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Dealing with an angry teenager

How can I help my teenager deal with anger? There is fighting in my home daily. What should I do? Why do teens act this way?

As teenagers begin to assert their independence and find their own identity, many project unpredictable behavioural changes that can shock parents.

Your once sweet, obedient child may not want to spend time with you; instead of laughter and hugs, rolling eyes, slamming doors, sarcastic comments may be the norm – please don’t react back in the same tone.

Most of us Christians think that anger is a sin. Some of us even suppress our emotions in an effort to ‘be a good Christian. Denial can actually lead to more destructive expressions of anger.

First of all, say a prayer and seek the Lord’s wisdom on how to deal with this sudden crisis in your family. Just like any other issue, this one needs God’s guidance. Then have a heart to heart talk with your son – may be even involving a Christian counsellor whom he likes and trusts.

If we pretend that anger isn’t present, his needs go unaddressed and more hurt follows.

The Bible never says, “don’t be angry.” It says, “Be angry, but don’t sin” (Ephesians 4:26). In other words, don’t allow all that bitterness, resentment and irritation to go unresolved. The Word also instructs us not to be  quick to anger (Proverbs 14:17). But if we try to put a lid on anger, it will seep out in indirect ways.

Rudeness, negative attitudes, cutting words, depression, a focus on death – can all be expressions of denied anger. On a more physical level, actions such as punching at walls, throwing and breaking things, fighting with or annoying siblings, rudeness – all result from bottled-up emotions.

Bring God into his and your other children’s lives (Remember your other children. Dealing with a troubled teen can unsettle the whole family; so make sure they are not ignored) Our families need Jesus the most – even more than anyone today. Children may not want long-winded family prayers but you could still hold their hands and pray with them and over them, daily. Pray the WORD over your children and with authority.

SPEAK audibly that no weapon formed against you or your family shall ever prosper in the mighty name of Jesus. Pray over them even when they are asleep – both you and your spouse could do that.

Encourage them to talk with God about their feelings. Or to keep a journal. And have family discussions. ASK your son why he is angry. If you can resolve it, do it. Do not patronise your teen. Teenagers are a bunch of hormones and emotions; they resent being in that stage when they are neither a child or adult. If he is angry about something you cannot resolve, explain and apologise. Many a relationship ends because people cannot or will not man up and say sorry. Learning to say sorry will make him a mature husband and dad one day.

Connect with your son. It may seem hard to believe – but all teens crave love and approval from their parents. Ask him how you can make his day and life – better. Compliment him for the good he does. Encourage daily exercise, outdoor activities, eating healthy and adequate sleep. Discourage smart phone addictions. Do not try to manipulate him, but treat him as a good adult in the making – which is what you want him to become, ultimately.

Behind anger there is always some kind of hurt: physical pain, disappointment, or sadness, stress or anxiety. Get to the root of the problem. An offer to connect over a meal may not be received graciously; you may even have to eat a lot of meals in silence, but when your teen finally wants to open up, he will know whom to turn to.

Please set ground rules for family talks (no rudeness, bad manners, profanity, name-calling etc) Tell him he needs to learn to constructively channel his anger and that you LOVE him. Daily.

The child should be aware that he cannot use anger as a cover up and flare up each time you need to have a mature conversation. If he walks off, tell him he will have to sit down and have that talk with both parents some time.

Watch your own anger levels and your behaviour to your spouse, friends etc. Model what you want your son to emulate. Make sure this issue is not a fighting point with your partner. You need each other and God, to deal with this and anything else. Rude men are often raised by dads who do not speak kindly to their wives.

Understand your teen – he may be taller than you and mature in some areas, but most teens are simply unable to think things through like an adult. Parenting a teenager is never easy. A teenager’s brain is wired differently – the frontal cortex (the part of the brain used to manage emotions, make decisions, reason, and control inhibitions) is restructured during the teenage years; the whole brain does not reach full maturity until about the mid-20’s.

Hormones produced during the physical changes of adolescence can further complicate things. These biological factors do not excuse teens’ poor behaviour or absolve them from accountability for their actions, but they explain why teens behave impulsively or frustrate parents and teachers with their poor decisions, social anxiety, and rebellion.

Find common ground. It could be sports, movies, even cooking. Enjoy doing something together with your son.

Please note – anger can be dealt with, violence would need more professional help (playing with knives, playing violent video games, watching violent movies, or visiting websites that promote or glorify violence, threatening or bullying others, being aggressive or cruel to people or to pets)

This won’t last forever. Keep in mind that whatever problems your teen is experiencing, it is not a sign that you’ve somehow failed as a parent.

It would be great if you could talk things out and pray – at least once a week with a strong Christian friend, so that you don’t lose your cool. He IS going to turn into a well- balanced, happy adult one day and you will be able to rejoice that you came through it, like families do.

Together, you will overcome, with Lord Jesus as your parenting coach.

We answer your questions about faith, marriage, relationships, parenting, emotional issues, financial crisis or any spiritual struggle here. Have a counselling query? Ask us here, by email [email protected]

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