My son is in his late teens and has serious anger issues. He also lacks willpower and loses interest in things quickly.
You mention two main areas of concern, his anger and his willpower (or lack of). You’re right to include them in the same question though, I’ll explain why.
Anger is what we regard as a ‘raw emotion’. It stems from deep within and is only really designed to be deployed infrequently as an ancient survival method. Therefore, prolonged bouts of anger will inevitably tire him out. As a consequence, when we’re very fatigued we begin to lose interest in important things and also struggle to stick to our goals. This can prove to be very frustrating – and where do extreme feelings of frustration ultimately lead? Anger. So, a toxic cycle is formed. A decaying orbit of anger, frustration, willpower is created all heading in a downward spiral. Therefore, breaking this pattern now is essential.
It’s worth noting that extreme emotional mood swings in teens are not necessarily a sign of immaturity; they are simply a natural consequence of them trying to make sense of the jumble of feelings they have at any given time. Anger is just one of these emotions. But, when anger becomes the dominant emotion then there’s an issue that needs to be addressed. So, how can he break the anger cycle?
First, we need to understand the triggers that are making him feel angry in the first place. I suggest he should try to get to know himself a little better.
By using a ‘mirrored learning’ technique, he’ll be able to get a better understanding of his anger triggers. This is a simple, yet effective process which involves recording how he feels at given points in a day, week and so on. He could try writing it as a journal or personal blog, or even record or video of himself, it doesn’t really matter so long as he’s got material to look back on. It’s incredible when you read how ‘X’ made me so angry because of ‘Y’, yet on any other day you wouldn’t give it a second thought. He’s not looking for critical self-analysis here, the aim is to identify patterns and trends over time. Then, once he gains a clearer understanding of what he’s dealing with, trigger-wise, you can get on with tackling the issue at the source.
What to do for the best? Beyond some of the things I’ve suggested, please try to always remain calm and composed yourself, this can be hard I know, but it’s important as this will help to defuse an angry confrontation. You’re probably his greatest ally and undoubtedly will be one of his ultimate advocates in life. Pick a calm time and just talk together. Get him to try and explain to you how he feels, I’m sure he’ll be sorry about any anger directed at you. Explain that you understand that he’s at a crossroads in his development and that he may need guidance and support along the way.
I suspect he’ll know you’ve observed he’s been struggling and will appreciate being helped in a new quest to improve things for you both. Finally, let him know he doesn’t have to keep emotion out of it – just make sure it’s the right emotion.
Russell Hemmings is a life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on 055 286 7275 or russellhemmings.co.uk