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How Much Anger Is Normal?

by Caroline

I would like some advice on how much anger is normal in a family relationship. My daughter who is now 14 is what I feel a normal teenager, i.e. messy room, doesn't help out about the house, forgets to turn out lights and leaves her rubbish all over the place and expects me to pick it up.

She feels we must be on hand to take her where ever she needs to go and she won't accept "no" for an answer. My husband who is not her biological father feels this behaviour is totally inappropriate and they constantly argue. He gets so angry with her and shouts and curses at her over what I feel are trivial things. Every few months he has an angry outburst where he can shout and scream at any of us, bang doors and takes off in a huff.

It has gone to the stage now where I don't like leaving them alone together in case he is nasty to her. I feel this could cause her emotional problems in her later life and would be delighted if you could help me sort it out.

I myself had a terrible childhood where my father was a violent alcoholic and domestic violence was an everyday event. As a result of this I have suffered from depression in the past and am currently taking medication for same but doing well. I have to say my husband has never been violent with me but he gets so angry where my daughter is concerned I do worry a lot. He does seem to have some problem with letting anger build up and our only arguments over the past few years are over my daughter and her behaviour, as he puts it. He lost both his parents when he was very young and I think he feels very cheated about this.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Caroline, and thank you for telling your story on this site. It's good that you're asking for help with your family and your daughter.

Some important information for you to consider is how step families work best. When the step parent (your husband) takes the primary role of authority in a relationship with one of his step children (your daughter), things are bound to go badly. Here's why: Research on step families has shown that without exception, the biological parent needs to be the primary parent, and the step parent needs to take a secondary, supportive role.

Your husband's issues with your daughter are partly because you are not a strong enough parent figure for your daughter. So, my efforts here will be to help you get stronger within yourself, so that you can become your daughter's primary parent.

I want to help you with resolving some of your childhood trauma, which will hopefully make you stronger in your role as mother.

Do all of the exercises described on this FAQ page, which are designed to help you understand and heal your anger and your mental focus.

Talk to your husband when you're ready, and ask him if he will support you in being the primary parent with your daughter. Ask him if he will back off from the role he has been playing in his relationship with her, to ease the tension and give you some room to move in.

It really sounds like your daughter needs you to stand up to her. Her "not taking no for an answer" is not good for her, and the discipline she needs can only come from you, not your husband.

Believe in yourself, Caroline. When you do this healing work on yourself, you will feel a lot better. Your question, "How much anger is normal" needs to be "how much anger is healthy." There is too much anger in your family right now, but it doesn't have to be that way in the future.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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