Annie's Mailbox for March 3, 2011: Mother has trouble controlling anger with daughters

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Dear Annie: I am a 28-year-old mother of two beautiful girls, ages 8 and 2. I have a problem controlling my anger, and I take out all of my frustrations on my girls. When something is done wrong or not fast enough, or when my 8-year-old talks back, I lose it. When talking and screaming don't work, I've spanked her and slapped hands. My older daughter is afraid of me.

Is there any help out there for me? I don't want to blame others for my actions, but could this have anything to do with the way I was brought up? I was beaten with a belt, spanked and slapped. I thought I would grow up to be nothing like my parents, but I was wrong.

I feel lost. I want to be able to have a great relationship with my girls, not like the nonexistent one I have with my parents. Please help me fix this.

— Maria in Texas

Dear Maria: You are taking the right steps. You recognize that you have a problem and are asking for help. It is often true that parents revert to the way they were raised, and if physical and verbal abuse were commonplace when you were growing up, you could resort to those same tactics with your children. You can change, however, with some training and mindfulness. Your local YMCA or park district may offer parenting classes to help you learn how to respond more appropriately and lovingly to your children. Also check with your doctor, clergy and local social service agencies. Your children are too precious to let your anger get the better of you.

Dear Annie: I am bisexual and don't know how to tell my family, especially my mother. They say it's against God, but I can't help who I am. I told one of my best friends, and she told me she felt the same way. Please help me talk to my family about this.

— Bi in the Boonies

Dear Bi: Don't be in too big of a hurry to make any announcements. It is not uncommon for young people to be temporarily confused about their sexuality, including being attracted to both sexes. It does not necessarily indicate that you are gay, straight or bisexual. PFLAG (pflag.org) can help you figure this out and find ways to discuss your sexual orientation with your parents. Please contact them.

Dear Annie: I believe you misread the concerns of "Son who is Wondering," who said his father constantly touches him during conversations. While the son didn't tell us everything, he did say that his father ignores obvious attempts to maintain personal space and even "flew into a rage" when the son moved out of range.

It should be acknowledged that the father's behavior is creepy, disrespectful and maybe obsessive-compulsive. It sounds like the son has fought this battle for a long time, and his father continues to be unable to respect his son's basic requests, which has created a rift.

I love my parents, but would not tolerate them constantly touching me, especially if they were touching my leg with theirs. Hugs, shoulder slaps, handshakes, etc., are fine because they are brief. We all have the right to define and protect our personal space. Maybe if the son understands why his father cannot restrain himself, then, hopefully, a solution will present itself.

— My Space, My Rules

Dear My Space: We agree that something about this situation seems off-kilter. The son objected primarily to Dad poking him on the arm when speaking to him, which strikes us as more of a control issue, reinforced by the fact that the problem began when the son reached his teens. But you are right that one's personal space should be respected, even by parents, and we, too, hope the two of them can work out what's going on and find a solution.

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