter have me questioning my ability to parent them. This morning I spent an hour trying to keep her from hurting herself and others. How can I not be angry? It is so very hard not to be. My faith and trust is wavering but I know as quickly we have these moments, we have loving moments that brings it all Into perspective. They need me just as much as I need them. Staying focused and strong is the key.

    • Colleen Yrjana

      The triggers are so hard. I remember being the trigger and the need. It was impossible. I was exhausted and she was in full scale meltdown going on month three. I needed to step away from everything I had learned about attachment and step into everything I learned about the brain. Occupational therapy, counselling, time, commitment and a entire change to parent one kid while trying to maintain safe healthy relationships with others was a mountain. I couldn’t see over it or around it, I needed the short cut, I needed the answer, but there wasn’t one. We stopped with consequences and talking about the wrong, rumination is hard on the brain, we stopped with strategies to control the behaviour. We started with every minute of the day, moving the brain from the emotion centred place to the doing or thinking place. Every interaction became about de-escalate and moving, chewing gum, toffee, eating popcorn, every time there was a rise in his eyes, we could see he was losing it, we gave a chewy snack, we did compression games, card games, meds and sports. It was time consuming, the others had very little of me, but it worked, slowly over the next few months, we saw an increase in positive self regulation. I used a ton of different things, from some of the top peeps, we prayed, we cried, we fixed vehicles and walls, we replaced windows, and had ten hours a week we had someone come in to play sports, so we could spend time with the others. We are still paying off the crazy of not working and being our own therapist for our kid. It has worked. Do we still get angry, absolutely, do we still mess up and say the wrong thing, yep, but now when we get angry, or say something, the rebuild is one simple vulnerable conversation on our part. Shame and blame almost killed us, and our relationship with him and friends and family. Everybody wants to have to somebody to blame. Friends couldn’t see our parenting style working and wanted to shame him, he shamed himself enough for everybody. Blame doesn’t change what happened. Blame makes us feel heard, in our own heads. I am praying that you can find that place of sanity in the all consuming moments of parenting tough kids. You are strong, and focus is overrated LOL Stay the course works for boats, parenting tough kids means you need to be ok with twisted roads of give and take, bouncing off the pylons of daily life and getting them all to bed so you can breathe and try and regroup before the next day.

      • Michelle Sackett McKinney

        This is so great!!!! Thank you for the example.

    • Michelle Sackett McKinney

      Me too, Jennifer! It is so hard. Sorry for the past week of pain. Hang on.

  • El Ess

    From the viewpoint of an angry child who grew into an angry adult (with no reason having had parents who loved me and cared for me, but who constantly fought) I can only tell you all who have angry children you are working so hard to deal with, what my daughter at age 10 said to me: “Anger is really just sadness underneath.” I will always think she was speaking words from the Holy Spirit because she had so accurately pinpointed what I was all about. Every time I was sad or disappointed, I would rage uncontrollably, but it was all a cover for sadness. And all I wanted and needed when I raged was a hug, so hard for others to do when you are throwing objects at them. I wanted someone to hold me and ask me what was making me so sad, to say “I understand and I know how hard it is.” But what people don’t know is how to manage a child’s rage. As a parent you just wish it would stop. Had someone understood how sad some things made me, they could have cut short the tantrums in a few minutes instead of hours.

    I had a difficult child myself as well, and he was doing delinquent things starting around age 12. This was my own biological child and I had not had my daughter tell me the truth about my own anger yet. I truly thought he would wind up in prison. I barely slept while he was out until the early hours of the morning despite constant groundings numerous times a week. He was drug addicted and I was a basket case. I thought I’d certainly failed as a mother. My doctor put me on tranquilizers for anxiety. I finally told him what he was doing to me, how I was having panic attacks and taking pills just to hold myself together. At that point I saw a light bulb go off in his eyes. It was a few weeks after that he gave up drugs and made a pact with his friends to stay off them. It took time and wasn’t all overnight. But he found a sweet girl who he was happy with and eventually married. He found a deep interest in computers and taught himself how to program. He now works as a programmer and has not had any issues with drugs or crimes for the last 20 years. It can turn around. And from the bottom of my heart I hope you all find hope in this post. Believe me, I know the suffering and you are all in my thoughts and prayers.

    • Wow, what a story. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • Michelle Sackett McKinney

      Thank you for sharing your story!