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Five Things to Know About Anger

by Mark Gregston

 When was the last time you got angry or got into a fight?  How did it make you feel? 

There are a variety of reasons why people get angry.  With the increased reliance on social media platforms, our kids are living in a culture of deceit.  It’s often difficult to determine what’s real, and what’s been photoshopped or staged, and because their brains are still developing and learning to process information, it can become easy for them to be angry because their lives are not living up to the standards they see every day around them. 

For others, getting angry or picking fights makes them feel alive.  Now before you dismiss the notion as being a sign of immaturity, consider what John Eldridge says in his book, Wild at Heart.  Men are wired to look for a battle, live a life of adventure, and to rescue a beauty while women are wired for building relationships and creating stories. 

In essence, guys like to fight and girls like drama, and both of them are frustrated because the world often does not give them what they want, or need.  As parents and adults, we often think of anger as being a problematic way to express ourselves, but anger should not be avoided.  It should be addressed.  If your teenager can’t express their opinions around you, then who can they share them with? 

Proverbs 15:1 reminds us that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  So, we need to make sure we’re listening to our kids because we don’t want the situation to escalate and spiral out of control. 

Anger is typically the warning sign that there’s trouble under the surface. 

That trouble might be coming from their need to control something or someone.  It might be that your teen isn’t getting what they want or need.  Or, they may feel as though they aren’t valued or being recognized for who they are and the contributions they bring to the world.  So, before you respond by punishing or ignoring your teen’s anger, it’s important to find out the motivating factor that’s driving the anger. 

Dean’s Story 

Dean arrived at Heartlight through a transport service because he was angry and being disrespectful to his parents and things escalated to a point where his parents knew he needed help.  Struggling with anger management issues, Dean was depressed which led to a constant state of feeling angry, and using drugs was his way of coping with the realities of his life.  Dean says, “I started using about a year ago as a way to help numb the pain, but I realize now, after being at Heartlight, that the drugs didn’t help; they were only masking the problem.” 

Dean says the depression came from not having the relationship with his parents that he wanted.  They hadn’t been able to communicate in ways that were clear and appropriate and that pushed him into a cycle where he’d go through bouts of feeling angry and then depressed because he was mean to his family. 

After being at Heartlight for about nine-months, he said, he could finally see the root cause of his depression was wanting to fit in with the crowd.  He went on to say, “The teen culture these days is manipulative and you need to realize you’re your own person.  If you’re trying hard to fit into certain crowds and you’re feeling angry about it, reconsider your choice in friends.  Sometimes you’re trying to fit in, but you shouldn’t try to force yourself into places where you don’t belong.” 

How to Diffuse the Situation 

When tempers flare, it’s important that you stay calm.  Walk away for a few minutes if you have to, in order to collect your thoughts.  It’s also important that when you come back together, you stick to talking with your child about their anger.  Yelling, belittling, complaining, screaming, and ridiculing them will not help you two make forward progress. 

Ask God for wisdom and peace to navigate the situation.  Your teen has a reason for being angry, and just as God listens to us, make sure you’re listening and validating your teen and his or her emotions. 

Finally, look for solutions that give you both some “skin in the game.”  Look for ways to build communication.  Sometimes when my son was younger, he would process out loud, and if I were to correct him or shut him down, then what I would be communicating to him is this: please don’t do that around me.  That’s not what I wanted, nor is it what you probably want.  We need to be careful that what we’re communicating to our children is that they are safe with us because we want them to come to us for anything—big or small.  And we want for them to feel safe within our home.  As parents, it’s our job to provide a sanctuary from the raging craziness of the world outside our doors. 


Mom, Dad … Scripture tells us to be angry, but don’t sin.  Your teens need to know when they cross the line, but don’t write off all their anger as selfishness, immaturity, or rebellion.  Their anger may just be a sign that they’re not having their needs met, or they are being thwarted in their attempts to make life work.  When Scripture tells you not to let the sun go down on your anger, the encouragement is to not ignore what you’re wanting from your teen, as well.  The presence of anger means that there’s a need, so it’s important to find out what expectation is not being met.  And then have a purposeful discussion on how you can meet the need of your teen. 

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.