Q & A: Dealing With An Angry Son
A reader asks what to do with a violently angry 11-year-old son who is fighting and hurting his siblings. The father writes,
I’m dying here. My boy continues to be violent to his siblings…one in particular…and tells us he wants out of the family. I feel like a prisoner in my own family, needing to be here to police him. I can’t even leave for work this morning. He has completely shut us off. Any advice is greatly appreciated.
First, we are very careful to ratchet down our tempers – don’t yell, don’t scream, don’t lose it. Somebody has got to be the adult around here! Just sit down calmly and tell him, “Look son, you know this kind of behavior is completely unacceptable. Period. Everyone is going to feel safe in our home, no matter how harsh I have to be to enforce that. Let’s look at what the Lord says about this.” Do you guys have For Instruction in Righteousness? It’s a terrific resource for this kind of thing.
The second thing is to enforce what we call “intense discipleship.” “Son, if I can’t trust you to control yourself with your siblings, then you will have to have adult supervision at all times. That means you don’t leave your mom’s side until I’m home. If she lays down for a nap, you lay down on the floor and read. If she goes to the bathroom, you stand outside the door. Please know this isn’t forever, but it’s to give you time to cool down and learn some self-control, because if you can’t control yourself, we have to control you.”
Lastly, as hard as it is when they are acting crazy, you have *got* to reaffirm your love for him. Tell him you love him, that you know it’s hard, that you’ve struggled yourself. Tell him he’ll get through it and you’ll help him. Tell him you know he’ll overcome it. He needs you to believe in him.
We’ve been there, done that with each of our boys. There are days you feel like you’ll go insane, but the payoff is enormous. This is a critical time in his life. It won’t last forever – but how you get through it will influence the years to come.
I’m in agreement with Melanie right down the line. You’re in a tough place and no kidding, but this is apparently where you need to be as the parent right now. Other resources (affiliate links coming!) which would be helpful are Lou Priolo’s book The Heart of Anger and Tedd Tripp’s Shepherding a Child’s Heart — they’ve been helpful to us!
Your son is in one of the transitional years where he is gaining more strength even as his emotions and decision making go frequently awry; we even see it in normally meek, subdued boys–suddenly they become prone to explosions of rage and rough behavior, even with boys much larger than them (evidence that logic goes out the window here — when we comfort them after a confrontation ends badly, they don’t seem to understand that provoking a bigger, more ill-tempered boy than themselves doesn’t even make sense).
I wonder if there might be some use getting your son involved in a strenuous activity of some sort. Our boys have played football and we honestly have less confrontation and fighting at home during the football season–they seem to work out a lot of energy and aggression on the practice field.
I would also be very aware of what he’s choosing for entertainment. A lot of action films and first-person video games seem to get our boys’ agitation levels up, and with no outlet like an active sport or vigorous work to burn off that adrenaline, they can end up taking it out on friends and family members.
Both of us:
We have a fantastic resource for parents of kids this age. It’s called Boot Camp 9-12 and it’s an online class where we discuss the challenges of parenting preteens and early teens and give you practical ideas for overcoming them. We talk about everything! The emotional rollercoaster, spiritual doubts, stumbling in school, gaming and porn, teaching entrepreneurship, Coming of Age celebrations and more. We think it would be a huge encouragement to you and we’re starting a new live class tomorrow. Check it out.
Don’t despair. We remember one angry, violent eleven-year-old who may or may not be a Young who turned out to be a very wonderful, mature Christian man. There’s hope! He needs patience, guidance, correction, love, and most of all, Jesus Christ.
Hal & Melanie