Angry Bird Teens & Their Piggy Parents

If you live with a surly, moody teenager then I wrote this post for you! I want to give you a bit of a laugh (hopefully) and also give you some ideas on how to handle your bad tempered and unfriendly teenager. I am comparing the video game Angry Birds to the relationship between angry teens and their parents.

For the uninitiated, Angry Birds is one of the most popular casual games that has arrived on smartphones and multiple other platforms. It is quite addictive and I am a bit uncomfortable admitting how much time I have spent playing this game. :)

In the game, players slingshot a variety of different birds towards various structures that hold some otherwise defenseless pigs. There is apparently a huge rift between the birds and the pigs and they basically hate each other. I tend to like analogies and this game reminds me of some of the difficulties that parents have dealing with their angry teens.

Teenagers can be very emotional and often times this is channeled into angry words and behaviors. This can be especially challenging for parents. I realize that comparing parents to pigs may not be favorable. Don’t get me wrong, I have ultimate respect for parents and the amazing ways that we (including myself) show up for our kids. However, sometimes we can be unprepared, caught off guard and generally handle our kids anger poorly.

Here are some thoughts on the different expressions of teen anger and how parents can respond.

The Red Bird

The red bird is the most balanced of all the birds. It flies straight and does a minimum amount of damage. This is similar to a “normal” level of teen anger that is not terribly surprising or hard to deal with. All teenagers get irritable, feel like complaining and generally act disgruntled at times. This is not unusual and most parents can manage this with some listening, empathy and appropriate limits.

The Yellow Bird

The yellow bird can cause some quick damage. It can pass through several walls, specifically soft materials. It is useful when you are trying to bring down taller structures, often striking at the weakest point. The yellow bird could be compared to the teenager who uses quick bursts of anger to challenge your authority. This may include some emotional manipulation that attempts to bring you down by striking at your weak points.

Teens are often at a disadvantage when trying to get what they want. Some will use quick flashes of anger that can even be mean and accusatory. “I hate you and you are ruining my life” or “This is probably why Dad left you.” Does this sound familiar? You may be able to fill in the blanks on this one.

The trick is that this works on many parents. We are human and respond to direct challenges and assault on our character or our parenting skills. Teenagers are smart, even crafty and they pay attention. Stay calm and recognize that your teen is using the yellow bird on you. Don’t give in to the temptation to strike back in hurtful ways. You can also acknowledge the emotions they are feeling, even though their expression may be inappropriate.

The Blue Bird

The blue bird is small, but especially effective because it attacks at multiple points. It explodes in the air, splitting into 3 separate birds. This is helpful when trying to hit structures that are far apart from each other. When teenagers are angry at their parents they will often focus on several points of attack.

This may be the teen who expresses anger by complaining about everything and having a constantly negative attitude. It could also be the teen who is always picking on you and pointing out all of your faults.

Teens can be strategic and they often know that applying pressure in several areas may cause their parents to cave in. It may be helpful to have an honest conversation about what is really bothering them, what is underneath all that irritability and expressed anger. This may be difficult, but it could lead to some understanding about their primary emotions (sadness, fear, grief) and where they are coming from. Watch out for the blue bird!

The Green Bird

The green bird acts as a sort of boomerang and it is used when trying to hit inaccessible spots from the left. This little guy can take down even the most fortified buildings by knocking on the back door. This would be the passive-aggressive teen who makes a show like everything is OK, but then hits you from behind.

He doesn’t usually appear angry, but you will often find yourself getting angry at him for what he is doing or failing to do. I know this one well, because I was an excellent green bird as a teenager!

It takes a perceptive and self-controlled parent to deal with this kind of angry teen. This is the teen who does his chores all wrong and you just know it is on purpose. Even so, you end up stepping in to do the job right. Win for the green bird! It takes patience to work with this kind of indirect anger. You may need to be direct, even a bit confrontational in pointing out this unhelpful, negative pattern. With love of course! Keep your eyes open for the green bird.

The White Bird

The white bird drops explosive  bombs that do a small amount of damage. This is useful against weak materials, such as wood. The white bird is not very powerful, but it can be good when targeting certain areas. This is the teen who throws out sarcastic comments and minor insults when they are angry. This can be bothersome and not fun to be around, but not terribly harmful.

Don’t get me wrong, this kind of angry teen can really get under your skin. You may need to say, “I know you are angry, but that kind of behavior is not OK with me.” Then follow up by letting them know what kind of consequences they can expect if they don’t make a change.

This bird is most effective when the bombs are dropped into opening where they can get down to the bottom and cause problems. Pay attention to the areas of your parenting where you leave yourself wide open and vulnerable. Maybe you promise consequences, but rarely follow through. Maybe your teen knows that if he makes fun of your weight problems that you will react in a big way. Consider what your weak points might be.

The Black Bird

The black bird is one of my favorites and it easily does the most damage. The black bird explodes after a while, once it hits any surface. It is effective against the hardest structures, such as rock buildings.

