19 Ways to Help Teenagers Handle Their Anger.

What Parents Can Do….

Teenage anger can be frightening. Parents find toddler tantrums hard enough to deal with, but when their child becomes taller than they are, and throws their weight around, it is time for some serious thought into how to manage the situation.

So here are some ideas on how to help our teens keep their anger under control.

  1. Model good anger management. Make sure when you are angry that you express it appropriately and ask assertively for what you want to change the situation. Talk to your teen about how you cope with angry feelings and what you do to release them
  2. Help teens to express anger appropriately and how to manage angry feelings. Tell them that it is Ok to be angry, but not to harm people or property. Talk about all the different ways people manage their anger and find what works for them. It could be punching a punch-bag or pillow, going to the gym or doing some vigorous exercise. It may be retreating to their room and listening to music, or a relaxation CD. It could be saying a mantra in their head such as ‘keep calm’, ‘I can stay in control’ or ‘I can handle it’. Alternatively they might imagine a pause button on a remote control and physically press it. It is important that teenagers have somewhere private to go to when they feel angry. If they have to share a bedroom you may need to plan ahead for when they need some time alone.
  3. Be aware of other influences not just home life. Parents often feel that the behavior of their teen is a reflection on their (poor) parenting. Remember that your teen spends much of their time with friends and other teens. Take any angry outbursts seriously but don’t take it personally and blame yourself. Some of the nicest parents have problem teenagers.
  4. Discipline with Rewards. Don’t forget the rewards when your teens do behave the way you want! Make the rewards something that really appeals to your teenager without compromising your values. Rewards can be a powerful motivator and much more positive than consequences.
  5. Understand the sheer volume of pressure your teen may be under. Teens may find the pressure of study, work, friendships, responsibility, and teenage hormone surges overwhelming. Teens can feel great one moment and then down the next. No one would enjoy working all day and then having to do more work in the evening. Their friends may also be having big issues and teens often don’t have the maturity to know how to help.
  6. Ask your teen about areas of conflict. Find out what they are struggling with and ask if there is any way you can help. You may have forgotten how difficult it was at school, and the ‘terminal embarrassment’ that teenagers suffer from. The desire to be seen as cool, intelligent, successful, part of the gang or attractive. The list is endless. And be open to being singled out as one of their sources of conflict!
  7. Take time to listen and talk with them. Find time each day to ask them about their day. Make them feel important enough to be worth you asking about them. If you can, arrange to go out with your teen – for a coffee or a walk – or anything that appeals to them.
  8. Be open to negotiation. If your teen complains about restrictions or punishments, try to work something out. The best way is to compromise if they can show they are responsible about the existing rules. For instance if your teen needs to be back by 10, let them know that if  they manage to get in by 10 for three nights, you will extend the curfew by half an hour. But that if they can’t, you will need to stick to the original time. Let them earn their privileges.
  9. Encourage them to talk about negative feelings, anger, their opinion and things they disapprove of. When a teenager tells you about things that make them angry this should not be seen as disrespectful. Don’t reprimand them or punish them. Allow them to complain, disagree and disapprove as long as it is not nasty, flippant or sarcastic. It is also important that teenagers understand that it is OK to describe their frustrations in private, and to talk assertively to the right person when they feel angry.  But it is not OK to bully or belittle other family members.
  10. Try to understand things from your teen’s perspective. Teenagers need to break away from their parents and become independent adults. They need to make mistakes, and we can’t protect them from that. Sometimes you need to cut them some slack, and let them know you will still be there to help them pick up the pieces. Avoid an ‘I told you so’ attitude. Teenage lessons are hard enough without rubbing it in. It is very empowering to know that your parent is willing to stand alongside you and be there, without judgement, when you make a mistake. Another important point is not to keep bringing up past bad behavior and mistakes. When a mistake has been made and your teen has made amends and apologized, don’t to bring it up in conversation again. Let bygones be bygones.
  11. Help your teen problem-solve and find solutions. When your teenager tells you something is wrong sit down with them and come up with a whole range of possible solutions. Write everything down, no matter how silly (or unacceptable) it sounds at first. Let your teenager come up with their answers first, and then add a few of your own. Ask your teen to look at the list and choose which solution they want to try first. If their solution involves you, only agree to it if you are happy to – you can always negotiate a compromise. Be there to back them up and find out if their solution worked. If not, look at the rest of the ideas and ask them to choose their next strategy.
  12. Don’t give attention for bad behavior – but notice & comment on good behavior.  It is easy to ignore your teen when they do what you expect them to, and then nag and criticize when they don’t. But what we need to do is notice when they follow the rules, comment on their achievements, successes and steps in right direction. We shouldn’t ignore it when they help out at home or get to college on time. Just appreciating your teen and thanking them can be a reward in itself. When you first start doing this your teenager may feel awkward or say that you are patronizing them. Please don’t stop –they will learn to accept it, and a stream of comments about what they are doing well will have a positive impact eventually.
  13. Give at least five positive comments to every negative one. Don’t constantly nag and complain about everything. In some households teens suffer from a constant stream of negativity from the moment they get up. If we were constantly belittled, nagged, criticized and threatened our lives would be pretty unbearable. In his book ‘The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work’ Daniel Goleman found that people needed five positive comments for each negative comment for their marriages to last. Can you imagine how much more important it is for a teen with all their insecurities and anxieties to have a stream of regular positive comments?
  14. Ignore passive aggressive behavior. If you ask you teen to tidy bedroom and they do it but put music on very loud, ignore the music and thank them for tidying up.
  15. Consider depression. About twenty percent of teenagers will experience teen depression before they become adults. Untreated depression can lead to trouble at school and in jobs, risky behaviors, sexual promiscuity and suicide, so it is worth taking your teen to your doctor/counselor if you are concerned.
  16. Give them a way out. When tempers flare parents often give an all-or-nothing ultimatum or threaten their teens. It may not be physically possible to stop your teen, but you can tell them that you will be talking to them when the situation has calmed down to discuss consequences.
  17. Keep trying. Sometimes parents just want to throw their children out of the house at the earliest opportunity. But parents who persevere and hang in, and continue to work with their teens are the ones who generally manage to save their relationship. It is true that teens often find their own parents the most embarrassing, difficult adults on the planet. Try to empathize with them, whilst keeping the perspective that you are trying to do your best for them, and love them regardless. Having said this, no parent should live with violence or continual threats of violence. Sometimes teens need to live away from home if they cannot keep from harming people or property.
  18. Keep your sense of humor. It is hard not to be overwhelmed when a teen exerts control over the household. But take a step back and learn to laugh about the sheer insanity of your teen’s behavior. (Keep a diary – it could be worth thousands when you write your memoirs!) Make sure that you take time out for yourself and continue to find time to have a laugh with your friends too.
  19. Show your love and caring. Sometimes a little gesture of love can go a long way. Buying your teens favorite food, sitting on their bed when you wake them up and chatting to them, putting your arm round them or touching their arm, smiling when you see them, telling them about how you felt the day they were born or writing them a little note may help them to feel loved and cherished. When it comes to anger, prevention is better than cure, and everyone benefits from some warmth and closeness.