How to Talk to Your Dad When He Is Mad

Don't let your own attitude get in the way of a productive conversation.
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Whether you broke curfew, failed your first college class or are simply butting heads with your father, talking to a mad dad is never easy. On their Healthy Children website, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that although parent-child conflict is common during the teen and young adult years, it doesn't mean that the two of you are always going to argue or are in an unhealthy relationship. Low-key conflict -- such as Dad's anger over a poor test grade -- is something that you can overcome with an adult-like conversation. While talking to Dad when he's angry may seem daunting, kicking off effective two-way communication can put an end to an argument and keep the household peace.

Give your dad time to calm down enough to have a rational conversation. Ask him if you can both take 10 minutes apart to de-stress and calm down before addressing what made him angry. Hold back from jumping in to talk to your father while he is fuming or right after you've just told him some not-so-welcome news, such as that you were fired from your first job.

Decide what you want to get out of the conversation before you start talking. Set a goal -- such as to make your father understand why you chose to stop playing football for the high school team or to help him see that you need extra help in a specific school subject -- prior to communicating. Use an honest and direct way of communicating this goal to your dad.

Choose an appropriate time to approach your dad. Avoid times that may add extra stress to the situation, such as while he is answering a pressing email from work or is in the midst of fixing the leaking kitchen faucet.

Ask your father what he would like you to do to resolve the conflict or what you can do to ease his anger, letting him start off the problem-solving or conflict resolution phase of your discussion.

Understand that your dad's anger may have roots in other causes than your actions. Consider the possibility that your dad is frustrated, feels a lack of control or is having trouble dealing with another problem. Approach your dad in an empathetic way, letting him know that you are sorry for your part in the problem and are there to listen to him just as he is there to listen to you.

Remain calm during the entire conversation, don't whine and try not to take on an argumentative attitude, as this will only escalate the frustration on both sides. Instead, use calm language to communicate and try to see the situation from your dad's point of view.

  • If your conflict isn't simple or your father's anger persists, seek professional help from a counselor. Ask your other parent, or another trusted adult, to help find a professional for the family to see.
  • Never approach your parent if he is out of control, violent or clearly under the influence of a substance. If you feel threatened or scared, immediately seek outside assistance. If your dad's anger results in verbal or physical abuse, talk to another trusted adult about your options.
  • Let Dad talk. Don't step on his words or talk over him. Although you might not like what he has to say, having a two-way conversation means that you need to listen, too.
  • Ask for help from an older sibling or your other parent. Your big brother may have gone through the same situation before and Mom may have expert insight into Dad's moods that can help you to better approach him.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.