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My dad has always been a "mad person". Recently I was talking with my mom and she said a large reason she divorced with him was because he was always mad.

Now, the following is a onetime example but similar things keep happening and I don't know how to get it to stop. Also, some details I consider irrelevant, but others may not so I'll try to give as much info as possible.

My dad had offered to do me a favor and give me a ride somewhere. We met at his place. While at his place I had some work related notes I had to read. Now, I thought it was pretty obvious I needed to focus but he kept talking to me and distracting me and I snapped "be quiet!" (I may have said it in a loud voice but I didn't yell at him). He started yelling his head off at me for the next 15 minutes. He was saying things like "I'm allowed to speak! This is my house and I make the rules!" He also acts threatening when he's yelling and is very animated.

One thing I don't get is what my dad want? At my job I deal with lots of angry people, but they're angry because they're not getting something they want. I realize it was rude for me to say be quiet, but him yelling for a long time is ridiculous. In fact, I'm sure if he conducts himself at work the same way he would get fired (and to my knowledge he has never been fired).

I don't know what to do about it. At work if a colleague yells at me I would wait for them to calm down and tell them yelling doesn't help the problem. If a stranger yelled at me I'd ignore them. If a friend yelled at me, we wouldn't be friends if it happened as frequently as it does with my dad.

He seems to always do this when he has an advantage over me, like how he offered to give me a ride and I was already at his place. I keep forgetting not to trust him. I made my self a note on Google Calendar not to trust my dad with help and I have it set to remind me each day, but this kind of gives me a bad gut feeling.

I admit he's good at manipulating me. For example his text message said "I have lunch for you here. How about I come pick you up in 10 minutes?"

Also, I've considered it might be a mental illness on his part. But I sometimes don't see what difference this makes. I used to work for a company where someone got away with breaking all the rules and being a jerk because he was diagnosed with alcoholism. In the same way, if my dad has anger management I can't just decide not to be bothered by him yelling at me.

EDIT: he also gets mad and yells at other people (including strangers and family) but he seems to do it the most to me.

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    Can you state a specific question here? We get that you're uncomfortable with your father's behavior. But what, exactly, do you want help with? Otherwise the answers will be all over the place, and may not be useful to you. Also, how old are you, and what is your financial situation? Thanks. – anongoodnurse Aug 4 '17 at 13:41
  • Not trusting your dad and figuring out how to deal with his outbursts are two different things. Anyway, basic advice is to remember everyone has their own character flaws. As an 'anger guy' myself sometimes I get angry and blow up, then I spend more time be angry at myself for getting angry and try to rationalize my earlier behavior with more ranting... Best advice I could give someone listening to me is to ignore my outbursts, then I end up having to deal with me and not you. Also, don't take it personal. My outburst is my problem, not yours. – Adam Heeg Aug 4 '17 at 16:28
  • @AdamHeeg - Telling someone who's on the receiving end of an angry blowup to "don't take it personal" is minimizing the effect anger has on the recipient. There's no way physiologically not to respond to someone's anger. One can hide it, but anger is threatening to the average person. A person's outburst towards someone is the problem of at least two people. – anongoodnurse Aug 4 '17 at 23:36
  • @anongoodnurse I apologize for not being more sensitive. I agree that physiologically there is always a response mechanism. My advice focuses on the outward reaction. At some point we all tell our kids to ignore their sibling who is teasing them. IMO this can be useful (in some situations, not all). I understand it isn't always possible. i.e. I can't control you, can't control my inner physiological stuff, but it is possible to control my own reactions. I still feel angry very easily - however I don't respond with anger anymore 98% of the time. – Adam Heeg Aug 6 '17 at 11:39
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    I wonder if you haven't learned some of your behavior from him. Snapping "Be quiet!" at someone is an angry thing to do. "Could I just have a few mintutes, I need to sort out these notes before we go" would probably have worked better. But I'm guessing that if your positions were reversed your Dad would have snapped "Be quiet!", and you would have felt aggrieved at being snapped at when you were trying to make polite conversation. – Paul Johnson Oct 15 '17 at 11:54
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There was a lot of yelling in my house growing up - first between my mom and dad, then after they got divorced between my dad and step-mom, and by my step-mom (and sometimes my dad) at me and my brother. I thought dealing with problems by yelling was normal and expected, and it took being out in the world for quite a while to realize that yelling is not necessary or typical, and can even be avoided close to 100% of the time with at least equal (and usually better) success at solving problems. And the whole experience of disagreement is far less damaging to everyone involved when people address each other calmly and respectfully throughout.

Once I figured that out, I started by correcting my own behavior. Then I explained to my dad and step-mom that yelling wasn't part of a healthy environment, and that I didn't want to participate in any situation in which people were going to resort to screaming/yelling/shouting of any kind. I told them I was happy to come spend time with them as my family, but that if people started yelling, I was going to leave (no matter who they were yelling at). I was clear with them that I deserved respectful behavior and I would expect it. I only had to walk out of their house one time before they got the message that I was really serious, and neither of them has yelled for longer than maybe 2 seconds in my presence since then. It was hard to walk out that one time, because it meant missing my little brother's birthday, but it wound up being worth it in the long run.

It is important, though, that I treated them with only loving and respectful behavior, because that meant I had a leg to stand on. Snapping at someone to "be quiet" is reasonable under some circumstances (like you're hiding in a closet from a burglar and don't want them to find you), but responding that way to someone who is just trying to engage you in conversation is VERY rude. It is treating them as beneath you, which has got to be a trigger for just about everyone. I strongly recommend being polite and respectful to your dad, while at the same time asserting that you will only accept respectful behavior from him in return. And recognize that it may take a little time for your dad to actually change his behavior. I strongly suspect that he will change his behavior, though, because it sounds like he cares very much about having a relationship with you, and my experience is that that is very strong motivation for most parents.

