Anger on the Defense

In today’s show, I shared the story of one of my clients at the battered women’s shelter who had an issue with her son and some other children. When some of the mothers accused her child of hitting and cursing at their children, she immediately went on the defensive in an effort to protect him. She made several critical mistakes in the way she handled this situation:

1. While she admitted her child was not an angel, she failed to acknowledge that he may have actually committed the offense.
2. Rather than deal with her child, she diverted the attention onto the other children, informing their mothers that they are not well behaved. Then she attacked their parenting skills. This was done in an attempt to take the focus off the real issue – her son’s alleged bad behavior.
3. This verbal altercation was followed by extreme measures. She decided to keep her son confined to their room, no longer allowing him to interact with any of the other children. And she chose to ignore all of the mothers from that moment on.

Defensive behavior is rooted in fear. When one feels unsafe in the presence of another individual or in a particular situation, they feel the need to protect themselves from harm. Aggressive actions restore a sense of power and control and give the illusion of safety. Real security, however, is achieved when one is confident they can handle themselves appropriately in that circumstance.

When one feels they are being verbally accused, practice the following:

1. Listen objectively and open-mindedly. Refrain from interrupting, defending, or making excuses.
2. Ask questions of all parties to gain a better understanding of what happened and why.
3. Weigh all sources of information: are they trustworthy, unbiased, reliable?
4. Be open to all possibilities, even those that do not conform with what you would like to believe.
5. Reassure the other party(s) that you will handle the issue.
6. Inquire from them what they need to make this situation better for all concerned.
7. Address your own child. Take advantage of the opportunity to teach them a valuable lesson. Impose appropriate consequences if necessary.
8. Thank the other party(s) for their involvement and efforts. Gratitude is a wonderful way to end on a positive note and foster good relations.

My suggestions are not always easy to follow. One must be willing to remove all ego and personal issues and respond in spirit – concern for fairness and the well being of all parties. I’ve seen this work for others and it has worked for me every time. Give it a try. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Pick up a copy of The Secret Side of Anger at

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