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teen with anger problem

Dear Jean:
My son is almost 13 years old. He has always had
BACK TO TOPIC MENUsomewhat of a temper but the last few months it has gotten worse. When something doesn't go his way, he doesn't get what he wants, or when someone playfully teases him, he totally loses it. Most of the time it starts out with a fit like a 2 or 3 year old. He will start crying, then it turns into hitting someone or something. Sometimes he even throws things. His face will turn beet red and he also yells at whomever he is mad at. Today he hit his step-father for playfully teasing him. It is the worst when he is tired. I really don't know what to do anymore. I have grounded him, I have spanked him, and I have taken things away from him. He also does these things when we make him do something he doesn't want to do like chores. He is extremely lazy right now, which I know is a preteen thing. Anyway, can you please give me some advice or make suggestions on how I can get better control of this situation?

Thank you,
mother of hot-tempered preteen

Jean responds:

Thanks for writing to parentingadolescents.com.

It sounds as if giving consequences for this kind of behavior isn't working at all. I think maybe the focus has instead to be on what's going on with him that he is so miserable. Because he IS--the lashing out is instead of being able to understand and articulate what's going on inside. I don't know, from the info given, if the extreme reactivity is more likely to be something stemming from a disorder, such as an emotional disorder or ADHD, or from family dynamics. All would be worthy of exploration. There are emotional disorders that manifest at the entrance to adolescence.

Your focus in my opinion needs to be on how to help him. If you can find out why he is acting like this, you'll be in a much better position to help him to stop. Just asking him what's wrong may not work--he perhaps doesn't know, can't say, or maybe when he does, you don't know how to hear him. So get professional help--find a counselor experienced with young adolescents who can sit with you, with him, and/or the stepfather and talk things through. You'll have a much better idea, then, of which way you need to go.

Get help for him now before things get much worse BACK TO TOPIC MENUas he grows into adolescence. You can ask his school or your pediatrician for referral to a counselor in your area. In fact, starting with the pediatrician or family doctor is a good idea, as there may be physical factors that contribute to your son's inability to control his anger.


Disclaimer: Ms. Walbridge's response to your question is intended to be educational and informative. It is not a substitute for face to face consultation or psychotherapy with a mental health professional.

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