by Mark Gregston
Do you remember the last time you were really mad?
For most of us, we don’t have to think back too far—in fact, it’s often the little things that make us mad.
Anger is a natural emotion. But during the teen years, if left unchecked, anger can quickly spiral out of control into aggression. After all, your child is learning that the world doesn’t revolve around them—and that’s tough to navigate.
While, I’m not saying that teen anger is always acceptable, I am saying we shouldn’t be shocked when it appears. In healthy relationships, anger is—and should be—a little light on the dashboard that lets us know there’s a problem under the hood that needs to be worked on.
So, how do we help our teens break through those trying adolescent years without breaking apart? In this article, I’ll outline three areas of concern and then, I’ll give you some insights in understanding that your teen’s anger is not a problem—but an opportunity.
#1 Anger That’s Out of Control
Our kids—they’ll always be our “babies,” but as they grow up, the pressure to be treated as a mature, independent individual begins to grow, as well. Somewhere between middle school and high school, they have a strong desire to branch out … to be loved and accepted by their peers, and to venture out on their own. But unfortunately, they still struggle with immaturity and selfishness. And why they need your help in guiding them through!
At Heartlight, we live with sixty teens and so it seems like someone is always angry. While we continually remind them that anger is an okay emotion, we also remind them that dishonesty, disobedience, and disrespect are not. Those attributes are associated with anger that’s out of control.
So, how can you help? Well, first consider whether your child’s anger is stemming from something you’re doing, or if it’s coming from a social issue or internal issue that’s frustrating them. Next, be careful that you don’t shut down their anger prematurely and miss an opportunity to learn about your child’s deepest desire.
#2 Silent Anger and Anger Rooted in Depression
Have you ever seen a broody teenager silently sulk through life? I think it’s safe to say that at one point or another, we’ve all experienced the effects of a mopey teenager. But labels aside, silent anger is the one type that really scares me. It doesn’t get much publicity, but silent or depressive anger can literally make you sick. And teens who suppress—rather than express their emotions might be more prone to self-medicate to avoid painful feelings.
Everyone wants to fit in and feel normal—but that’s a tough sell in today’s world. And at the heart of this type of anger is the feeling of rejection. When they say it’s the quiet ones you have to worry about—that’s no joke!
So, try to help your teen recognize what they’re feeling and ask them questions to help them sort it out. Be available to talk. Go for a walk. Grab a yogurt or a coffee. Connect with your teen. And while doing so, invite your silent or depressed teen to express their anger appropriately.
#3 Anger with Aggression
It’s true that everyone gets mad from time to time, but anger that turns violent or physical is something that cannot be tolerated. A kid who is intentionally trying to provoke or offend out of anger needs a very strong consequence. There’s something boiling up on the inside and it’s your job as a parent to help your child understand what’s driving it—because anger damages every relationship.
When a kid lashes out, anger isn’t the real issue, but simply a visible sign of an invisible issue. So, getting to the bottom of the issue is vital in turning things around. If your teen is violent, seek help. And stay calm. Being calm doesn’t mean they’re off the hook, it just means you’re being intentional about how you handle it.
Mom, Dad … it’s normal for your teen to get angry. Anger is just a display—an expression that they want something different in their lives, but they don’t know how to make it happen. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s not okay for them to destroy themselves and the relationships in their lives. And that’s where you come in!
Help your teen learn how to control their anger and motivate them to move on to bigger and better things. And, as hard as it can be, don’t let their anger … become your anger. Instead, let the anger move and motivate you to help them mature and control their emotions while you connect and build a relationship with your teen.