There are two developmental stages in life notable for behavioral outbursts: toddlerhood and adolescence. Teens are acutely sensitive to situations that they feel are unfair or uncalled-for, and will often let you know in no uncertain terms how they feel. Due to a mixture of hormones, brain development, and cognitive changes, they may simply be irritable and get mad for no reason (or at least, what you would consider no reason.) Sometimes your teen’s temper seems to be getting out of hand. What do you do about it?
Of course, everyone has their own situation to deal with, but here are some general tips on handling your teen’s anger:
Check your own anger first. Do you hate your teen yelling, screaming, and stomping around the house? When you get mad, do you yell, scream, and stomp around the house? Research tells us that children learn how to express anger from adult family members. You can try to punish your teen when they imitate your behaviors, but it might be a better idea to sit down and say, “I hate it when you ____, but I know I do it too. Let’s both figure out a way to express our anger differently.”
Some behavior calls for professional intervention. If your teen is assaulting you, destroying property, screaming to the point where neighbors are inquiring, or has a pattern of emotionally abusing you (insulting you in particularly cruel ways, threatening to engage in physical harm, purposefully humiliating you in front of others), they need help. First off, if your teen physically assaults you or destroys property, you are well within your rights to call the police. Second, any of these behaviors indicate that your teen, or you and your teen, see a mental health professional. Not only are they unacceptable, but they may be a sign that your teen is in distress and needs help.
Set reasonable goals. Many teens will sigh, close their eyes, or assume a facial expression that very easily indicates their irritation with you. However, it’s very, very hard to reign in these reactions, and as the spectrum of anger goes, these are pretty minor offenses (even if they’re what drives you nuts the most.) However, asking your teen to not raise their voice, call you names, or walk around slamming drawers and mumbling insults to the walls is quite reasonable.
Be available to talk. If you want your teen to manage anger in an adult way, you need to make sure they feel heard. If they don’t like something you did or are deciding, they should have the chance to tell you why. This doesn’t mean you’ll change your mind- but you can show respect for them by telling them why you disagree with their views, even though you appreciate the chance to discuss it. If you want them to control their temper like (almost) an adult, you need to communicate with them like they were (almost) an adult.
Expect some bad days. If your teen is irritable sometimes, that’s pretty normal. Work out with them a polite way they can signal that they just want to be left alone because they’re in a bad mood (such as “Please leave me alone, I’m in a bad mood”). To the best of your ability, respect their need for some space. However, if your teen seems consistently irritable, consider having them seek counseling. In teens, irritability can be a cardinal sign of depression.
What other ways have your teens shown their anger to you? Did you think it was acceptable or not? What did you do about it?