My Grandson Can't Get Over How Angry My Husband Got At Him
My husband believes our 9 yr old grandson threw our little dog. And because he doesn't think our daughter punished him correctly, he decided to "talk" to our grandson about it.
My husband is a Viet Nam Vet and has PTSD and is a 20 year recovering alcoholic, and does not realize how bad and VERY scary his anger can be. After the incident happened my husband got angrier and went to our daughter's house to talk to our grandson. But my husband ended up screaming and yelling in our grandson's face and was extremely scary. He screamed at him that he was a liar, that he was lazy, and not a good person. He told him that he would end up in jail if he didn't change his ways, and that he was lucky he didn't spank him.
His anger was over the top and has traumatized our grandson and brought up many bad memories for our daughter and myself. I tried talking to him about it but he only got very angry with me. He believes what he did was right and that our grandson "should just suck it up get over it".
My daughter and I do not know what to do to help my grandson to get over this. Up until this happened my husband and grandson had a great relationship, but this has confused my grandson greatly.
This happened about a month ago and they have only seen each other once, and my husband acted like nothing had happened. But our grandson was confused and somewhat scared to be around him. He doesn't want to be around my husband and has talked to his mom, our daughter, many times about how scary it was and he doesn't understand why it happened and why she let it happen.
She has told him that she will never let it happen again and that she is sorry. I have also talked to him and said that grandpa got too angry and that I also would never let it happen again. My grandson is a very sweet loving little boy and we need to know what we can do to help him get over this extremely upsetting experience with his grandfather.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Jeanie, and thanks for telling your story here. It is so good that you want to help and protect your grandson. As you know, he is very vulnerable at his age, and you also know that what he experienced with his grandfather has traumatized him.
There is a lot to consider here, and I will try to cover the relevant points for you and your daughter to think about.
One point for you and your daughter to discuss is that you will have trouble keeping your promise to your grandson that you "will never let it happen again." Can you really prevent this from happening again? It seems doubtful.
With that in mind, it is important for the two of you (you and your daughter) to come up with a plan for protecting your grandson. (It seems that the only way you can prevent this from ever happening is to keep your husband away from your grandson entirely, and it doesn't sound like you're doing that--and I'm not suggesting that that would be a good solution either, by the way.)
So, now for a plan that will work.
1) I suggest that you and your daughter both tell your husband that as far as you're concerned, his behavior toward the boy is totally unacceptable. If you're afraid to do this, I understand. If you do have the courage to tell him, make it clear to him that you're not requiring him to change or threatening him in any way, and that you're simply telling him how you feel. And tell him that you are going to do everything in your power to protect your grandson from his anger. (Ultimately, the only person who can totally protect him from your husband's anger is your husband, unless you somehow keep them apart entirely.)
2) Healthy anger is all about protection, and doesn't hurt anyone. Learn more about healthy anger.
3) Use this positive journaling process to support your husband in your own thoughts. Every time you think of him, picture him making good choices and doing the right thing. Believe in him and his ability to be the good man that you know him to be.
4) Re. your husband's anger and PTSD, I suggest that you take a look at this page on veteran's PTSD. It offers a chance for men like your husband to tell their story, and get support for their recovery and healing. His war experience may help to explain his anger, but it does not excuse it. If you think there is any chance that he would be open to it, you might suggest that your husband look at the page also.
In other words, expect the best of your husband, and make up your mind that you will try to protect your grandson.
5) Sit down with your grandson and tell him that your husband was wrong in how he acted and what he said. Tell him that he is not lazy, not a liar, and that he's a good person. If he did throw your dog, then talk to him about that separately, and tell him how important it is to be kind to animals.
6) Talk to your daughter about this part: See if your grandson will write about what happened, so that he has a chance to tell his story. It would also be good to explain PTSD to him, so that he understands that his grandfather's anger is not all because of him. If your grandson starts to have worse problems such as anxiety or depression, find a play therapist for him to help sort out his feelings.
Depending on how strongly you feel about this, Jeanie, you might consider telling your husband that you are not comfortable going with him to see your grandson at this point. An apology alone would not be enough, by the way. To insure that it does not happen again, your husband will have to take responsibility for healing his own PTSD and anger issues.
Take this input and decide what if anything feels right to you, Jeanie. You are the one who is close to the situation, and you need to be the one to decide what action to take.
Your efforts to protect your grandson and do the right thing are excellent.
My very best to you,