Fatherhood involves facing up to ourselves
Becoming a father is a significant responsibility, and sometimes as men, we tend to take it lightly (myself included). There have been several examples, even from 5-6 years ago, where I would lose my temper and respond with anger. As time progressed, I realized how anger impacted those around me, including my family members. This impact forced me to look within myself and find other ways of expressing myself, especially if I wanted to be heard. Expressing anger was not helping anyone including myself. However, as a father, every choice we make impacts our children. One of the biggest things we fathers need to be mindful of is our actions, choice of words and how we express emotions, especially in front of our children.
How can we change and grow?
If we can focus on managing our emotions, we automatically become better with our words and actions. How can we manage and regulate our emotions? Well, when we are emotionally mature and regulated, we are better at communicating and expressing ourselves. We are more deliberate with our actions because we are more aligned with ourselves. Emotional maturity comes from being accountable and taking responsibility.
Changing takes care
If we have not healed ourselves and taken responsibility for doing inner work, we will continue to spill our emotions onto the people around us. That often looks like anger. Anger is considered a valuable emotion as it reveals something we must look into and understand. It can be a way that we protect ourselves. Unfortunately, expressing anger and blaming others is usually easier than looking inward and taking responsibility. If we do not heal those parts that are triggered and present themselves as anger, then our children carry the burden of that anger.
What if I don’t change? Does anger affect children?
Anger and aggression, passive or direct, negatively affects children. They can feel scared to say their wants and needs because they are worried about the reaction they may get from their caregivers. From an early age, these children learn to stay small, not be seen or heard, and become people-pleasers. Typically, the patterns repeat for these children in their adult lives through their relationships.
Another adverse impact of anger on children is due to role-modelling. Research from psychology finds that children that watch parents responding to situations with anger will have a negative effect on their social and emotional development from as young as 1 year old. Children who see their fathers react with anger learn similar ways of regulating emotions and can act out. Because they do not know otherwise, children assume that anger is how you ask for what you need. Keeping these things in mind, finding a way to heal is essential. Healing begins with being honest with ourselves.
Talking is a pathway to moving on
We cannot heal what we cannot speak about. But as men, since we are raised with the expectation of keeping things together, there is shame in accepting our wounds. What we become aware of, we begin to put our attention to. Therefore, the more we can speak vulnerably about our wounds and flaws, the less power they have over us. The easier it becomes for us to heal, the easier it becomes for us to have compassion for ourselves.
The more we heal, the more our experience of the world changes. We also improve at expressing our emotions and asking for what we need. This newly healed version of ourselves rubs off on our children as well. Acting in anger does not demand respect; the response we often get back is fear, resentment, or anger in return. Speaking our needs and what we are feeling speaks louder to people on the receiving end. These are tools and skills our children benefit from learning as well.
It’s all part of the process
Because we are human, we will make mistakes. It is easy for us to beat ourselves up when we fall short or if we have been working hard and we miss the mark. But that is part of the process; we will make mistakes and also have the opportunity to learn. When we make mistakes, it is okay to apologize and try again. Mistakes and sincere apologies are part of the human experience. This interaction is another important lesson for children, so they do not run from mistakes. There is nothing wrong with anger; how it is internalized and expressed creates the problem. Once we heal, we learn to regulate and healthily express ourselves. We improve all our relationships, especially the ones with our children.