Working with middle schoolers, I hear a lot about how boys have “anger problems.” For most, this is terribly inaccurate. That’s because the anger is not the problem, but rather it’s the lack of anger control. As boys grow into their teen years, their bodies are flooded with high doses of testosterone. This causes emotions, especially anger, to run rampant. When provoked, boys may react in a highly emotional way causing parents and teachers to comment, “You have an anger problem.” But hearing this all the time can be detrimental to boys.
If you call it a “problem” it may weaken your child’s motivation to control his behavior because he might think there’s something wrong with him: there’s a “problem.” Getting angry and losing one’s temper is not a sickness, but a natural part of growing up. The feelings that accompany this change can be very difficult, but not impossible, to manage.
If you yell back or fire off a bunch of questions, this may serve to worsen the situation. Give him some time to cool down and he may come to you on his own. If not, go to him and listen. One of the best things parents can do is listen at appropriate times. Next, don’t minimize his feelings. Telling him, “Well, that’s just crazy,” doesn’t help. His feelings may seem silly to you, but to him they are his life and are very real. Anger is often a secondary emotion used to express sadness or confusion. So, don’t give advice, but help by leading him to a proper view of the situation.
Anger does become a problem when there’s no reasoning with the person. They believe their actions are justified no matter who or what is hurt. This may call for a diagnosis like Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and work with a therapist may be necessary. Medication can also help. Please understand that diagnoses like ODD are used to conceptualize something so that professionals can work with the client. They should never be used as an excuse for a person’s behavior.
There are some good reasons that explain why boys get mad. Recently I listened as a twelve year old told me about how his mother’s escapades landed him in in foster care. As a school counselor, I hold back my emotion as boy after boy shrugs his shoulders to the question, “Where’s your dad?” Their despair haunts me as I hug my own son and pray that I don’t fail as a father. Without positive male figures or strong mothers, these boys are left to figure out manhood on their own. They have holes in their lives that they sometimes sadly fill with rage and hatred. I can’t blame them for being mad. Many are physically and emotionally tormented by people who should love them.
Yep, I’d be mad too.