Families, communities, and nations are happier and healthier when everyone keeps their anger under control. President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “Temper is a vicious and corrosive thing that destroys affection and casts out love” (Ensign, May 1991, 74). Anger is a tool of Satan, and he uses it to stir up contention in families, communities, and nations (see 2 Nephi 28:20; 3 Nephi 11:29; Moroni 9:3). Much of this post will come from the parent education program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Strengthening the Family.
Most people feel anger from time to time, but that is no reason for allowing anger to get out of control. Feelings of anger can be useful at times, such as alerting us to something that is wrong. It is important that we take appropriate action to prevent little problems from escalating. Sometimes problems are complex and beyond a simple solution. Parents must not give in to angry feelings and retaliate in ways that escalate conflict with their children.
Elder Lynn G. Robbins of the Seventy described anger as the “thought-sin that leads to hostile feelings or behavior. It is the detonator of road rage on the freeway, flareups in the sports arena, and domestic violence in homes” (Ensign, May 1998, 80-81). President Gordon B. Hinckley warned of the tragic consequences of anger, asking, “Who can calculate the wounds inflicted, their depth and pain, by harsh and mean words spoken in anger?” (Ensign, Nov. 1991, 50). Throughout the world, angry parents assault their children verbally, physically, emotionally, and sexually. Each year, millions of cases alleging child abuse are reports to governmental agencies.
Anger is inappropriately handled in three ways—through aggression, internalization, and passive-aggressive behavior. When anger is expressed through aggression, it takes the form of physical violence, emotional and verbal abuse, or sexual abuse. When anger is internalized, it is pointed towards oneself and may lead to depression or self-damaging acts, including suicide attempts or self-mutilation. When anger is expressed through passive-aggressive behavior, it comes out in indirect actions, such as dishonesty, irritability, criticism, or procrastination. Angry parents may use intimidation to force children into obedience, but such children are more likely to rebel at some time in the future.
The long-term costs of venting anger are far greater than any possible benefits, particularly in families. People who cannot control their tempers will drive away the Holy Ghost, loss of respect, loss of friendship, loss of self-confidence, strained relationships, and serious problems with children (rebellion, fear of parents, failure in school). In addition, there are increased risks for problems such as depression, poor health, addictive behavior, and job-related concerns.
There can be many causes for anger, such as embarrassment, fear, hunger, or stress. Anger is like the tip of an iceberg. It is the angry outbursts that are seen, but the causes lurk under the surface.
There are also numerous ways to learn to control anger. The best and most important way is to discuss the problem with Heavenly Father in prayer and seek spiritual change. Other ways include the following: resolve the underlying problems, take responsibility for anger, identify the anger cycle, keep an anger log, defuse thoughts that provoke anger, leave the situation, discover activities that are calming, learn to share the underlying feelings that lead to anger, and continue the previous steps to prevent relapse.President Joseph F. Smith emphasized the importance of being kind to children instead of being angry: “When you speak or talk to them, do it not in anger, do it not harshly, in a condemning spirit. Speak to them kindly; . . . weep with them if necessary. . .. Soften their hearts; get them to feel tenderly toward you. Use no lash and no violence, but . . . approach them with reason, with persuasion and love unfeigned.” (Gospel Doctrine, 316) Parents can strengthen their families, communities, and nations by learning to control their own anger and then teaching their children to do so.