The other night I was sitting up thinking about my youngest son. He is seventeen and recently has exhibited a lot of anger. He is the youngest of three, and, while his older brothers certainly had their moments; I couldn’t recall them getting angry as often as my youngest son does.
As I was mulling the matter over in my mind; I recalled two articles that I had read on the issue of teen anger, and, I remembered that I had had tucked them away. I pulled them out of my “library” (roughly one billion articles stuffed into two large, brown, cardboard boxes), and, re-read them.
The articles were “Why Do Teenagers Get So Angry?” by Michael G Conner, Psy.D; which was from Family News, 2003, and “Teenage Anger” by John M. Grohol, Psy.D which was written April 4, 2004.
Conner’s article basically says that we should take the time to understand what makes young people act the way they do as opposed to applying “techniques” to the situation; I agree.
Some of the things that kids say are “I get angry when there are a lot family priorities, but no time for me”; “I’m not angry; my voice just gets louder when I have many things on my mind”; I get angry when my parents ask me how my day went and I’m trying to forget it”; and, “I treat my parents the same way they treat me”. These are a few of the comments that teens routinely make.
Grohol’s article reminds us that teenagers are facing the issues of separation, purpose, identity, development and relationships.
I thought about the last two weeks. I remember that I had taken my son to task for raising his voice and, then turned to leave his room. He said “You always walk away before I can talk”. I recalled that he had been asking me to get him added to our car insurance policy and I had been dragging my feet because I was worried about him driving on his own. Certainly that had to be creating frustration. Surprisingly, I remembered him saying “I do not yell”; perhaps he was right; perhaps his voice involuntarily got louder as the article said. Certainly by yelling, I wasn’t getting anything accomplished.
One very important point that Dr. Conner made, was that when a teen is upset that is not a good “teaching moment”.
As I thought about the last two weeks I saw a lot of frustration that had been created for my son, and, if I were to be honest with myself, I would have felt frustrated as well had I been the recipient of some of the treatment he had received. In the articles I had been reminded that most anger comes from fear and frustration. I had been reminded that teens felt angry and upset because they had been made to feel guilty; they had a lot of bad feelings; they witnessed their parents arguing making them feel insecure and betrayed; and, because there was a history of having their feelings dismissed; because of all these issues, they had given up trying to communicate.
I took some time to examine myself a little and found that I often resorted to some of the same juvenile behaviors as my son and, it was not hard to see why. I had come from a broken home where fighting and screaming and fear were the order of the day.
Of course there are teens with physical problems; serious mental or emotional problems; including teens who feel suicidal and, as responsible parents it is our job to be vigilant in our monitoring of our children.
For most of us however, we need to listen and reflect rather than judge; support rather than criticize and create an environment of trust rather tension.
It is very, very difficult being the parent of a teenager; it is often much, much tougher to be a teen.