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CAPTP Colloquium: Rage, Forgiveness, and Acceptance: Parenting Through Difficult Moments

Date: Oct 24, 2019 11:45 am

Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program

William Alanson White Institute

20 West 74th Street, Room 3A


Thursday, October 24, 2019

11:45am to 1:00pm

Presenter: Paul Donahue, Ph.D.

Rage, Forgiveness, and Acceptance: Parenting Through Difficult Moments

Few developmental theorists counter the widely held notion that the overt expression of anger and aggression by parents is linked to predictable and pathological outcomes in their children. Despite increased recognition of the stress on adults and children, there persists an idealized image of family life that eschews mention of the frustration and rage that parents so often experience. Denial of these feelings not only increases the risk of escalating confrontations at home, it can also exacerbate feelings of shame and guilt in parents. This can, in turn, lead to more toxic interactions and feeling of isolation and alienation from their children.

The therapist has the opportunity to help parents express their anger more openly, to facilitate a more realistic understanding of expectations in the parent-child relationship that allows parents to be more forgiving of their own rage and their children’s transgressions. In this talk I will draw from clinical examples and discuss my own experience of parental anger as a child, and struggles with rage and frustration as a father. We will explore how the critical element in changing negative family dynamics often involves an acceptance of the inevitable clash of wills and desires at home. Parents can gain significant relief as they come to recognize that these need not be irrevocable moments that define the relationship with their children, or inevitably predict who they will become later in life.


Learning Objectives:

  1. Participants will learn to help parents explore and understand their feelings of rage and aggression towards their children, without enduring undue shame.

  1. Participants will gain an understanding of how early experiences with parental anger and self-denial can influence adults’ ability to regulate their own anger towards and frustration with their children.

  1. Participants will learn about the role of acceptance of rageful thoughts and fantasies in parents, and forgiveness for their moments of anger and loss of control, and how to sustain positive attachments through these affect storms.

  1. Participants will discuss the role of self-disclosure in working with adult patients and families in which managing anger is a primary concern.

Paul J. Donahue, Ph.D. is the founder and director Parenting Without Fear: Letting Go of Worry and Focusing on What Really Matters and co-author of Mental Health Consultation in Early Childhood, and he has written a number of book chapters and professional articles. The current talk is adapted from his chapter in Parenting: Contemporary Clinical Perspectives, edited by Steve Tuber, Ph.D. Paul has served as a consultant to the Columbia University School for Public Health, the Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development, and the National Head Start Association. He is frequently asked to comment on parenting and family issues and childhood anxiety for national publications, including the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune.