Since quarantine, your 12 -year -old's anger has gotten out of control to the point of violence.
What do you do? Well, that's what we're talking about today on Tips on Teens. My name is Kent Toussaint.
I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, and I specialize in helping kids, teens, and
families live happier lives. I lead two organizations, the Group Private Practice Teen Therapy
Center and the nonprofit 501c3 organization, child and teen counseling, both here in Woodland
Hills, California, every Wednesday at noon. I join you on your lunch break to answer your parenting
questions, and today is no different. Let's jump into today's question. We don't know what
to do. Our 12 -year -old son's anger has gotten out of control since quarantine. He's always
had tantrums since he was little, but now anytime we say no, anytime we ask him to get off this
phone, he blows up and it's like he is possessed. He's swearing at us. He's insulting us. He's
breaking things in the house. I'm embarrassed
to say that my husband and I are actually afraid of him. We really try to be nice to him. We try to
respond lovingly to him and it seems like it just makes it worse. We can't keep going like this.
The tension in our house is really unbearable. What are we supposed to do? I can say that especially
since quarantine and the last few months especially, Unfortunately, we've had several questions
like this. I know in my practice and on my team, all the therapists on the team, we all have clients
like this. This is getting more and more common, unfortunately. And why is that? Let's talk
about some of the whys. So anger. Let's talk about human emotions. We have four basic human emotions,
right? We have happiness, anger, sadness, and fear. So happiness, we all have happiness. Oh,
there we are. I'm blocking my face. Yeah, there's sadness, there's fear, and what we're left
with is anger. Right? Anger. Apropos. Right? And so, anger is a unique emotion. Now, there's
hundreds of other emotions that we
can, you know, clarify and identify, right? But the four basic ones are the main ones they all
come back to. And anger is the unique one. Why? Because anger, as many of you may have heard, is
a secondary emotion. So what does that mean? Anger is a reaction usually to a more much more vulnerable
feeling. Sadness, fear, some discomfort that is untenable to this 12 -year -old. And anger
can feel like a suit of armor. It gives the illusion, the feeling of power. As if I like have this
suit of armor and a shield and a spear because if I'm yelling I feel strong and powerful, right?
Didn't mean to scare you. I'm just using this as an example. So what happens is if there's a sadness
that doesn't want to feel, or a fear, for example, he puts on this anger, he starts yelling. Imagine
walking through the house and just being able to throw things and smash things like the Incredible
Hulk. It's like, ah, Hulk smash! It feels great. The fantasy sounds really good. I'm sure many
of you have had this fantasy.
Some of you may even carried out this fantasy from time to time. It's just, as we get to be an adult,
we realize it's not very helpful. It's not very productive. It doesn't really help us get through
to the next phase. Now, I'm not saying that anger is all bad, because it's not. It's a necessary
human emotion. It It could be a thing that gets you to the gym. I'm gonna get to the gym no matter
what. I'm gonna write that book. I'm gonna, whatever it is. Anger can be channeled in very positive
ways that can lead to assertiveness and confidence. So it's really, it's a spectrum of how we
use and how we channel our anger. For this 12 -year -old boy, he's not channeling it effectively
and the parents are having a hard time containing it and setting boundaries for him. And I totally
get when these parents, they wanna show compassion and love, which I talk about all the time.
You know, those of you who watch me regularly know that I talk about approaching kids with respect,
dignity, love. And what
the parents are feeling in this situation is it's not working. So why? Obviously, I don't have
all the details of why. There could be a thousand of reasons why. It could be that the parents
are being too permissive. They're not setting enough boundaries. They're trying to be so loving
that they're not setting enough boundaries. And I think we can set boundaries while still being
compassionate and calm and reasonable. Not all the time. None of us are gonna get out of being
a parent, you know, always calm and patient. We're all gonna lose our cool sometimes. My other
question is, you know, is this 12 year old boy, does he see an example? Is he being taught to be
angry? Does he see someone else in the family be angry? An older sibling, a parent, an uncle,
a grandparent, whatever it is. So he may be following an example, I don't know. It could be a family
trait, you know. Again, let's say it's anxiety that's really under that anger. Is there anxiety
in the family that's going through this not
really being treated and it's just left there? And so instead of being scared, I'd rather be
strong and violent. So what do you do in this situation? Stay calm. If you think that there are
a lot of things that you really don't want broken, you may have to get them out of the house for
a while and put them in storage or send them to grandma's house. I don't know. There's a lot of
different ways to do this. And the other thing is, help him create things that he can break. There
are, you know, you can go buy dishes at a, you know, at a yard sale for, you know, 50 cents a piece,
and have them in the backyard, and you smash them, and you clean them up. It depends on how willing
he is to clean up. Another question is, how remorseful is he about his anger later on? When he's
relaxed, when he's come down from his anger, does he feel bad? Does he have any remorse? Does
he have any say at all? That's something we need to explore. You know, is your son on the spectrum?
