People’s outlook on life and the way they react to situations is molded through a combination of one’s life experiences and our genetic predisposition. For example:
- It’s been shown that genes play a significant role in causing depression. Studies involving identical twins (who share 100% of their genes) have demonstrated that around 50% of the cause of depression is of genetic origin (higher for severe depression) and 50% unrelated to genes e.g. psychological factors or childhood neglect.
- Similarly, both environmental factors and genes appear to regulate anger-related traits e.g. Sluyter et al. 2000, Rebollo and Boomsma 2006, Reuter 2009 etc.
The way we view the world affects what we deem to be acceptable regarding other people’s actions and patterns of behavior. We tend to assume that we are the standard to which others must compare. Thus:
- When people mirror what we consider acceptable, we tend to feel positive towards them and like them; they become a transient member of ‘our tribe’.
- Conversely, when someone is not behaving the way we think they should, we begin to categorize them in a negative way and, in effect, feel they belong to a ‘different tribe’.
Feelings of irritation, a sense of losing control of the person who is not living up to the standards we set and even embarrassment, almost as if it were your own behavior, may arise. This is difficult when the person happens to be a close family member; particularly so when it is your offspring.
For most parents, Mother Nature ensures that they are protective of their children; especially when they are young and need to be shielded from harming themselves. However, as a child becomes older and develops into a teenager and beyond, the issue regarding control and responsibility can become increasingly problematic.
A teenager’s personality is strongly affected by their family unit and the manner in which they were raised. However, the interplay between numerous genetic and environmental factors during adolescence means that, as nature intended, every teen will go on to develop their on unique personality and identity.
For many parents this metamorphosis can be problematic because it challenges their established patterns of interaction and control. Parents may find themselves loving their teen dearly but seriously disliking certain new traits they exhibit. However, absolute control would require caging them like an animal; extinguishing any form of true love and respect.
Therefore, with regard to teenager anger management, what exactly can one control and be responsible for as a parent?
Ultimately, we can only control and be responsible for our own behavior. The more effort we place in controlling those around us, the result will be ever increasing frustration, guilt and unhappiness within ourselves. Understanding this point is both liberating and empowering. The following scenarios help clarify this position:
How Does This Help When We Have a Teenager Who is ‘Acting Up’ and Being Unpleasant?
The natural reaction is to feel angry or insulted and become obsessed by their behavior; we begin to focus on how it doesn’t meet our standards. However, by acknowledging that the teenager is responsible for their own actions and behavior, we can choose to act responsibly and not react.
Each person decides how he or she will respond to a situation. Sometimes they give it some thought and act, and sometimes they react with little thought. The advice we offer may be listened to or completely ignored; the point is that not only are we responsible for our own actions, but we are also responsible for our own reactions and emotions. By responding in this manner, we will help avoid the feelings associated with guilt. Of course, one must remember that exceptions do exist, such as when dealing with an individual who suffers from a mental illness or a chemical imbalance that affects their emotions.
So What of the Angry or Rude Teenager?
You may feel anger but that is your choice!
Only you are responsible for your anger; not the teenager. They are responsible for their behavior which you are reacting to. Therefore, you have options:
- You can try to distract them and possibly diffuse the situation even though they are no longer a child. But, if you ignore their behavior, will they ever learn that in the real world, actions have consequences?
Always taking the easy way out through being the proverbial ostrich with your head in the sand, or avoidance, can be thought of as an indirect form of emotional control. By ‘treading on eggshells’ to avoid the teen becoming angry, the people around them are not helping either themselves or the individual with the anger problem. Unfortunately, the onlookers live on a ‘knife’ edge and at the mercy of the other person’s mood swings. They tend to feel miserable, stressed and often embarrassed on behalf of the individual, plus they are reinforcing a negative pattern of behavior.
- Become angry and ground them…or alternatively, remain calm and ground them! They get grounded for unreasonable behavior in both cases, but in the latter you acted reasonably, didn’t raise your blood pressure and walked away without feeling guilty for inappropriate behavior on your part. As discussed elsewhere on this site, effective discipline involves being firm, fair and consistent.
…And What of a Persistently Angry Young Adult?
Being a mature, balanced and rounded adult involves understanding the concept of responsibility and not blaming others for one’s problems. Unfortunately, many people are not mature or emotionally developed, and for those around them this can be a real challenge.
People with anger issues frequently become expert emotional manipulators and this is compounded by the people around them making excuses for their behavior or feeling guilty that they are in part the cause. Each person decides how he or she will respond to a situation; an angry person chooses not to be responsible and lose self-control – it’s up to those around them to realize this and not become shackled needlessly with feelings of guilt. You are not responsible for another person’s behavior, for you cannot control it; nor should you try to!
The moment a person understands this concept is the instant when they become unburdened by the shackle of guilt. You may choose to have a conversation with the person and let them know that the way they acted was rude or unacceptable. You may offer to help and suggest that they seek professional anger management. Whatever response you get, you know you acted in a responsible and reasoned manner.