Dear Enda

My son, who is 15, has become a real street angel, but house devil. As soon as he gets home, he blows off at me for any reason.

I can see him acting the goat with his friends when I’m collecting him from school. But as soon as we get home, his mood changes and he will explode on me for any little reason.

How can I make him respect and treat me the way he seems to treat everyone else?


Enda writes

Dear Carmel,

Because they are not as articulate as girls, boys tend to communicate through their behaviour. Anger and anxiety are two sides of the same coin. So, when he is anxious, his behaviour goes straight to the red room.

You are his safe place. What you are actually seeing when he gets home, is all the anxiety and frustration he is feeling in school.

Boys during adolescence are getting huge testosterone surges. This triggers the fight rather than the flight response when he is stressed.

At 15, there are so many changes going on for him and change causes stress

He knows that you will never reject him, but that others will. He holds it all in and acts normal when he is outside, but it all comes out when he comes home, and he feels that it’s safe to blow.

At 15, there are so many changes going on for him and change causes stress. At his age he is unable to pause before exploding. Unfortunately, neither is he able to see his behaviour through your eyes.

So, instead of confronting him about his behaviour, we need to find out what is happening outside for him. The silly behaviour you see him carry on with his friends is how boys bond with each other.

Teenagers are all trying to fit in with each other and view themselves by how others view them. If his silly behavior doesn’t trigger a sense of bonding inclusion, then it triggers a sense of exclusion, if he doesn’t get the desired response.

He is unable to listen. Try not to take it personally

So, his whole day is in maintaining his place in his peer group. And doing so in an ever-changing world, which is exhausting.

When he is angry, it is not the time to try to talk to him about it. He is unable to listen. Try not to take it personally. He may be directing it to you but it’s not about you. It’s about what going on in his life.

When things are quiet, talk to him. Keep your mind focused on the ABC:

A Accept and validate his anger and frustration. This helps him feel safe so he won’t feel threatened in you talking to him.

B Bridge the separation between where both of you are. You must cross the bridge to his side first by getting him to help you understand his feelings. Because you are more articulate than he is, you may have to paraphrase what he is saying, so that he can understand it. Only then can you gently lead him over to your side.

C Connection. As this builds, you can both work towards locating the source of his emotions. This helps him understand what’s going on in his life in 3D. Together, you can coach him how to navigate his way through the daily things that he is experiencing. Changing what he can and adapting to what he can’t.

As he becomes more confident, his frustration should lessen. You can then focus on how you would like him to respond to you when he is frustrated, in an environment where he will be able to listen and understand.