If he's on that autism spectrum
He may have a hard time recognizing how his actions are affecting you He may be so in his own tunnel
vision. It may be hard for him to understand that So what we do as therapists, what would we do?
We try to help him come in and Make that connection and feel safety The most important thing is
that you know that that that human connection is going to be king It's gonna really help us get
past the anger because it helps develop trust and when you have trust It's more safe to go to those
places of vulnerability So what we would do is we work with him, you know building that trust
in that that friendship with him So he can better identify his feelings not just the anger, but
the sadness the fear the confusion the discomfort Whatever that is underneath if he can better
identify those feelings explore them in a safe place, then he can express them in a healthier
way. Whether that's through talking things through, whether that's through journaling,
whether it's through art, whether it's through
sports, whether it's through, you know, it could be a thousand different things. But it's fine.
It could be a combination of many things, too. But it's finding what's gonna work for him to get
through this. There is no silver bullet. When he's redlining, it's already too late. It's important
to find ways to divert his anger before he redlines. Once he's redlining, like when any of us
redline, none of us are thinking clearly. You know, the important thing is to catch him at a,
on a scale of one to ten, catch him at a four or five. Four and fives are irritating, but they're
manageable. If we wait till eight, it's kind of too late. He's gonna have to go through the whole
process of redlining, exploding, coming down, having the remorse, the sadness in this whole
cycle. You know, so it's really important to work with a therapist to help this kid find...recognize
where 4 is instead of 10. Again, if we can identify 4, we can help manage that and bring it down
to a 3 to a 1. Anyways, it's a big
topic. A lot of people are going through this. There is not one way to deal with this. There are
millions of ways to deal with this because there are millions of kids out there who need this
support. If you or your kid could use this support, please contact us. You can call me directly.
Our information is down below, on our Facebook page, on our website. We'd love to hear from you.
If you have a question you'd like me to answer in the next Tips on Teens, you can email me at tipsonteens
at teentherapycenter .com, or direct message us right here on Facebook. We'd love to hear from
you. My name is Kent Toussaint. Again, I'm a licensed therapist representing Teen Therapy
Center and Child and Teen Counseling, and we'll see you next Wednesday at 12 o 'clock on Facebook
Live. See you, guys! Bye -bye!
In this video we explore what’s underneath the “suit of armor,” and how to channel those feelings in a healthy and productive way.
“We don’t know what to do. Our 12 yr old son’s anger has gotten out of control since quarantine. He’s always had tantrums since he was little, but now any time we say no, anytime we ask him to get off his phone, he blows up, and it’s like he’s possessed. He’s swearing at us, he’s insulting us, he’s breaking things in the house. I’m embarrassed to say that my husband and I are actually afraid of him. We really try to be nice to him, we try to respond lovingly to him, and it seems like it just makes it worse. We can’t keep going like this. The tension in our house is really unbearable. What are we supposed to do?”
Tips On Teens is a vlog that our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint, hosts every Wednesday at 12:00pm on Facebook Live. He will be answering parenting questions submitted to us by you to our email at TipsOnTeens@TeenTherapyCenter.com. Send us any questions you might have about parenting kids and teens and Kent will be answering them every week!
Head on over to our Facebook page every Wednesday at 12:00pm to watch LIVE! Check out our page here – https://www.facebook.com/TeenTherapyCenter/
If you have more questions or would like more information, please contact our Clinical Director, Kent Toussaint at 818.697.8555.