Anger control is a big issue between partners and parents and children

Anger control is a big issue between partners and parents and children


  • Partners and children can do things that make us feel angry. It comes from living in close proximity and be familiar with others.
  • Sometimes people believe they have a right to let loose when they do, particularly with those they love in the home environment.


  • You have a loving spouse
  • You feel lucky to have them as your partner
  • But when a rule (your rule) is violated, you may feel betrayed. & you may begin criticizing them.
    • The criticism might start small
    • It may then escalate
    • And grow global (words like “always”, and “never” may get used)
    • The criticism may become personal (criticism of their intelligence, their character – such as being “irresponsible”, “not caring”
    • It may then escalate further with “the past” being brought up, as well as the opinions of other people.
  • In the fixed mindset, a person feels they have a “right” to be angry, before
    • Calming down and realizing:
      • they went too far with their anger
      • That their partner does indeed have “supportive” qualities.
    • Guilt may ensue
    • Then a person may convince themselves they made a mistake and that it was a “temporary” slip.
    • They may say: Never again.
      • But what is missing in this approach?
      • Answer: Strategies and a plan for next time so that next time (and there will be a next time) is not a carbon copy of the last time. This is provided by the growth mindset.
    • The growth mindset recognises success does not happen by luck or good intentions alone. That every difficulty is an opportunity to learn and grow:
      • To develop, implement and practice new plans and strategies which work for them as a couple.
      • They also recognise that every plan needs to be maintained and practiced and practiced to become a new habit or way of communicating.
      • They also recognise that there will be future setbacks, and that again, these are opportunities to not repeat failed previous approaches (and the battle between “the good you” and “the bad you”), but are in fact an opportunity to practice the growth mindset and to ask problem-solving questions such as: What can I learn from this? What will I do differently next time when this or a similar situation arises?
    • In the scenario outlined here, think about the following:
      • Why did you get so worked up? Did you feel devalued? Disrespected? Did it feel as if they were saying to you: You’re not important. Your needs are trivial. I cannot be bothered to listen to them or pay them attention?
      • Did you interpret their reactions in a certain way? For example, walking away. Remaining silent? Defending themselves.
        • Remember the need to communicate.
        • Remember to be assertive (not aggressive) about how you feel. For e.g.
          • “I’m not sure why, but when you do that, it makes me feel unimportant. As if you can’t be bothered to do things that matter to me.” Or
          • “Please tell me you care and you will be more watchful in future.” (while being mindful of tone, body language etc.,)
        • For future situations, you may plan to leave the room and say nothing if you feel you are losing it. Instead write down your “ugliest” thoughts in your confidential journal. Then evaluate these thoughts to make them less extreme, more balanced, and perhaps more realistic. Remember the “positive sentiment over-ride” Gottman talks about successful couples enjoying when it comes to communication and providing each other with the benefit of the doubt.
          • When calm, return to the situation.
        • After the situation, reflect upon it and work out new ways of “doing the business of communication”. You may also review whether the rules are important to you. [When calm of course, and if they are – that is fine, too.]
          • You may also reflect on whether rules violations are in fact saying everything you had previously thought about a “lack of respect”
          • You may resolve also to enforce rules differently [through use of humour for example so as to achieve the outcome you are after]
        • Remember, the aim of the exercise is to bring about effective change (in communication) and apply useful and helpful strategies, rather than getting into fixed mindset cycles such as “good/bad”, “strong/weak”, “respect/disrespect” judgment dichotomies.
        • Also, of note: a lapse or a setback is not a prophesy of doom and hopelessness. Rather, it provides another learning opportunity.
        • All change requires maintenance and/or sustained effort, as well as commitment (and renewed commitment. Issues do not just go away because communication gets better. Better communication requires review, practice and renewed commitment to do it.  Communication is always a complex endeavour, and an area of vulnerability in any relationship.
          • Also when communication does improve and then slips back, arguments may be even more intense because suddenly the old schemas/views/judgments are re-activated because we might think (even unconsciously), the person knows what to do, but are deliberately choosing not to – are deliberately refusing to do what is agreed – how rude! How disrespectful! Good people should[1] just behave good, and good relationships should just unfold in a good way.

Source: Dweck, 2012.

[1] Known as the “tyranny of the shoulds” in CBT.


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