As a child who experienced a toxic home environment, Vincent Stuart has some advice for parents.
A good home consists of happy children that feel safe and free in their house and when you can laugh off little misfortunes like spilling cereal, then you have a healthy environment
You may not be guilty of crying over every first world problem that comes your way, but you are probably guilty of overreaction at one point in your life. We’re all human, it happens to the best of us, and it’s understandable. But if you can reduce the number of times you overreact to little things like spilling coffee, having to wash dishes, and things like that that aren’t severe problems, then you can make your home a less toxic place to live in.
When you have to get up early in the morning and you’re tired and maybe a little angry because you’re not a morning person, you may not realize that throwing little fits is affecting your children. Especially since you probably don’t even remember acting that way after work.
I remember in my mid-teen years how my father would overreact to the smallest things all the time. It made my entire family uncomfortable and it eventually became a serious problem because everyone started staying away from each other and isolating themselves in their rooms because they didn’t want to have to hear it. That didn’t help though because the worse it got, the louder the screams got. When the dishes were not put in the dishwasher you could expect there to be yelling that day. If you just happened to make something to eat because you were hungry and Father was about to go out to get dinner, you could expect him to bring you nothing because that one peanut butter and jelly sandwich was enough.
One day I woke up in the late afternoon on a weekend because I heard screaming. I walked out of my room and into the living room to see my brother and sister sitting there looking like they saw a ghost. No one was talking and I heard my father’s motorcycle go down the street so I continued on into the dining room and into the kitchen to see my mother washing the dishes. I was worrying and the thinking things like maybe someone died? Maybe someone is seriously ill and my father had to rush to a hospital? Maybe something crazy happened. I didn’t know what to think so I asked my mother what happened. She said the dishes were dirty. From that moment I knew that if I was going to become an adult and a good husband and father in the future, I could not let myself sweat the small stuff and let it get the better of me. It was such a bad day — and over nothing.
After a while of things like this happening the whole family snapped and everything that could be said was said. Everyone let everything out and the next day felt so much better. It wasn’t until a couple weeks later that I noticed my father was no longer getting upset over small things that don’t affect life too much. After more time passed, everyone was happier and not afraid to be around each other anymore. My father seemed happier too because now when the dishes are dirty, he just politely asks one of us to do them. When he can’t find the remote you don’t hear screaming over it anymore. It may have taken him longer to mature as a father and husband, but he eventually did and the home was detoxified of anger and anxiety. I’m not sure if he was in counseling or just realized how stupid it was to be screaming over things like that, but he’s a better person now and the home is a better place to live in.
The way he got rid of his anger problem was by taking the same advice that he always gave me. He always told me growing up that if it doesn’t matter then don’t stress over it. I think after that day where everyone let everything out and told him how he was overreacting to dumb things and that it was ruining everyone’s day every time he started yelling, he thought about it for a couple nights and then finally admitted that everyone was right.
I still remember when I saw the first change in his personality too, everyone felt better and he seemed more happy. Something else that probably happened to him was having an epiphany about his own mortality. He has a lot of health problems and I think he realized that he was making them worse by getting this angry all the time. That’s another thing he always told me growing up; “You only live once.” He probably remembered saying that to me all the time while raising me, and realized that practicing what you preach would be a good idea for a father.
Really at the end of the day, tough love is what was needed in this case and I think everyone needs tough love in their life, including me. It sucks to go through it, but if you want to create a toxic free home, then you better start changing everything from the way you act to the way you look at life.
This was one of the worst experiences I had growing up because it made me nervous all day to the point of isolating myself from everyone and staying away from the family. Plus if you have to deal with unnecessary conflicts at home every day, it’s hard to get good at anything or even enjoy anything because your mind is somewhere else. Thankfully it was resolved, but to any of you fathers out there that may be guilty of this, just remember that you are affecting your family more than you realize. Hard times can make it difficult to not sweat the small stuff, but you shouldn’t make other people’s lives less enjoyable, as well as your own, because of something small that doesn’t affect you in a severe way.
Having a healthy relationship with your children and your wife is the most important aspect of your life because that’s who you’re surrounded by after you come home from work. Discipline yourself to laugh things off more so you don’t make your family feel uncomfortable. Try to not sweat the small things even when you’re having a bad day because doing so doesn’t make the day any better. It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong when arguing with someone and it’s hard to admit when you’re overreacting to something small that doesn’t matter, but it’s necessary for your growth to do these things. Now through experience I know it is possible to change drastically as a person and create a toxic free home by not letting the small unfortunate events get to you.
Photo: Getty Images