My oldest has always been a sensitive and emotional soul. He’s an empathic person who easily absorbs the energy of others.
There’s a lot going on in his mind and it seems with that comes a heavy burden which shows its face as a short fuse. He gets frustrated very easily and doesn’t allow himself space to calm down before reacting. I’ve watched him morph from a frustrated boy to a frustrated young man who realized, at 13, that punching walls and doors feels really damn good. For a moment anyway.
Last year, right before Christmas, he was trying to activate his new debit card and was struggling—not very uncommon—while trying to talk to an automated machine who doesn’t understand what you are saying. I’ve lost it once or twice in this situation, but here’s the thing: my son and I “lose it” in very different ways.
He wanted me to active the card for him and I refused, knowing full well what might happen. By that, I mean his fist might make a hole in something in my house. But I refuse to make things easy for him to avoid a meltdown.
I told him to calm down and try again. His cheeks turned red.
I told him he could figure it out. He threw his phone on the ground.
I told him he was old enough to have a job, drive. And he was smart, so he totally had this.
He stormed upstairs and then I heard it— the crack of the door.
For a moment, my own fist throbbed and I was tempted to go up to his room and go bananas on his ass, but I didn’t. This isn’t our first go-round and I know better than to throw lighter fluid on the flames.
He stayed in his room for a few hours and then attempted to activate his card — with success.
My teenage son has a big temper and I’ve decided that instead of just “dealing” with it, trying to keep him happy at all costs, or punishing him, I need to help him through it.
I do it without using my yelling voice (which is hard), but by giving consequences.
After my son broke his bedroom door, I called a handyman who charged a few hundred dollars to put in a door. My son paid for every cent. You don’t vandalize your home without picking up the check for it.
I remind him to take three deep breaths before he reacts. These days, most of the time he does this, but sometimes he doesn’t.
In addition to consequences, I’ve signed him up for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, where he’s learned coping mechanisms for his big feelings, like eating regularly, getting enough sleep, and how certain music can make him feel more agitated if he’s in a bad mood.
My son has a temper and he knows it. He’s never laid a hand on a person when his temper is flaring, but he punches hard surfaces and throws things. It has affected our family and I’m not blind to the fact that he could hurt someone unintentionally, including himself. But I refuse to do things that make it easy for him for fear he’ll punch a hole in the wall.
Nope, not this mom.
I’m teaching him how to cope and manage these feelings in a way that will allow him to function in the real world when I’m not there.
I used to yell at him to stop. I used to coddle him so he’d stay under control. I used to feel out of control myself but none of that was working — not for me, and especially not for him.
His episodes are few and far between now— a far cry from when he was an explosive tween— but that doesn’t mean when it happens I let him off the hook.
This month, instead of buying those new sneakers he wants or new lights for his car, his paycheck will pay for the door he put his fist through. Then, he’ll spend an afternoon painting it.
While he’s not perfect and I cannot guarantee this won’t happen again, I can tell how humbled and sorry he is. He doesn’t want to lose his temper any more than I want him to lose it. And he needs my help.
I make no apologies for handling this situation in this way. And I have no problem helping my son through this so he can learn how to deal with his emotions better — without me yelling at him or telling him something is wrong with him.
My main goal is to raise a human who knows how to gain self-control in hard situations, and knows full well you have to pay for the damage you cause. To me, that doesn’t look like yelling, punishing, or complaining about how I have to “deal” with him. It looks like helping my child through this the best way I know how, because honestly, those other methods only made his temper worse.