Parenting Angry Teenagers

After terrorist attacks, teenagers in Israel are often frustrated by lack of government response. The author gives advice on how parents can keep them from acting out these feelings in what he describes as self-defeating ways.

Dr. Moshe Dann,

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In response to terrorist acts, young people sometimes act out their frustrations with the government and the situation in  actions such as blocking roads and causing general mayhem. They excuse their activities as legitimate protests against government failures to protect Jews from terror and the system's injustice.

They are right, arguably, but what do they accomplish, and who suffers?

Frustration is normal and legitimate – but that should not prevent thinking ahead, and most of all, it should not abrogate parental and adult responsibilities. Promoting anarchistic, anti-authoritarian behavior abandons good common sense; there are healthier alternatives. 

Living in a society with many differences and values, we are obligated to respect the other, even when those differences ignite deep passions and emotions. That energy is good as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else. That is the basis of civilized society. Turning this into chaos serves no useful purpose.

Parents, educators and leaders can help guide young people by offering them creative, meaningful actions that are not border-line crime. Here are some suggestions, and hopefully, you, dear reader, will offer more. 

Difficult situations are profound educational opportunities. Make signs that state the problem and/or the solution. Take these signs to thoroughfares and demonstrations. Talk to people – especially those with whom you disagree – and convince them.

Write one-page statements about the problem and the solution and pass them out at shopping malls and supermarkets. Engage people in discussions. Listen to their ideas and refine your own. Learn how to use brains instead of brawn. 

Compose street-theatre at your school, in your community, and public places.

Focus on the source of the problem and how changes can be made. If you don't like the government, how would you change it? 

Organize groups and meet with local and national politicians, journalists – anyone who will listen to you. Make sure you have your facts in order; be specific, not general. 

Yes, this requires more thought than blocking traffic and throwing stones. But, it is training for the long run, for postponed rewards, and building maturity. 

This world is a very complicated place; reducing things to slogans may let off steam and make you feel good for the moment, but they are banal and self-defeating. 

A word of advice for confused parents: you may not have answers, but sitting together with others you will discover ways to confront and resolve problems. You owe it to your children to be considerate and wise; don't take for granted what makes sense to you.