Heart And 3d Character Shows Love And ValentinesIn my opinion, we don’t pay enough attention to the age-and-stage of life that the teen inhabits. Teens are not like children, and they are not like adults. It’s a troubled time during the best of circumstances, but for some teens, the burdens of childhood carry over into adolescence in unhealthy ways.

Angry children who don’t receive help may grow into angry teenagers. The anger builds, gets suppressed, buries itself inside where it builds some more. The child has no idea how to handle it. The reasons for the anger and for the deep sorrow that accompanies it may be obscure even where general problems that may or may not be related can be determined. Other children in the same community may experience similar obvious problems and yet don’t grow up to be filled with a rage so overwhelming that it ultimately becomes self-destructive to the teen and those around him.

One day a close friend asked her teenage son for help in lifting some heavy cartons.  To her surprise, he exploded and rammed his fist into the living room wall so hard that it left a dent.  They looked at each other in shock. “I think you need help…,” was all she could think of to say.

“So get me some,” he answered, and stalked out of the room.  She told me that this incident was a wake-up call to recognize how badly her troubled marriage was affecting her children. Fortunately, she recognized it in time before her sons grew up and left home. She still had time to get all of them into family counselling and get the healing and self-insights started.

Most of us are aware that children go through stages as they grow. Babies roll Shrug And 3d Character Shows Ignorance And Incomprehensionover, toddlers walk away when you call them, preschoolers surprise us with how quickly they learn language, and grade- and middle-schoolers test boundaries counting on parents to reign them in if they go too far.  All of this is normal behavior, and wise parents provide a structured home environment that allows their children to proceed through these stages of development with the least amount of conflict that might challenge their self-esteem.  http://bit.ly/1CppVqF

Watching and helping my own children get through their adolescent years was difficult and scary.  It was like their brains had been scrambled and whatever good judgement they’d had previously went out the window. I was astounded at the pranks and situations that they and their friends got themselves into. When I discovered that marijuana had entered the picture, it became clear that nothing that I said or did would persuade them to stop, so I took a different approach. I emphasized “truth-telling” above all else. I managed to recognize the signs of when they had been smoking, so they couldn’t lie to me and get away with it. When I asked, and they admitted it, I merely said that I was sorry that they hadn’t given it up yet.

What scared me most was if they might get themselves into some trouble that would involve the police.  Groups of adolescent young men walking or standing together on the sidewalk seem threatening to many people, and suspicious to the police. I warned my teens again and again that if the police stopped them, that they should cooperate.  Do not fight back. Do not lip-off. Do not challenge them.  The one thing to understand about the police is that they are trained to be in control of all situations in which they find themselves. Let me emphasize:
Police enforce the law.
Police keep order in society.
Police are mandated to control.
This is their job. We need them to do their job and do it well.

And so we have an angry child/adolescent who commits an act of defiance. He smiley-emoticons-face-vector-angry-expression_XywY6Ztakes something from a convenience store and walks off without paying for it.  He probably couldn’t tell you why he did it.  He may not even have wanted the item, but he grabbed it because he was mad, and the item was right there, right under his hand.  He walks away not knowing that the store manager has called the police and that the description of him was specific.  A police car rolls up, challenges him, and now he’s scared.  Scared and angry.  Enough. He’s had enough. He’s not going to take it anymore. He has felt put-down all day, all week. (Remember that kids this age don’t think much about the future. Their life is in the now.) Anger boils into rage. This time, he’s not running.  This time, he’s not hiding. Impulsively, he turns toward the policeman. And  so we have an unstoppable force (a rage-filled adolescent) hitting an immovable object (a policeman who must be in control as he enforces the law), and the result can only end in tragedy.  http://bit.ly/12cfOVd

Angry children and teens live in every community, in every culture, in every country. Why these kids develop chronic anger may be different with each child. Sometimes parents can surmise the cause in their own child, but many times parents, especially those who are struggling themselves, may not even be aware of their child’s anger and certainly not of how deeply entrenched it has become.  Teenagers are in the “separation” stage of growth and development where they are trying to become individuals separate and apart from parents, and so they don’t tell their parents what they are thinking or doing. This is a normal part of growing up, but troublesome in a teen who has become chronically angry and whose anger is escalating.

3d Soldier aiming assault gunAdolescence, that period between childhood and maturity, has no age-clear boundaries. Some believe that adolescence lasts well into the twenties and maybe even until thirty before the brain matures into its adult state. Adolescents are impressionable, and when their guard is down, they can be manipulated. Why do you suppose it’s so easy to recruit young people, boys mainly but girls also, to join terrorist groups such as Al Queda, ISIS, or radical militias and Skinheads. Once recruited and brainwashed, these children may be strapped with bombs and sent out to kill. Most parents don’t see it coming….

With all the other problems that we are dealing with on this planet, let’s add one more.  Let’s begin to take a look at the role that adolescents play in how the world works.  For example, it is they who fill the ranks of so many protests. With minimal ability to look forward to the consequences of their actions, they dive in to try and address grievances. Protests are usually a last resort for people who need societal change and who feel that all other avenues have been closed to them. Peaceful protests may be noted by the world, but far too often protests must turn violent before change will actually come about.  The question becomes, how do we protect our teenagers and our twenty-somethings from harm, from getting into situations that they can’t get out of, from getting hurt or from hurting others.  That is the question.

It’s time we start giving our adolescent children and their precarious stage in life the attention that is so sorely needed.


Please leave a comment and let me know if you agree.

R.Z. Halleson




4 thoughts on “Angry Teens

  1. So many facets exist to this problem it is difficult to do any one of them justice, but here goes: first, the word ‘justice’. Just treatment under the law has become the exclusive privilege of a wealthy middle class: it does not serve the poor or the young. I speak from UK so there is some, but perhaps rather less ethnicity at issue this side of the pond, but the class structure is precisely the same. The police are accountable to the middle class: they understand that a middle class citizen with money to pay for representation and an acceptable personality will find favor with the system and must be handled discreetly. A lower class person may be abused with impunity. They have no fear of redress until something like Ferguson blows up in their faces. It goes without saying that such preferential behavior creates an unhealthy moral code within the forces of law and order, from the policeman on the beat right up to the presiding judge in the High Court.
    Another aspect to deal with is confrontation. Policing took a difficult turn when recruitment from a younger age pool put ‘officers’ on the street when they were little more than teenagers. A great many of our patrol officers are too young to wield natural authority, so it seems to be necessary to teach them to be confrontational. Their training certainly takes no account of basic respect. If you don’t give respect you cannot expect to receive it, so when encountering today’s youth who is himself raised upon violent films and video games, conflict is inevitable. There is much more to be said, and as husband of a woman who was previously married to a Metropolitan policeman I know a culture that seeks violence thrives within the force.
    My third (and I promise last) thought surrounds the deteriorating structure of society. there are simply too many broken homes; marriages founded on nothing more than a piece of paper with no will or determination within the relationship to make it work. People claim incompatibility upon the most spurious of grounds, placing their own pride or perceived victimisation before any thought of the affect their actions will have on their children. I am not saying divorce or separation is wrong, merely that it is too easy, and the self-justification that comes in its wake given too much easy sympathy.

    And then of course there are the guns…


  2. Hi Ruth. Hope you have had a good Thanksgiving. Read your blog and thought it was perfectly written. I shared it on Facebook. I totally agree with everything you wrote. Having been in that space as a teen, I especially empathize with frustrated kids. It is a Multi faceted problem that does not have an easy fix.

    Minority children have an added disadvantage in our society from the very start. Throw in racism and prejudice and we have a whole other layer of variables that affect how our youth are perceived and dealt with which ultimately influences their development. Ideally, we would be able to manage or prevent problems before they occur or at least intervene before an interception with law-enforcement would take place. It is at this junction that much examination needs to take place. How does law enforcement at any level of contact interface with teens when they are African-American versus Caucasian? How do these early transactions with law-enforcement influence any future encounters with law-enforcement?
    I am curious if any of the actions taken by the police officer in Ferguson were influenced by racist/prejudice views. If he indeed was afraid for his life, was this fear reality-based and by that I mean the teen genuinely exhibited behavior that indicated he may have a weapon or was his fear more in response to commonly held myths and negative stereotypes of African-Americans? At the end of the day a young, seemingly troubled teen tragically lost his life as a result of events that immediately transpired in response to stealing a meaningless convenient store item. Devastating.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts in response to your blog. Hope all is well.
    Take care,


  3. Well put, Ruth. While this speaks to Ferguson I see it as a more systemic argument about angry youth across all race, culture and class lines, and I agree.

    It certainly doesn’t help when we live in a “man up” kind of society where asking for help coping is seen by many as weakness. Mental health is a secretive business, requiring a different kind of referral from a different part of your normal health insurance provider – if they cover it at all. We all hope that the teen anger, depression and angst will blow over as a “this too shall pass” episode between that sweet child and that responsible adult but sometimes it gets too deep.

    As a mental health professional I would strongly encourage people to think twice before writing off a therapeutic intervention when things begin getting intense. An outside ear or other (neurofeedback!) intervention can really help a teen to calm down and defuse anger before it gets too far.

    Jules Ford
    OptiMind Neurofeedback


  4. Ruth, Analyzing Ferguson from the standpoint of adolescence doesn’t explain why all the grown AA men are angry, too…and women. It is racial. African Americans in the US are still experiencing what it means to be a minority. The majority group doesn’t need to listen to them…why should they? They are on top, in control, set the agenda, etc. You could substitute “female” or “immigrant” or anything other than while male and get a similar story. The sad truth is that it comes together in the police attitudes toward threats. And to learn that the Ferguson police were trained by the ISRAELI security!!!! They came on with riot gear, stun guns, tear gas, and tanks! with automatic guns loaded on top of the tanks! Yegods. Anyway, that’s my take on it.


Please share your own thoughts and ideas.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.