Dr. Mark Schillinger, DC and Zoe Fry CMT bring up another interesting subject in this week’s guest post; helping sons to handle their frustration and anger in the right way.
Dr. Mark Schillinger, DC is an expert in male adolescence and family unity. He is the creator of The Right Way® an integral method of personal growth and the founder of The Young Men Ultimate Weekend , a modern rite of passage initiation for young men.
Zoe Fry CMT is a teacher of Presence and Inquiry and founder of BeAGift. As a mother of two teenagers, she was inspired to co-create the Ultimate Parenting Weekend, which gives parents the tools to create thriving families.
Guiding Boys to Better Behavior
Jerry Kiffer, M.A. manager of the Psychological Testing Center at The Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, says that men are more likely to act out their anger when they’re stressed. This may be due to cultural factors (i.e. "boys will be boys") and their tendency to want to fix or change circumstances.
Unfortunately, many men don’t recognize this connection between stress and anger until they have a wakeup call; such as a heart attack. Yet holding anger in does nothing to relieve stress. In fact, Kiffer likens it to shaking a 2-liter bottle of pop with the cap on. Sooner or later the pop bottle will explode, and so will you; probably in the form of a heart attack or some other ailment.
How does this information help parents deal with angry boys and young men? Mark and Zoe explain further:
From our experiences as parents, parent coaches and mentors to young men, the answer has two very important parts that parents must know:
1) Boys get angry. It is natural biology and cannot be changed by a parent's hopes that their son's anger will go away or that they should be "nice boys".
2) Parents can help young men accept their anger and diffuse it effectively, if they know how to accept their own anger and know how to diffuse it effectively.
When a boy gets angry, we strongly recommend that you do not confront him with an equal and opposite force of intensity unless he is going to hurt himself or others. Your direct encounter to show him "who's the boss" will be perceived by the young man as a competition and will impulsively activate his instincts to win at all costs. This may be counterintuitive psychologically, but biologically, many boys relish this opportunity to be defiant. Even if the young man does not get his way, the victory is simply the engagement itself.
The simplest way to redirect the anger is to first accept what's actually happening by mastering the art of “Observation without Reaction”. As if you are viewing the event as a bystander, we recommend you breathe in a relaxed and rhythmical manner. Then, inwardly repeat a word or phrase over and over again that keeps your thoughts and feelings in a dispassionate or compassionate condition. Statements such as, "I accept what's happening", "I accept his pain" or, the tried and true expression, "this too shall pass" can keep your mind focused productively.
Do not leave the altercation as this will be a sign to the angry young man that you are giving up and it is very likely he will follow you and even taunt you. It is very unlikely your son wants to hurt you so stay connected by simply being present without needing to fix or change him or the situation. Even when your son hurls the most intense insults about this meditation you are modeling, remain calm and trust that you are being an effective parent by "holding space" and not leaving.
While it may seem that your son has endless energy, his testosterone and adrenaline levels will eventually decline and the volume of his voice and ferocity of his actions will end. At that point I recommend you simply state;
"Thank you for letting me know how you feel. I appreciate knowing what's true for you and I will not respond to this style of communication. We'll handle this later, when we're both thinking clearer. I love you."
When the high energy levels have subsided later that day or the next day, gently initiate the conversation where you reveal your values and why your son is expected to respect them. Keep this interaction to just a minute or two, infusing it with your caring intention to help your son deal with the challenges of life. If your son does not respond to you or if he is making believe he's not listening to you, it is simply his inability or unwillingness to surrender gallantly. Yet again, do not make demands or consequences at this time. Thank him for listening and, once more, wait for an even more relaxed time for you to briefly finish what you need to say.
It takes know-how and practice to master parenting skills like the one Mark and Zoe presented in this article. The Ultimate Parenting Weekend and the Ultimate Guide to Mentoring Young Men help parents, coaches, mentors and teachers learn how to lead young men toward lives grounded with self-respect, motivation, happiness and success.