What do your children see when you’re angry?

At a recent fatherhood class I facilitated, the topic was Dealing with Anger. To start the discussion, I gave the assembled dads an intriguing assignment: Using crayons and a blank page, draw a picture of what your father looked like to you in your childhood when he was angry.

angry-dad After a few minutes, the dads shared their artwork. Out of 10 men, only two drawings could be described as, at best, only mildly intimidating. The rest expressed a raw power that provoked fear. Two drawings captured outright rage. One dad sketched a multi-colored haze, an intimidating yet featureless blur (see nearby). Another began to explain his drawing but after a sentence or two asked to pass, as the memories that were invoked were too painful to discuss.

I then asked the dads to draw another picture. “This time, draw me a picture of what you look like to your children when you are angry.”

A few of the dads said, “I can use the same picture. I look the same to my children as my dad did to me.” Others were more positive, but said they needed to do a better job of controlling their anger. They all agreed that their children will be far more influenced by what they do than what they say.

This exercise launched one of the most beneficial classes I have led in my four years as a facilitator of fatherhood classes. Two simple assignments created an atmosphere of vulnerability and candor that colored the rest of the two-hour discussion. At the end, nearly every dad said that he had been affected in a profound way.

Anger is an incredibly toxic emotion that cripples relationships, erecting barriers between parents and fathers and children. Our overarching goal at SpoFI is to equip dads with the tools they need to create an enduring relationship with their children. We help them develop the character strength they need – e.g. patience, humility, empathy, emotional reliability — so that no matter what challenging circumstances arise, dads stay connected to their kids.

SpoFI’s fatherhood classes are offered at no cost to these men because of the generosity of our financial supporters. When these men express their gratitude for the hearty meal and the equally hearty teaching, I tell them the thanks goes to our donors. Your gifts enable us to create a safe place for dads to share their regrets as well as their hopes. The growth they experience is deeply transformative.

Thank you for your support of the Spokane Fatherhood Initiative. Your financial support truly helps us restore the value of fatherhood. We want to reach more dads with this transformative teaching. Please, while you have a moment, click on the link below or get your checkbook out and send your donation to the address below.  You can change a dad’s heart with a gift today. 

Ron Hauenstein
Executive Director
PO Box 8266
Spokane WA 99203