When my friend Cathy got angry at her renested post-college son--for sins like not emptying the dishwasher; not taking the job search seriously--she kicked down his bedroom door. Not that she meant to. She was just kicking his closed door to make a point and Boom, her foot went right through it. It's a moment her son may remember--not, at this point in time, in a good way, tho it likely will be a funny anecdote some time down the line.
We may have thought that all the anger-inducing struggles with our adolescent kids were a thing of the past--now that they are adults. But they can still press our emotional buttons and make us really, really angry. Especially when they move back home for a while and fail to behave like the independent adults we thought they'd become.
Not that there's anything wrong with getting angry at them. Anger has an important function. It's part of our "affective awareness system," that is, psychologist Carl Pickhardt points out, it lets us "identify when something significant is happening in our internal or extermal world of experience, something that feels like it deserves our attention."
So anger isn't the issue. It's the lashing out that's a problem--with especially long-term consequences now that our children are grown and no longer dependents under our control. As Pickhardt points out, "in the heat of the moment it can obscure loving feelings causing unloving words or actions to occur."
Pickhardt recommends that we--as well as our grown kids--learn to, in effect, take a "time out" to cool down, and then talk further "when we can choose our words thoughtfully, and not emotionally.”
He lists characteristics of people who are anger prone to the point of popping off in an unhelpful way:
--They are highly judgmental and need to be right.
--They feel strongly entitled and expect to get their way.
--They take events personally that are not personally meant.
--They attack what’s wrong with anger by blaming others when problems arise.These apply to both our kids and to us. For us, at this stage of parenting, there's a lot more at stake than there was when our kids were younger. My friend Cathy certainly expected to get her own way when her son was living under her roof again. And, of course, she didn't mean that tap on his door to be a surprising invasion of his privacy. But that little kick probably had a lot of lash-out fueling its power.