Previously, we’ve examined the root of anger and some biblical principles surrounding it. The “anger iceberg” can stem from many primary emotions and isn’t always tied to frustration or hurt. Getting to the root of your teen’s anger is important — as is helping him or her take responsibility for both behaviors and emotions.
At the same time, however, your teen’s anger can be an invitation for you to carefully inspect your own actions, as a parent. In Ephesians 6:4, parents (and fathers, in particular) are given the responsibility of not “provoking” their children’s anger. Especially if you have more than one child struggling with anger, there’s a pretty good chance you’re providing provocation.
While physical and verbal abuse are the most obvious ways to provoke kids, Pastor and teacher John MacArthur cites 7 areas in which parents can, often unwittingly, provoke their children’s anger:
Perhaps the most counter-intuitive of the list, well-meaning parents can easily fall into the “helicopter parenting” trap, failing to allow their children the freedom to take reasonable risks in keeping with their maturity level, squelching the maturation process. Kids can easily begin to resent this kind of parenting.
As a parent, you probably naturally get along with one of your kids better than the others. Maybe it’s because you understand him or her or because your other child or children tend to “push your buttons.” Whatever the reason, favoritism is unloving. Any kind of inequity among your children will plant seeds of resentment toward you as well as among your children.
3. Pressure for Achievement
Many teens today struggle with anxiety, often due to parents who are driven to over-schedule their kids and push them to succeed. Learning to work hard is important, but perfectionism and an imbalanced life is not beneficial.
4. Discouragement (or Lack of Encouragement)
While teens easily see past insincere praise or flattery, they still need positive reinforcement. How many of us as adults could live for days off a sincere word of encouragement and appreciation?
5. Unfair Expectations
Sometimes, parents confuse immaturity with disrespect or character weaknesses. Instead of encouraging development, unfair criticisms or judgments only frustrate kids.
6. Lack of Sacrificial Love
We need to teach our kids that they can’t always get their own way, and no, life isn’t fair. At the same time, though, we can’t prioritize our own comfort and expect them not to follow suit. The best way to teach our kids to sacrifice for others is to model that kind of sacrifice for them. If we make selfish choices, they won’t believe us when we tell them we love them.
7. Emotional Manipulation
Do your kids feel like they need to earn your love? Do you withhold love from them by giving them the cold shoulder when they’ve failed to listen to you or meet your expectations? That kind of response is far from loving and can build resentment in your child.