Building Boys Bulletin 3-27-23
Deciphering anger & irritability
Anger, irritability & rage were symptoms of my depression.
I didn’t know that at the time. I thought it was completely normal for a mom of four young boys to be frustrated to the point of tears, to feel all balled up and tight inside, to snap and lash out at her kids (verbally, but also, sometimes, regretfully, physically). I thought it was normal to feel pretty constant low level at my husband.
And listen: Some of that is normal. No parent of young kids is forever and always calm. No parents of young kids are forever feeling peace and love. Raising kids is hard work that none of us are really prepared for — and we’re often functioning on too little sleep!
But the day I ended up crying on the floor of the nursery, holding my littlest one close (because he was just a baby & I couldn’t leave him alone), holed up on his room because I was so angry and out of control inside that I was afraid to be around my other kids — well, that day I realized I might need some help.
I got it. I saw a counselor and learned I have “double depression,” which is basically chronic low mood interspersed with periods of deeper, darker depression. (Sounds fun, doesn’t it?) Counseling plus medication helped me tremendously.
A few years into my treatment, my symptoms were well-controlled and my life was relatively stable, so I decided to try going off my antidepressant. Within a few weeks, the feelings of rage crept back in.
I resumed my antidepressant.
Why am I telling you all this? Because anger, rage, and irritability can be symptoms of depression — in anyone, but especially in boys and men because our culture has long told them that tears and sadness are not acceptable emotions.
I’m working on an article about boys, mental health, and suicide right now, and one of the points that has come up again and again (and again) is that anger & irritability can be signs of depression & anxiety in boys. One mom who lost her 17-year-old son to suicide told me:
I think I used to take it too personally… instead of saying, “Hey, what's going on?”
Like so many of us, she focused on his words and behavior. She saw “disrespect” and wondered why were son was a “little jerk” to her but nice to everyone else. She assumed he was mad at her.
Now, she tells other parents
Irritability is a sign of depression and anxiety, not just a ‘boy being a boy’ or ‘being a teenager’…If your kid lashes out at you, don’t be so quick to ground them or take their phone away. Let them walk away and a little bit later, check in and say, ‘What was that all about? Is something wrong?’
Of course, sometimes anger is just anger. Sometimes, it’s a completely healthy response to an unjust or unfair situation. Understanding boys’ anger is a challenge for all parents & educators, which is why my friend (and ON BOYS co-host) Janet Allison is once again offering Understanding Boys & Anger - Help for Parents of Boys!
Join Janet on Wed. Apr. 5 for this informative event. Learn the roots of his anger; how he expresses his anger and how you can RESPOND rather than react; plus specific strategies you can implement immediately - to help all of you reset and so you can stop ‘walking on eggshells’!
Click the button below to get your ticket.
Understanding anger — yours and your son’s — can help you build your relationship, and set the stage for improved mental health.
Here’s to building boys!
IN THE NEWS
Recess is Good for Kids. So Why Are Some Schools Still Taking It Away as Punishment?
“My 5-year-old son loses recess at least once a week for things like accidentally pushing in line (no one was hurt); rolling around at circle time; play fighting; getting out of his seat during table time twice and accidentally ripping a friend's paper."
“Programs such as Texas Christian University's Liink Project… have found that getting one hour of recess reduced chronic stress and anxiety by 70% [&] increased positive emotions by 17%”
“Taking recess off the table means a child misses out on that much-needed reset and social opportunities.”
Andrew Tate: Group Trying a “Different Approach” with Teenagers
Simply labelling Tate as "bad" may not helpful and “could alienate young people,” especially boys & teens who are looking for guidance
For many boys, "It's not necessarily Andrew Tate as a person that's attractive, it's the absence of any other positive male role models. In that absence he can step in and attract the attention”
Use of Protein, Creatine Supplements Could be Linked to Body Issues, New Study Shows
“Over three-quarters (80 per cent) of Canadian young men who responded are using whey protein powder or protein shakes.”
About 50.3 per cent of surveyed Canadian boys & men reported using creatine monohydrate
Stop Treating Adolescent Girls as Emotionally Abnormal
“When we veer toward a focus on the mental health challenges of everyone except straight teenage boys, it’s time to take a step back.”
“The current popular narrative is about adolescent girls and no one is really talking about whether adolescent boys, you know, might be feeling distressed.”
“We need to think about the differences in the ways boys and girls tend to express and label their discontent…boys ‘probably wouldn’t describe it as being sad…They might describe it as being angry’…or might just manifest itself behaviorally, ‘with substance abuse, aggression or acting out.’”
“Teenagers may be expressing their feelings in a different way than the way we might have in our day.”
“We can tell our kids that feeling anxious, angry or sad is part of being human. Teens sometimes see gloom in the world, and sometimes their reaction makes them the canaries in the coal mine when it comes to different societal problems.”
What If Kids are Sad and Stressed Because Their Parents Are?
“Just as parents are upset about their children’s anxiety and depression, children are anxious about their parents’ mental health.”
“While suicide rates have gone up in the youngest cohort of Americans, they still materially lag behind suicide rates among their parents and grandparents.”
“Teens do not exist on an island. The connection between parental emotional health and the emotional health of their kids is well established.”
“If we want to heal our children, that process may well start by seeking the help we need to heal ourselves.”
The #1 Thing That Makes Parents Successful, Say Psychologists: You Just Need to be “Good Enough” at It
The “most important part of parenting” is “learning to relate to your child…It’s about managing the relationship, not managing the behavior.”
“By putting in effort to understand and love your child and not guiding them away from who they want to be, you’re communicating a message of acceptance.”
The Income Gap is Becoming a Physical Activity Gap
“Across the country, poor children and adolescents are participating far less in sports and fitness activities than more affluent youngsters are.”
“As sports has become privatized is that it has become the haves and have-nots”
‘It’s not just the cost to participate…It’s the cost to travel to competitions. It’s the time to take their child to club activities and then purchase the equipment.”
“Annual market revenue from team registrations, travel, apparel, equipment and other expenses grew to $28 billion in 2021 from $3.5 billion in 2010”
“The Aspen Institute found that families spend on average $1,188 per year per child for soccer, $1,002 for basketball, $714 for baseball and $581 for tackle football.”
ON BOYS Podcast
How to Get Your Son to Love School Subjects (More)
,,,There’s nothing necessarily wrong with hating school; chances are, at one point in time, you hated it too. Take some time to figure out why your son doesn’t like school. What’s going on? Is it the teacher? (Or a specific teacher?) An issue with another kid, or a problem on the playground? Or maybe he struggles with certain subjects because of how they’re taught at his school.
If he dislikes – or avoids — certain subjects because the “school way” doesn’t appeal to or work for him, you can reignite his passion for learning by finding other ways to approach the subject…