Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.Many parents agree that teenage boys seem to be angry all the time or most of the time at least.The testosterone surges that boys experience blunts fear and disinhibits impulses, making them more susceptible to dangerous behaviors that both invoke and result from anger.
You don’t trust me
Teenage boys need a lot of structure. Both parents need to know where he is and what he’s doing at all times. Don’t fall into the “You don’t trust me,” trap. The issue isn’t trust but a realistic assessment of the dangerous world that adolescents must negotiate with limited pre-frontal cortex development. Before 18, a child does not have sufficient articulation in the judgment and regulatory areas of the brain to be able to see possible consequences of behavior under the stress of powerful impulses. It’s a dangerous combination, even when substances are not at all involved – increased impulsivity with diminished regulatory capacity.
Compassionate parents focus on the long-term wellbeing of the child, rather than the momentary ego boost of feeling “trusted.” The trick is getting them out of the defensive and into the improve mode of the brain. A good parental rejoinder to “You don’t trust me,” is, “I don’t trust myself enough to know that you will be safe and well without knowing where you are and what you’re doing. So what can you do so that you will have some freedom without me having to worry so much?”
In particular angry teenagers need to learn that:
Giving instructions to boys
In general, boys do not auditory-process as well as girls, even when they're not angry. (They hear almost as well, but don’t interpret the meaning of the spoken word as efficiently, not without other sensory modalities engaged.) If you want to give your son instructions or say anything important:
Make eye contact and try to touch him while you speak (two or three sensory modalities work better than one)
If detail is important, ask him to repeat what you said
Use short sentences and give him a chance to respond before going on (never lecture).
It’s easy for boys to get into the habit of automatically tuning out familiar voices, a habit that will cause them serious problems in future close relationships.Habits are much easier to prevent than to alter.
Teenagers, especially boys, feel powerless a lot of the time. They need to learn that they have the power to affect what happens to them by behaving responsibly. And they need to know in advance exactly how much power and privilege they will lose for specific irresponsible behaviors. That is really the way of the world. When you behave irresponsibly, say speeding or cheating on your taxes, you know in advance what the penalty will be.
Monkey see monkey do
Finally, children learn emotion regulation principally by modeling, not by what parents tell them. Like all mammals, the juveniles learn by watching the adults. There is a same sex bias to modelling – the boys watch the men more closely and the girls watch the women more closely, but they watch both parents to learn how to regulate emotions. Anger is an attribution of blame. If parents are blamers, children,especially high testosterone boys, are more likely to have anger problems. (Testosterone doesn't cause anger but it amplifies it considerably.) It's crucial for parents to model responsibility in all that they do,including owning their own mistakes, especially those that relate to disputes with their children.
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