Jim Daly Christian Blog and Commentary

Talking Teen Rage

  • Jim Daly Jim Daly is president and chief executive officer of Focus on the Family, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping families thrive.
  • 2011 Aug 23

Posted by Jim_Daly Aug 22, 2011



What’s the main cause of teenage rage in America?

Is it a matter of poor parenting – or no parenting at all?

Writing in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, Peggy Noonan drew a chilling parallel between fatherless homes and the riots we’re seeing in England, as well as the “flash mob” incidents that have been occurring with increasing frequency here in the U.S.

In regard to what to do about it, Ms. Noonan reflected:

The normal, old response to an emerging problem such as this has been: The government has to do something. We must start a program, create an agency to address juvenile delinquency. But governments are tapped out, cutting back, trying to avoid bankruptcy. Which means we can't even take refuge in the illusion that government can solve the problem. The churches of America have always helped the young, stepping in where they can. That will continue. But they too are hard-pressed these days.

Where does that leave us? In a hard place, knowing in our guts that a lot of troubled kids are coming up, and not knowing what to do about it. The problem, at bottom, is love, something we never talk about in public policy discussions because it's too soft and can't be quantified or legislated. But little children without love and guidance are afraid. They're terrified—they have nothing solid in the world, which is a pretty scary place. So they never feel safe. As they grow, their fear becomes rage. Further on, the rage can be expressed in violence. This is especially true of boys, but it's increasingly true of girls.

What's needed can't be provided by government. When the riot begins or the flash mob arrives, the best the government can do is control the streets, enforce the law, maintain the peace.

Peggy Noonan is right. The social statistics shared in her piece confirm everything Focus on the Family has been advocating and saying since the day we first opened our doors over 34 years ago. Bad things often happen to young people who grow up in broken homes without love and security. But misfortune does not only befall those individuals. Indeed, as the poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself … ” As we’re seeing in Philadelphia, Chicago and other areas, all of society bears the burden of fatherless families.

I promised on Friday to share some thoughts on what we can do to help besides pray for these individuals. Here are a few ideas:

  • Prayerfully consider adopting or becoming a foster care parent. There are literally thousands of children waiting to be placed in forever homes in America. You can make a difference and change a life. To learn more, I’d invite you to check out our site by clicking here.

  • Become a mentor to a fatherless child in your neighborhood. Invite them out to a meal and ask them questions about their life in school or their favorite sport.

  • Volunteer to coach a sports team, help out with a Boy Scout troop or lend a hand in the Sunday School program at your church. You will inevitably encounter children currently living in single-parent homes.

  • It’s always a good time to take stock of relationships with your own children. Are you spending too much time at the office or wasting time watching television instead of talking with them in the evening? Remember how fleeting the season of life with your children in the home is – seize the moment!

As a Christian, my neighbor’s plight is also my problem – a radical but true thought given today’s individualistic mentality.

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