Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Helping Your Teenager When Anger Hits Home

And fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…

Perhaps your teenager feels like one of the monkeys at a local zoo. “That's incredible, having a monkey and a lion together in the same cage,” said the guest at a local zoo. “How do they get along?”

“Pretty good, for the most part,” answered the zookeeper. “Once in a while they have a disagreement, and we have to get a new monkey.” Likewise, your teenager may feel that each time you get into a disagreement that you come down on your son like a strong lion. Perhaps your daughter is wounded or feels–that on the inside–her spirit has been “killed” like one of those monkeys. Unfortunately, this can lead to unresolved anger.

One of the worst things you can have is a teenager with unresolved anger. Research shows that anger is physically, emotionally, and relationally damaging to teenagers. Parents must persistently help their children to deal constructively with their anger and its outcome…a closed spirit.


God created every person with three interrelated parts: spirit, soul, and body. The body is our physical makeup. While the soul includes our mind, will, and emotions. Furthermore, the spirit is the innermost being, like the conscience; it's at this level that we have fellowship with one another. In healthy families, parents and teenagers relate on all three levels. Every one's body language is communicating openness; and they are free to speak, think, and feel–all of which communicates to the person's spirit. And with many positive exchanges, relationships grow deeper in those three areas. However, parents can also offend their teenager's spirit, causing it to close.


When your teen’s spirit is closed, he may argue or resist your authority, or may refuse to share common interests. He may emotionally or physically withdraw, and is usually not responsive to affection. However, the most damaging manifestation of a closed spirit is anger. When a parent makes no effort to reopen a teen’s wounded spirit, the effects can be startling. An angry teenager with a closed spirit may use disrespectful language, he may misuse drugs and alcohol, or might become sexually permissive. At the very worst, an angry teen may run away from home or commit suicide. This is why recognizing the symptoms and reopening a closed spirit can help to reduce the negative behaviors.


In the average home, it's impossible to keep from offending each other. Yet, we can stay in harmony by resolving each offense as it occurs. If anger remains present without resolution, it becomes the super glue that seals the spirit shut. There are many ways to help open a teenager’s spirit; however, there are four ways that I’ve found to be particularly effective:

  1. Reflect Tenderness. The first step is to become soft in your mind and spirit. Lower your voice and relax your facial expressions. This reflects honor and humility; and as Proverbs 15:1 suggests, “A gentle answer turns away anger…”
  2. Increase Understanding. It's important to genuinely understand the pain your teen feels and how he has interpreted your offensive behavior. Ask for his interpretation of what occurred. The goal is to listen and understand what your teen is feeling. Resist defending yourself, lecturing, or questioning why he did or didn't do something.
  3. Recognize The Offense. Since a major adolescent complaint is that parents don't admit when they're wrong, the third step is to take ownership of your offensive behavior. A teen feels valuable when he hears you admit your mistake, and sees that you understand how he feels. Sometimes this is all it takes to open a closed spirit.
  4. Seek Forgiveness. The final step is to give your teenager the opportunity to respond to your confession. Ask if he could find it in his heart to forgive you. You will know true restoration has occurred when forgiveness is granted and he allows you to touch him.


If you have followed these four steps and your teen refuses to forgive you, there are several possible reasons. Perhaps the offense was deeper than you realized or he wants to see your behavior change first. Whatever the reason, the best thing is to be patient with your teen. No matter how he responds, never drop the issue altogether simply because he isn't ready to forgive you. Let the situation cool off for a while, then come back and repeat the four steps.

Greg Smalley, PsyD
Website | + posts

Dr. Smalley previously served as the director of Marriage Ministries for The Center for Healthy Relationships. He is the author or co-author of twelve books concerning marriages and families, and currently serves as the executive director of Marriage and Family Formation at Focus on the Family.

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