By Pastor Craig
Anger is a second response. That means when a person is angry, it’s because something happened which caused the response of anger.
There are so many ways I could take this article, but I want to focus on helping parents understand anger in their kids. Anger is all too common in people today, so we need to help our kids develop healthy ways to navigate through things that make them angry.
Is this situation familiar in your home: Your wonderfully sweet, mild tempered, good grade getting, happy-go-lucky child, seemingly overnight, seems confused, irritable, irrationally angry and can’t explain why? If this is familiar, you are not alone. If it is not familiar, thank the good Lord, because this is a very common experience in homes with teenagers.
Two general thoughts about anger as a second response:
- Anger is an expression that presumes:
- I am not pleased
- Things did not go my way
- My way is right
- I get to be the judge and jury
- Anger reveals what is important to us:
- My pride has been hurt
- Their action was wrong
- I am frustrated by how things are turning out
- That’s not fair
All of these things reveal there is a source of absolute truth and justice. If something is deemed “wrong”, that means there has to be a “right” or a standard by which right and wrong are measured. This is a good thing. We don’t want our kids to lose this Godly moral compass.
In my experience with students I have noticed these factors, that if not handled early, will predictably result in an angry and frustrated teenager:
- The black and white world of a child discovers the gray area others live in: Situations they experience are NOT treated with fairness.
- The “everyone is nice to everyone” experiences of childhood has faded
- The pressure to perform and achieve is enormous: And “parents don’t understand that”.
- The pressure to fit in and appear to “have it all together” grows
- There is constant comparison all the time: Walking the school hallway is survival of the fittest.
- The time together as a family diminishes: It is proven our kids want more family time.
- They don’t feel listened to by their parents: They can’t get a word in without being rushed or jockeying for time with you between errands and work.
These are all big things that can lead to anger. Whether we, as parents, think these are right or wrong, doesn’t really matter. These factors are our teenager’s reality. Things usually starts with frustration, but if they are not listened to and given guidance it quickly turns to deep seated anger. Therefore, we need to take this process as parents seriously.
With this in mind I want to give you some pastoral advice in helping your teenager handle situations which can cause anger with wisdom:
- Tell them you love them; work to make sure they feel loved: Your words may or may not matter to them, but they will always remember how you made them feel.
- Listen to their heart, not necessarily their words: When they feel loved and important they will open up more. Work to learn the source of their anger.
- Be gracious when they can’t explain or don’t make any logical sense: Their brains are not fully developed. Do you remember what you were like as a teenager?
- Avoid quick responses like, “life is not fair, get used to it” or “welcome to reality, twerp”: That will build a high and hurtful wall you don’t want to have between you and your teenager.
- Work to make them feel secure with you and with God: The basic affirmations a human being needs is to feel accepted, secure, and significant.
- Help them understand anger is not necessarily wrong: Actions taken after anger is what matters – Ephesians 4:26.
- Help them understand anger can be used for good: Problem solve, take action – Ephesians 4:26, James 1:19-20.
- Do not allow faulty reasoning or excuses like, “that’s just who I am, I get angry”, “I can’t help it” or “they made me mad, so I …”. We do have the ability to control ourselves. God will not ask us to do something without giving us the ability and courage to do so – Ephesians 4:26.
- Help turn their anger into action for good: They don’t like people being treated poorly at school? Push them to be the catalyst for change in their classes, on their teams, etc. Push them to sit with and be a friend to the outcast and forgotten.
- Make sure they deal with the issue that causes the anger, not attack the person. There is a difference.
- Help them take responsibility if they are part of the problem. They need to own up to their part and make it right – Proverbs 15:1.
- Help them see that “Hurt People, Hurt People”. The person they may be angry at has a story and life journey that is causing their surface actions. Those actions may still impact your teenager’s life, but they need to work to separate the actions and see the other person with empathy.
I hope this helps you as you continue to navigate and “bring up your children in the training and instruction of the Lord”, Ephesians 6:4. I would also highly recommend you look at the passages of Ephesians 4:20-32, James 1, and Proverbs 15, in their contexts, as a family. This will give you an opportunity to be proactive and work through principles from scripture that must be our guide.
Being a parent is hard, but it is worth it. I heard this in a podcast recently and I want to share it with you. “When this (parenting) is nothing more than a story to tell, what story do you want to tell?” When you look back at your life with your kids, you will never wish you worked more, ran more errands, or lived a hurried life. But we will all wish we would have made the time to be what our kids needed and what God called us to. Therefore, act now so the stories you tell in the “retirement community” will be stories told with joyful fondness versus regret.