Teen Son's Temper
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Teen Son's Temper

Jan Faull, M. Ed, answers a parent's question about dealing with a teen son's anger.

What Do I Do Next Time?

Q. I nearly called the police on my son the other day. He's 15 and has a real temper. When he came home with another bad report card, I punished him (as I had warned him that I would) by not letting him go to the carnival. He got in my face and yelled, then slammed his bedroom door and proceeded to tear up his room -- punching holes in the walls and breaking things. When my husband got home that night, the two of them went out for a walk to "talk". My husband said Josh cried and said that I hate him. I feel my husband should have stood by me. What am I going to do with this boy? How can I make him see that I only want what's best for him? What do I do next time he loses his temper?

A. The first and most worrisome aspect of this situation is fact that your son-for whatever reason-tore apart his bedroom. It's not okay for children to destroy property; please seek professional help for your son so he'll learn appropriate ways of expressing anger that do not involve punching holes in walls and breaking things. The feeling of anger is acceptable, the negative behavior that can accompany those angry feelings is not; all people need to keep angry feelings from erupting out of control.

It would have been fine if your son had voiced his anger in the following manner, "Keeping me from going to the carnival because of my report card won't motivate me to get better grades. I'm angry because you're restricting me. It makes no sense." If he had said that, not only would it have been respectful but also correct. A teenager with a poor report card won't be motivated to improve by losing the privilege of going to a carnival. They're unrelated. He's at the age where he's grasping hold of his own life, so unreasonable restrictions usually work against a parent's good intentions.

While your frustration is warranted, and your motivation to restrict his fun understandable, your goal of improved academic performance will be highly unlikely with your approach. Instead, it provoked a full-fledged teenaged temper tantrum, harmed your relationship and probably won't motivate him to work harder in school.

Instead of grounding him, it would have been more effective to voice your disappointment to your son about his grades and offer a reality check about what his options will be after high school if he continues on the current academic path.

It's important to realize your husband didn't undermine your decision to allow your son to go to the carnival, his walk to talk about the situation at hand was actually quality parenting. Being with a child, no matter the age, when angry is the best way to help those angry emotions subside while opening the child up to the parent's influence.

For now, reassure your son that you love him, ask if hiring a tutor would help improve his school work. The next time he shifts into high gear with anger, shift yourself into low gear and move toward him taking a few deep breathes along the way. Tell yourself, "I'm not going to make the situation worse." Doing so will help your child's anger dissolve thus allowing him to think, plan or manage the situation at hand.