Angry 13-Year-Old Feels Alienated in Family

Question.

Our 13-year-old son is very angry and won’t talk to anyone in the house. He feels he is picked on by his father, grandmother and older sister. I try to talk to him and resolve the issues, but I feel like nothing I do is good enough.

My husband and mother-in-law disagree with the way I discipline. They think I let my children walk all over me. I don’t know how to help my son, and I am at my wits’ end.

Answer.

When a child demonstrates this type of behavior, the goal is to identify why he is angry. Sometimes this is nearly impossible. Anger, however, is a normal emotion we all have. The problem with anger is in how we express it. It can either be helpful or harmful to ourselves or those around us.

Teach him some calming techniques. If, when he gets angry, he screams or becomes physical, you need to teach him to recognize when he starts to get angry. Maybe his breathing becomes rapid, he clenches his hands into fists or his tone gets louder. When this happens, show him ways he can calm down before he gets too worked up. You are stopping his anger before it becomes extreme.

One tool is to have him say, “I’m mad.” This is the cue that he is to then remove himself to his room or some other quiet place where he can calm down. During that time, no one should talk to him. Sometimes counting, humming a tune or praying works. Whatever the tool, teach it to him when he is not angry and have him practice it every day.

It will also help to talk to your husband about the situation. Disciplining is more effective when both parents are in agreement. Say something like, “I know we have differences in opinion, but we need to get on the same page with our son. In order to do that, we need to discuss the guidelines and punishments we choose to reinforce.”

Discuss rules, viewpoints and guidelines with which you both feel comfortable. Compromises will need to be made on both ends. If you don’t think this can be accomplished through conversation, family or even individual counseling for your son might be helpful. It would give you the opportunity  as a family  to work through some of these issues and conflicts. A counselor will act as a mediator for any problems that arise. That way, your opinion is not overlooked, and neither is your husband’s.

Individual counseling is also an option. Chances are your son is bottling up all sorts of emotions if he is not talking to anyone in your home. This can produce much stress, which is manifesting itself in anger. He needs someone to talk to. Sometimes it is easier for kids to reach out to an adult who is not their parent. If that is the case with your son, having a therapist gives him the opportunity to talk to and gain support from someone he feels comfortable venting to.