Why Tweens Get Angry
Understanding the outbursts.
Your child's fuse has gotten shorter and the emotional outbursts more frequent. Understanding the emotions underneath her anger can help you navigate this new season of adolescence.
Dr. Erik Erikson, the well-known child development expert, found that adolescents need to develop an identity separate from their family and move toward independence. Anger often accompanies these changes. It can erupt as children begin to disagree with parents and authority figures and discover their own power.
Anger often occurs when a child feels powerless or unable to control a situation. That's why your child snaps when you ask her to pick up her shoes or storms into her room if you disturb her Nintendo game. She feels like you're impinging on her world. Being told no, a family move, a death, peer rejection, and other uncontrollable situations can trigger animosity as well.
When young teens feel out of control, they demand that someone notice. Slamming the door, breaking a plate, or hitting their siblings are attempts to regain a sense of control over something. While these actions are unacceptable, it's important that you acknowledge their anger while still setting clear limits on their behavior.
When your child has an angry outburst, tell her that you see how angry she is. Affirm her anger with words like, "You sound furious." Say it again. At first your child may respond with more anger or sarcasm. Persevere. When you acknowledge her anger and help her regain control, you'll notice that she eventually stops fuming and begins to problem solve. You can help by acting as a sounding board as she brainstorms solutions.
When your child has calmed down, remind her that anger is an emotion given to us by God. It can motivate her to improve her situation. You can also help your child find alternative ways to deal with her anger. Encourage her to draw, clean, shoot hoops, exercise, or write in a journal when she's upset.
Consider your child's personality as well as your family's rules to help her discover ways to gain independence. Tie these new freedoms to her ability to express her anger appropriately so that she understands that control goes hand in hand with responsible behavior.
Putting Anger to Work
Anger isn't a bad emotion. In fact, it can often cause people to make positive changes in the world around them. Jesus used his anger to confront the hypocrisy of the money changers in the temple (Matt. 21:12; Mark 11:15).
Rosa Parks's anger at racial inequality gave her the courage to sit in the front of the bus. Anger gave Mothers Against Drunk Driving the determination to change drunk-driving laws. Recently, angry college students formed United Students Against Sweat Shops and improved conditions at a clothing factory in central Mexico. Anger about the destruction of the rain forests may give your teen the inspiration to join an environmental group, or anger that a friend is dying of cancer may give him the drive to become a doctor. Talk with your child about other positive ways to use his anger.