It’s happening again.
What was initially supposed to be a simple request to clean his room has turned into a full-blown argument.
You know your son is just lashing out by yelling at you and saying horrible things, but then he punches his fist into the wall. That makes you pause…
What’s happening? Why is my son so angry?
It’s not uncommon for boys and young men to express their emotions through anger. With that said, however, it’s anger that often makes it really hard to help them.
In fact, the best route to take for helping them is to uncover the pain that’s beneath the emotion. This will let you get to the heart of the matter.
Lacks the Tools to Cope Effectively
Expressing anger (or “angering”) is very common for boys, but why?
There are a few factors at play. One is simply that a teenager’s brain hasn’t fully developed yet. Research shows that for teens the part of the brain that governs rational decision-making abilities doesn’t develop until they are 25 years old. That makes it really hard for them to make rational choices when stressed or angry.
The second issue involves emotional vocabulary. Children and teens don’t always know the words to describe what they are feeling. They may know that they feel “bad” but don’t have the nuance to explain why. This makes it even more difficult for them to work through hard emotions when under stress.
Anger as a Shield
There is another issue at work when boys get angry. They often use anger as a shield to emotionally protect themselves.
But, why? Doesn’t that seem counter-productive? Maybe…until you read between the lines.
In our society, boys grow up in a culture where they’re taught that showing any kind of vulnerable emotion is “bad.” They might be punished by parents (often fathers) for expressing what is interpreted as “weakness.” There is also peer pressure to not share their emotions.
So, when someone does get close or touches a nerve, they lash out in anger. This keeps the other person at bay and prevents them from getting to the root of the problem—sadness, pain, depression, etc.
How to Move Past the Behaviors
Getting to the truth can take time, especially if your son has already been using anger as a shield for a while now. This is going to require a lot of patience on your part.
Also, it’s important to look past the anger and go deeper. When trying to understand your son, ask yourself, “What’s the real reason for this behavior?”
Keep in mind that humans use behaviors as a way to get their needs met. When your son expresses a behavior, what does he truly need?
Most likely, the anger you are seeing is a form of emotional protection.
Avoid Being Reactive
During this process, it’s important not to be reactive or get sucked into an argument with your son. Rather, it’s critical to listen, be patient, and express empathy.
Of course, you don’t have to approve of the behavior. Yet, it’s important to see the particular behavior in context with the feelings your son is trying to express.
If you get drawn into the anger that will only make the situation worse. Instead of an opportunity to bring each other closer together, it will only drive you further apart.
Help Them Find the Right Words
When working with your son, help him find the right words to express what he is feeling.
For example, if they say, “I am so angry right now!” Try coaching them on alternative words for anger—sad, frustrated, powerlessness, etc.
Of course, you don’t want to put words in his mouth. The goal is to help him name his emotions. This process can help him feel understood and heard.
Uncovering the pain beneath your son’s anger may take a while. But, don’t give up. Use the strategies above, and ask a therapist for support.