Few things will send a child scurrying down the black hole of dysfunction more than the angry dad. An angry dad in the home is the metaphorical equivalent of rolling a child’s heart through a mine field.
He lives between two worlds: (1) striving to be perfect for his dad and (2) receiving exasperating disapproval from his dad. The accumulative effect of this kind of tension is hard to overcome.
In fact, most children never completely overcome it. I have counseled scores of “50-year old” children who are still trying to please their fathers, even though some of their dads have been dead for many years.
The traumatic consequences of a dad’s anger is incalculable.
Born to be fearful
Children come into our world fearful and insecure. This was part of the fallout from the Adamic curse.
Adam walked away from God and part of the consequences of his sin was fearful insecurity. And because we are “in Adam,” we have inherited his consequences. Being fearful is part of the curse.
Imagine a child coming into our cold and harsh world only to find himself dependent on an angry dad. It is a lose-lose situation for the child. He does not stand a chance. It’s not unusual for the child to harbor resentment toward God for this “trick of nature.”
The only people he knows to depend on are the “big people in the room” and when one of the big people has an anger problem, the child is confused as to how to respond.
A child does not have the spiritual or psychological capability to accurately process what is happening to him.
Initially he sees his parents as perfect. And why not? They are older, taller, stronger, less dependent, and smarter than he is. They are also his authority figures.
It stands to reason they are perfect because they are in the know and are always right. Therefore, what the parent says has to be true. Right?
At least that is how a child processes what he is experiencing. Therefore, if a dad yells at him, then it only makes sense the child did something wrong.
“I must be doing something wrong. Why else would daddy be yelling at me? I messed up. There must be something wrong with me.”
The quiet introverted child
The child’s constitution will determine how he internalizes, processes, and responds to what is happening to him. If the child has a propensity toward introversion, then he will “go quiet.” Being quiet is normal for him; it only makes sense for him to “hide” from his dad by being silent.
He may choose to get “lost in television” or video games. He can go “into” these safe worlds as a way of escaping from his dad. A 30-minute sitcom is the perfect cure.
In 24 minutes (6 minutes of commercials) there is (1) bliss, (2) a problem, (3) a solution, and (4) back to bliss again. It’s a wonderful fantasy that always ends well for the hurting child.
In his real world he dare not say more than necessary because of the potential of being harshly corrected, scolded, or put down. “If it ain’t right, keep quiet or you will be corrected.” He learns to occupy himself inside of his own world. It’s his safe place.
The sad part about the internalization of his troubles is that he is actually seething in anger. He doesn’t necessarily show it at an early age, but his turmoil and confusion will eventually come out as anger and bitterness when he gets older.
He’s too young to articulate these things as a child. Therefore, he quietly sits and simmers until one day he is able to express what he has been harboring for many years in his heart.
The angry acting out child
If the child’s constitution is bent more toward extroversion, then he will be more outwardly angry, competitive, or whiney. He will be angry with those he can be angry with because he knows he can get away with being “superior” to them. He is modeling his dad’s superiority-through-anger behavior.
He will be competitive with those he can defeat, another aspect of his dad’s superiority-through-anger behavior. Then he will be whiney when he does not get his way, or doesn’t win.
This is the equivalent of his dad showing anger as a means of getting his way. Being whiney is a form of grumbling or complaining, which is a form of biblical anger.
The quiet child is afraid to extend himself because he is not sure he can win and he does not want to be yelled at or put down if he does not succeed. His dad’s anger has a way of circumventing his desire to perform or achieve.
The acting out child wants to model his dad’s aggression, which he does in a childlike way, e.g. competition, anger, or whiney. He doesn’t mind exerting himself because he will either win or complain about losing.
All things in common
The one thing these kids have in common is their desire to please their father. The quiet child does not want to displease, so he does very little.
The extrovert child tries to please, so he is willing to do most anything. For both of them their hope is to “close the distance” between themselves and their father.