My oldest son is entering puberty. I am noticing all of the tell-tale signs. I realize my “little boy” is not so “little” anymore. He has been a gentle soul since he first began toddling about and developing his own independent character. He loved and petted the animals, never pulling tails or poking eyes. He gave his toys away generously to his playmates, always sharing with a spirit of joy. He never recognized any danger if a bully picked on him. He could not comprehend such an attitude. He was always respectful and repentant when corrected. He had a heart that was eager to please and bring happiness to others. Now, because of testosterone, he is puzzled and distressed by anger within himself.
Never before has my son lost control and expressed anger. At least, not until now. This bothers him a great deal. He is, and has always been, a peaceful person. It has always been easy for him to laugh when something has vexed him. If he tripped over something, falling flat on his face, he would hop up and make us all laugh by waddling around like an idiot with two left feet. Howeve, now it is just as likely he will feel the impulse to hop up and kick whatever was in his way.
He is disturbed that at school he has urges to yell and swear at people that are “acting stupid”. He even shoved a boy who was picking on another boy. He told me he was a hairbreadth away from raising his fist and punching him in the nose. He asked me if there was something wrong with him. I assured him there was not. He had simply reached the age when guys become raging testosterone reactors.
He is confused with what he is becoming. I tell him he is becoming a man. It’s part of the process. Aggression is part and parcel of manhood. It has a purpose and he can either use it for good or for bad, but either way, it’s there. He is suspicious of my counsel. He is certain he is on the road to becoming an axe murderer. I assure him he is not. The proof of that is by his very act of being concerned about these powerful urges.
I tell him anger and aggression has been demonized by society and that is wrong. It is a normal part of being a human being. He is not to feel bad about himself. He is only to feel bad if he uses his anger and aggression for the wrong reasons. I point specifically to when he reacted and intervened on behalf of the person being picked on by someone else. I explained that was appropriate to shove the person away and stop him from hurting the other person. I told him I was proud of the self-control he exhibited by resisting the urge to punch him in the nose and stopped with the shove which was all the force needed to break things up.
His testosterone is going to be with him for the rest of his life. It will insert itself into his emotions and decision making. He must be the master of his testosterone rather than his testosterone lead him about by the nose (or, the fist, I should say). It will do him no good to be told he simply shouldn’t have the feelings of anger and aggression. They are real by-products of human nature and, in particularly, man nature, despite how strongly he feels for being a man of peace. He cannot change the science of biology. He can only change how he responds to the urge.
Testosterone anger and aggression is neither good nor bad. It simply is. It is the action performed and the motivation behind it that defines something as good or bad. And, I assure my son that even if he makes a mistake and does something he shouldn’t, one mistake does not define him as a person. It is the totality of his actions and the totality of his intents motivating his actions. Even if he had punched that guy in the nose, although it would have been a bad thing to do, it would not have defined him as a bad person, unless he took great pleasure in it and continued to repeat the performance.