Fatherly's resident parenting expert offers advice on how to chill when anger rises, how to communicate with teachers and what pregnant wives really need
I’ve got a pretty serious problem with my anger. I really didn’t notice it until after my wife and I had our kid. Now I feel like I’m yelling all the time and then afterward I feel super guilty about it. I don’t know how to fix it and I’m worried I’m going to lose my family. What should I do?
I feel you on this one, John. I think a lot of men in America do. But there’s one thing I want you to internalize right now. Anger, as a feeling, is completely natural and in itself is neither good or bad. You don’t need to be freaked out about feeling anger. However, you do need to be concerned with how you react to when you feel anger.
From your question, it sounds like you get pretty loud. That’s not great. We know that yelling can have a profound effect on your kid’s future. What they’re learning by watching you is that yelling is an effective method of communication. It’s not. And if your child internalizing the idea that yelling is a good way to express themselves it’s not going to help them as they get older. In fact, there’s a good chance it’ll just lead to you both yelling at each other when your child becomes a teen. So, while you’re clearly motivated to make a change, let the thought of teenage screaming matches stick in your craw to provide an additional push.
As far as dealing with your anger, your best first step is to give yourself some space when you start getting hot. If you feel you’re on the verge of yelling, you need to step away from the triggering situation. Of course, when you’re in the middle of parenting your kid alone, this might not be the easiest thing to do. That said, if you’re at home, take advantage of the play yard, or a cell-phone game, make sure the kid is safe and then walk away for a count of 30. That could be just enough time to collect yourself before you re-engage. Sure, it’s not ideal. But it’s the first step. There are other techniques.
One of the best techniques to manage anger is to simply breathe. Out and in. Deliberately. This will take conscious effort but it will seriously help you calm down. When you’re feeling a bit calmer, lower your voice and speak deliberately.
Now, with these two tools in your pocket, it’s probably time to talk to a pro, John. There’s a reason why you’re angry and you should probably figure out what it is. That might take hours of honest exploration of your family and emotional life, but eventually, you’ll figure it out. In fact, talking in itself may go a long way to making you feel better about the world.
I wish you the best as you try to find peace in your life, John. The fact that you’ve recognized your anger is an amazing first step. The world would be a better place if more men took that step.
My wife is three months pregnant and she’s really demanding. She’s like a bully. Super emotional and stuff. The other day she said I had to stop drinking Scotch because the smell makes her want to puke. Seriously? Can I do anything to make her nicer for the next eight months?
Taos, New Mexico
When my wife was pregnant with our second child, she also had a sensitivity to the smell of whiskey. I tried everything to save my nightly dram. I would sit on the other side of the couch, then the other side of the room and finally outside. It was winter. So, that wasn’t ideal. Eventually, I realized it was easier for both of us if I just became a pliant and supportive dad-to-be. And that is going to be the core of my advice to you, Sam.
Here’s the thing. Pregnancy is a helluva thing. And we are never to going to understand that experience. Sure, we can put on the pregnancy suit and pant our way through a couple of empathetic hours of faux pregnancy, but that’s nothing compared to what our partners go through.
The hormonal changes are very real and incredibly disruptive. Yes, her sense of smell is heightened. Yes, her body aches. Yes, she gets nauseous much easier now. Yes, she has intense food cravings. But, no, she is not doing it on purpose. Therefore she is not, as you characterized her, a bully.
Man, I get it. It’s incredibly inconvenient to not be able to drink scotch. But think about the inconvenience she’s facing by growing another human being inside of her. I mean, you don’t get to drink whiskey, but she doesn’t get to drink anything. At all. For nine months. And she’s doing it to bring a physical manifestation of your love into this world.
So, I’m saying this as nicely as possible: Want to “make” your wife nicer for the next 9 months? Be a good husband, nut up, and try to make her life more comfortable.
My 7-year-old just started second grade and she says she doesn’t like her teacher. We had this problem last year too. I really want to be able to communicate well with this teacher because I didn’t do it right last year and I think my daughter suffered because of it. Any tips for talking to a teacher?
Teachers all over the world are weeping with joy to hear you ask this question, Lance. The fact that you want to “communicate well” with your daughter’s teacher is kind of a victory, in a way. You know why? Because being a teacher can really suck. And part of the reason it can suck is that parents often don’t see teachers as professionals. So, that’s where we’re starting.
It’s tough to see a kid having a problem. And your natural inclination as a father is going to be wanting to take your daughter’s side. Of course, considering that this is the second teacher your kid has had a problem with, you may sense a pattern. So, you may be a bit more likely to see the teachers side of things. And that’s super important because your daughter’s teacher is likely seeing stuff that you don’t see.
So how do you approach the issue? Try asking the teacher for their professional advice. Because the fact is that your teacher is, in fact, a professional. They went to school to learn how to teach your kid. They’ve very likely taught very very many kids before yours. They have the knowledge and experience to help. If you approach the issue from a collaborative angle, rather than a combative one, it’s likely things will work out.
It’s also important to know that fixing your daughter’s issue with her teacher isn’t only the teacher’s responsibility. There are likely issues at home that you’ll have to figure out too. That will require some homework on your part. Yes, more homework.
But it’s important to understand that if you go into this conversation with respect for the teacher’s position and knowledge, things will probably go well. And maintaining that respect with your daughter’s teacher will go a long way to making this school year a good one for everybody.
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