Rage vs Anger
Think of the many external forces pressing in on teenagers today. Teenagers often feel trapped between childhood and adulthood and the expectations that go with that awkward transition. They are accountable to teachers, coaches, employers and their parents who add stress to their life that they are often not able to manage well. Not mature enough to deal with those pressures, teenafers often express their emotions in outbursts of rage. They will tend to hold it together (hopefully) around other adults but let loose when they are around you—a wonderful perk to parenting!
When verbally attacked, a person’s natural response is to retaliate. The one attacked yells back or fumes inwardly. When your teenager loses control, and you are the recipient of their outburst, how do you respond? Do you “retaliate,” and yell back? Have you reflected on the possibility that your teenager probably has caught this vibe and learned that, in your home, this is the way communication happens? Anger is contagious; if you tend to respond in rage, your teenager likely will, too.
Anger never demands respect but rather shows a person is out of control. Have you been modeling anger to your teenager? Yelling increasingly louder to diffuse a tense situation is the least effective way to respond.
Consider taking a personal inventory of how you respond to your teenager when he or she has reached the boiling point.
Have you treated your teenager disrespectfully or unfairly?
Has your teenager possibly felt constrained or even overlooked?
Have you made commitments only to break them?
Do you multi-task when your teenager is talking?
These are hard questions, but your responses may be indicative to why your teenager responds the way they do, reflected in how they communicate with you.
Your goal in parenting is to love your child well, and parent in a way that fosters a godly relationship with your teenager. If you have perhaps contributed to a culture of communication in your home that results in raised voices or even rage, consider asking God for guidance and strength to change. Tell your teen, when things are calm, that verbally assaulting each other will not be the acceptable way to communicate anymore. If anger has been the typical way you interact with your teen, keep in mind your son or daughter probably won’t respond the first time you try to respond calmly. Change won’t occur overnight, but it won’t happen at all unless you commit to trying!
Teenagers are often angry, even if they don’t know why! If your teenager doesn’t know, it’s near impossible for you to figure it out either!
In their book Parenting Today’s Adolescent: Helping Your Child Avoid the Traps of the Preteen and Teen Years, Dennis and Barbara Rainey share some wise counsel for parents who may be dealing with a teenager struggling with anger or rage issues. One profound comment they make is that our goal in parenting is to help our teenagers learn to express anger appropriately and not let it become sin.
In Galatians, Paul provides a list of what he calls the “fruit of the Spirit”—the overflow of God in the believer’s heart that should be evident to those around them. One of those characteristics is self-control.
In the Bible, this idea of self-control is expressed in the way Greek athletes competed. Paul writes, “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control” (1 Cor. 9:25–27 ESV). Self-control, according to Paul, involves saying no to sinful desires, even when it hurts.
The Rainey’s write, “Our children need to learn that as we surrender the control of our lives to the Holy Spirit, He produces in us the self-control that is needed to deal with anger.”
Challenge your teenager to take steps to deal with frustration in a more constructive way. Encourage them to ask God for help, because it is too difficult to do it on their own. As parents, we want to help our teenagers to heed Ephesians 4:26: “In your anger do not sin.” It’s ok to be angry; it becomes sin when anger becomes out of control.