Dear Mr. Dad: My parents are divorced and my dad has been living in another state. He is now moving back home because he says he wants to develop a relationship with his grandchild (my son), who is four. Unfortunately, my father has anger management issues–he’s never been violent, but he does have verbal outbursts. He can be fine, but then something sets him off and he starts being verbally abusive. He says he can control himself now, but my husband and I are afraid to leave our son with him. On the other hand, I want my child to get to know his grandfather. What can we do?
A: You’re absolutely right to be concerned about entrusting your child to someone who has a history of abusive behavior—violent or otherwise—regardless of whether he’s a relative or not.
Your dad says he can control his outbursts. But how do you know? Has he been in anger management or been getting some other type of therapy, counseling, or professional help? I’m not saying people can’t change—of course they can. But it’s pretty unlikely that a lifelong habit would suddenly disappear all by itself. It’s certainly possible that your father has learned to keep his anger under wraps, but there’s no guarantee that it’ll stay that way. As you say, he can be fine one moment, then something (or someone) will spark his anger. You certainly don’t want that someone to be your four-year-old.