For the first three years of #1 son’s life, he had all our attention. All of the things we tried to do as parents seemed to be working perfectly. By the time he was ready to go to school, we thought we had the parenting game down pat — he was a really smart kid, well behaved, independent, curious, responsible, etc.

Son #2 was three years younger with most of the same characteristics except he was cuddly and adorable where the older brother was more logical and independent.

For his entire childhood, the younger boy would ask us for the same privileges as his older brother. We would say, “but you’re three years younger, so you need to earn those privileges, just like your brother did” or “when you’re three years older, you’ll be mature enough to handle these responsibilities like your brother is now.”

But he would go back and forth between my wife and I, looking for a loophole, trying to play one of us. If that didn’t work, he would go to his grandparents to try to get what he wanted. And in most cases, he charmed and manipulated the family to get what he wanted in a much shorter time frame than the three years it should have taken him to earn what his brother had.

Over time, our younger son grew up angry and frustrated because he felt like he deserved the same treatment as his brother. It was illogical at all, because he actually got everything faster and didn’t have to earn it. He refused to do his school work or chores, started smoking a lot of weed and drinking and ended up getting himself kicked out of the house a couple of times.

Meanwhile, the older brother was the dutiful son, graduated college with a degree in engineering, got a job, married and bought a house. But to this day, he will tell you that we spoiled his younger brother.

The reality is, it’s a huge mistake to treat your children identically. They are completely unique, and if you are going to really love them with all your heart, you need to work 24/7 to figure out who they are almost from birth in order to figure out the right way to raise them.

In my younger son’s case, he needed way more discipline (trying to reason with him didn’t work at all), even to the point of sending him away to a military school. And if you knew me you would know that I hate blind obedience to authority with a passion. But if you see no other way, you sacrifice your own beliefs, and your own need to feel like a good parent and do the dirty, ugly and painful work of helping the child you love to reach his full potential, even if he hates you in return.

It’s taken about seven years for him to get his life back on track. And we’re lucky and grateful, because there are so many kids who don’t make it out of their teenage years.

First, while your anger may be justified, your perceptions from childhood are not objective. You saw things with a brain that wasn’t fully mature (science has shown the brain keeps developing until the age of twenty-five), so there is no possible way you would see things with the clarity you have now.

Secondly, your parents may have been wrong about a lot of things, maybe everything, but they saw things about you that may have been closer to reality and did the best they could for you given their own personal limitations.

Finally, your brother saw things another way, although his perceptions are limited, too, because he was a kid. But he also sees you now as an adult, and you should learn everything you can from his perspective to see if there’s anything you can learn from him. He could be a dick, so you would have to learn from that.

Your job is to find a way to see your past as objectively as you can.

Basing your current reality on the logic of a child is one of the main reasons you are aware that you’re f*cked up but are unable to fix yourself, despite all your attempts. And let’s face it, you wouldn’t be vomiting all your anger all over the internet if there wasn’t some part of you that is unhappy about your current life. (Update edit: holy crap, I was falling asleep and wrote a quadruple negative! I was only going for the triple.)

.At some point, with enough personal work, you need to express your anger directly to your parents (through words or in writing, even if you never deliver the message to them in person).

After that, if you’ve got the courage and wisdom, you will eventually have to forgive your parents. Not for them but for your sake. They aren’t going to be better people. They

I’ve personally dealt with anger issues my whole life and I can tell you that the only way I ever broke my own patterns of self sabotage was through learning to forgive those who have hurt me. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life, but it was worth it.

I’m still working on forgiving myself — that’s even tougher.

Just know that at 30 years old, you can’t blame your life on your parents anymore. We all do that as teenagers, then spend the next decade trying to figure out who we really are. But there has to come a point where you take responsibility for your own life and move forward.

It takes a while, but you need to learn healthy boundaries. You can’t let people dump on you without pushing back. That doesn’t mean yelling or fighting. It can be something as simple as telling the other person that their behavior or language is disrespectful, they’re being unfair, or that you won’t do what someone is pushing you to do. And then walk away.

It took me many, many years to learn how to push back. And it took even longer to allow myself (and trust myself) to yell back at someone. You’ve got a right to do that, but you have to know that you won’t lose control to the point that you become violent. And you have to be objective enough to see if the other person can handle that type of confrontation without becoming a serial killer. (This is more about family and friends, not some idiot biker at a bar).

Under the surface, your rant about marriage actually reveals how important love and marriage are to you. Your may not realize it right now, but anger is standing in the way of your own happiness. It doesn’t make you right; it’s just giving you your fix.

Anger is your best and only friend.

Without anger, you don’t know who you are or what you will find when you open yourself up. Anger lets you stay stupid and ignorant (even though there’s an intelligent mind trapped inside you that keeps trying to fight its way out and occasionally reveals itself between the lines you write). Anger lets you mask other emotions so you will never have to feel joy and grief, love and loss. And Anger helps you avoid change, because change means facing your fears.

Maybe it’s time to make some new friends.

Written by

Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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