  • Thanks, I think an important part I was missing I need to explain to my dad in advanced I will leave if he starts yelling. I'm just concerned he will try to justify his actions with some excuse like I told him to be quiet. – treesandleaves Aug 5 '17 at 9:22
  • @treesandleaves - What you said to him is a justification for his response. You need to treat people with respect before you demand it of them. – anongoodnurse Aug 5 '17 at 11:35
  • @anongoodnurse so you think telling a person to be quiet is a justification for them to yell at you? I don't follow. Even if you prescribe to "an eye for an eye" yelling for 15 minutes is disproportional. – treesandleaves Aug 5 '17 at 12:02
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    @treesandleaves a few points: 1) yes, yelling for an extended period is a disproportional response. HOWEVER 2) I think the reason some people are having a hard time with your question is that the tone of it shows an appalling lack of respect or compassion for your father, and a refusal to acknowledge the magnitude (existence?) of your own failings in the situation. The point is that you hurt him. His method for dealing with it might be poor, but your approach to him in the situation described was legitimately hurtful, and as this was given as an example of a typical situation, it seems (cont) – MAA Aug 5 '17 at 12:11
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    You may have been treating your father unkindly for a long time. 3) it is equally clear from your question that your father cares about and cares for you. I think your first duty in this situation is to find in yourself love (or at least appreciation) for your father so that you can understand the hurt that is leading him to behave in this way. Though of course the ultimate goal is to have appropriate boundaries and to have him also treat you with respect. – MAA Aug 5 '17 at 12:14
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I'm a firm believer in boundaries, as anyone familiar with my answers knows. Healthy boundaries are important in any relationship, including with your dad.) I think you need to establish a few boundaries with your dad. But boundaries must be reasonable if they are to be effective.

This is a reasonable boundary:

I'm not a child anymore, I'm an adult like you. I will treat you with respect, and in return, I expect you to treat me with respect. Yelling is not respectful, and if you yell at me, I will stop conversing with you; if you continue, I will excuse myself and leave.

This is not a reasonable boundary:

I'm not a child anymore, I'm an adult like you. I will treat you however it suits me, including with disrespect, inattention, and ingratitude, and in return I expect you to treat me with respect. Yelling is not respectful; if you yell at me, I will excuse myself and leave.

I don't know the entire picture of your relationship with your father; you've given us only two moments in time.

In the first, sure, he overreacted. Saying "I'm allowed to speak! This is my house and I make the rules!" is immature. But I suspect he was hurt, and anger follows very swiftly on the heels of hurt, because hurt is just painful and the hurt person feels helpless, unvalued, unloved?, and vulnerable, while anger gives a false sense of control/action. You are he one who hurt him. (That needs to be acknowledged if progress is to be made.)

The other is what you describe as an attempt to manipulate you:

his text message said "I have lunch for you here. How about I come pick you up in 10 minutes?"

I think the two of you are stuck in a pattern of hurt and misunderstanding. What your dad wants from you is probably simple enough: we all crave love, affection, appreciation, respect, fairness, etc. The order is inverse to the degree of intimacy of the relationship. A stranger wants fairness (e.g. we all obey the laws of the land; that's how we get along.) An employee wants fairness and respect, plus appreciation for a job when well done. Etc.

To make an effective boundary, you need to give what you expect. It's ok if you don't trust him; healthy boundaries are important for trust to exist in a relationship. It needs to be built up.

If you think he's trying to manipulate you (as opposed to, he would love to see you and one way of doing that is to give you something where you spend time together, e.g. lunch), you have absolutely no obligation to do as he says. (Well, even if he just wants to have some quality time with you, you still don't have to acquiesce. As an adult, you have your own responsibilities to think of.) You are completely within your rights to text back, "(Really) sorry, Dad, I can't today." If he gets angry (e.g. "But I already bought all this food for you!"), then text back, "Dad, you really should check with me before planning something. I'm sorry you bought food, but I can't today. Maybe another time, but please check with me first."

You said in comments:

the question is what should I do when my dad yells at me?

I would say, keep calm, stay respectful, and adhere to already establishes boundaries. Discuss those boundaries only after thinking about what you want your relationship with your dad to look like (and whatever you feel about an angry-for-years-father is ok; we feel what we feel) then when all is calm, have a discussion. If he objects/balks, stick to your guns calmly, and let him vent a little (not a lot) and redirect to what your boundary is. If he throws out red herrings, ignore them or throw them back ("that's not the point; how you treat me is the point") and stick to your message.

Most parent-adult child relationships are strained for a number of years before they settle down into mutual respect (sometimes they never do.) Treat your father respectfully and expect the same. If it's not forthcoming, you have a right to limit the relationship to anything you feel safe/content doing, including no relationship at all. But make sure you think out all the consequences of such a decision; it might be better to limit your contact to once a month/whatever.

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I am unfortunately a yeller so I am very intrigued by your question (but admit it is a bad habit inasmuch as swearing).

First, I think that your dad yells because it is a form of deeply rooted communication style for him. He needs to be aware of this, and address the causes of this habit and try to refocus his anger and bitterness. Probably coaching or counseling would help substantially.

Second, you should clarify yourself whether this is your father's worst habit or occasionally a prelude to more aggressive (even violent) behavior. This is much more dangerous than yelling, if it is ever the case.

Third, you should confront him politely but firmly, clarifying him that there is no room for yelling between adults unless there is some dramatic and life threatening situation (eg a fire).

Eventually, if he does not want to get help (professional or not), the best options are avoiding him altogether (but I would avoid it...), or indifference. In other words, such as when children swear, the best course of action is to act indifferently and actually show the yeller that he loses a window of communication until he stops the disrespectful behavior.

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