There are definitely times when teenage anger can be explosive and even devastating. Teens can have violent blow-ups, hysterical melt-downs and everything in between. This may include punching holes in the walls, running away, threats of harm to parents or even self-harm.

This type of angry expression can be especially hard for parents to deal with. Anger can be an incredibly raw and unsettling emotion. It can bring up so many other emotions and memories of past experiences. Often the best thing to do is pay attention to maintaining as much physical and emotional safety for your teen as possible.

Don’t get in their way, but try to guide them to less destructive options. The anger will pass and they will calm down. If this type of struggle becomes a regular occurrence it may be wise to get some professional help for you and your teen.

I hope that you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

For more information on “How To Deal with Your Angry Teenager” check out my Free parenting teleseminar on this topic. Click HERE to listen or download the audio.

About Uriah Guilford

I am a child and teen counselor and I focus on working with boys. I use my specialized training along with humor to help my clients learn and grow.

  • talktherapybiz

    This is a wonderfully creative way to (justify playing phone games!) highlight why our teens like what they like. Although I wasn’t initiated until reading, I look forward to the day when my kid asks for this app. Why? So I can analyze his bird use and get a better idea about his anger style.

    Hmm…I’m thinking the Blue Bird may be his favorite :(.

    I’m not at all offended with the Parent as Pig reference. We’ve all reacted poorly, and that includes handling anger inappropriately in front of our kids. I think it’s about being in touch with our own anger, and knowing which “Bird” we resembled as teens.

    I had to laugh at your opening line: “If you live with a surly, moody teenager then I wrote this post for you!” I live with a surly, moody 10 y/o!

    Thanks for the cultural reference as a teaching tool. And it’s so important clinically to tap into what our clients like and relate to. I imagine some adolescents love the analogy of angry bird teens and their piggy parents ;).

    Off to share this with my fellow Piggy’s ;).

    • JoAnn

      I have played Angry Birds a few times to see what makes it a draw. I had never thought of these life analogies. I think at various times my teen has been all of these angry birds. For me, the challenge can be quickly recognizing which “angry bird” is presenting. But I love it when “the blue bird of happiness” is present. 

      I haven’t figured out if I like being compared to the pigs as they seem to take little action at transforming the birds in the game. That one I’ll have to consider for a while.

      • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

        Hi JoAnn. I agree that the challenge is figuring out how to respond in the moment to what our kids are experiencing. Just for the record, I know that you are not a “piggy parent” but some parents take little action and let their kids walk all over them.

    • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

      Thanks for your comment Linda. As a child and adolescent therapist I am compelled to do many things in the name of research, including going to concerts, playing video games, kart racing, paintball, etc. It is tough work, but I have to remain relevant! :)
      I am glad that you could relate and were not offended. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/SusanGiurleo Dr. Susan Giurleo

    Love the analogy here! My 8 year old son loves this game and I can see his Blue Bird attempts to get his way, even now. He’s not angry per se, but can argue up a storm when he thinks he can find a weak spot in our consistency. The great thing about 8 year olds is they tell the truth, “Yes, I think you will give me more dessert if I keep asking multiple ways and drive you nuts.”  : ).
    The very interesting part of this metaphor for teens and parents is many parents do feel like the pigs in this game: trapped and powerless to do anything but hide or avoid their teen’s anger. The truth is, parents have a lot of power to address their teen’s angry behavior which is often why the teen is acting out in the first place. The trick is to be proactive and not simply react every time your teen lashes out…Easier said than done, but definitely can be done…

    • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

      I love the honesty of younger kids, strangely refreshing! :) Being proactive and not just reactive is definitely important for parents. Not just putting on the hard hat (Angry Bird reference) and waiting for the bombs to fall. You are right that parents have more power than they realize sometimes.

  • http://twitter.com/JohnLeeMSW John Lee, MSW, LCSW

    Very clever and tangible for parent and child.

    What about the orange bird? Ya know the one that starts of small and then puff up to use its size to knock things around

    • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

      Thanks John! I did leave a couple of the newer birds out. The orange bird is definitely a fun one.

  • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

    Thanks for your comment Dan. It is surprising how many analogies to life & counseling you can find in video games! Was just comparing relationship skills to tactical strategies in shooting games today. Whatever gets the message across. :)

  • http://twitter.com/KathyAMorelli BirthTouch.com

    Great analogies! Great way to graphically connect anger in teens and ways to cope. Depression I think often underlies the anger   

    • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

      I didn’t mention depression in this post, but you are absolutely right about that Kathy.

  • http://www.conflictremedy.com/ Lorraine

    wonderful post analyzing kinds of teen anger and better responses–thanks!

    • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

      Hi Lorraine. Thanks for your comment!

  • Ana Gefvert

     What an insightful and fun analysis, Uriah! I’m impressed :)

    • http://santarosateencounseling.com Uriah Guilford, MFT

      Hi Ana. Nice to hear from you. Thanks for your comment!