You might have thought that once you had gotten through the tumultuous toddler years with your child, it would be relatively clear sailing as far as his or her emotional outbursts went. Now that your child is a teenager, however, you’re seeing that toddler tantrums have nothing on teenage anger. Is your teen acting in an age-appropriate way, or does he or she have teen anger issues? Read on to find out what’s normal we well as what you can do to help your teen through this time.
When Anger Is Normal vs an Issue
Teenagers, by nature, can struggle with anger and moodiness. Remember that although your teen might look like an adult, his or her brain is not the same as an adult’s. The frontal cortex is still developing, and as a result, your teen is more likely than an adult to act out inappropriately at times. Add some raging hormones to the mix and you could find yourself with an angry, stressed-out young person in your home.
Door-slamming, eye-rolling, arguing, some yelling, and swinging from calm to anger over the course of a few minutes can all be par for the course in a teen with no major anger issues. If there is violence, however, or you are afraid of your teenager, then those are red flags. Getting in trouble with the law, getting into fistfights with others (arguments among friends are common, but physical altercations are generally not), and turning to drugs or alcohol are all signs that you should seek professional help. Other danger signs include self-mutilation (such as cutting), sleeping difficulties, plummeting grades at school, and signs of depression or anxiety.
Set a Good Example
While it’s likely that you strived to watch your language and your behavior in front of your child when he or she was younger, you might have become a bit lax about it now that you have a teenager. Remember that although it seems as though your teen is more dependent on peers than on you, they are still watching you and developing their sense of right and wrong behavior.
If you tend to have anger issues yourself, it’s important to get them under control. Some of the following tips might help you, or you might need to seek professional help to take charge of your emotions and behaviors.
Set Boundaries and Consequences
When your teen is calm, it can help to have a frank talk about the proper way to express anger. Set boundaries: Your teen must not use violence when angry. Damaging property is also a no-no. You can use your discretion when determining what behaviors are unacceptable in your house, but be sure to let the rules and consequences be known. Some families don’t have a problem with curse words; others ban them. You might choose to ignore annoying behaviors such as eye-rolling or you might call your teen to task on them. For a teen without an actual anger issue, it will probably take only a few incidents where consequences are enforced to bring about a change in behavior. If your teen cannot seem to follow the rules, they might have a bigger problem than simple teenage moodiness.
Teach Your Teen to Walk Away
As you probably have learned by now just by living life and parenting, sometimes the best option when anger is rising is to simply walk away. If your teen is acting out and being disrespectful, you can model this solution by simply saying, “I do not wish to talk to you when you are acting this way,” and walk into another room.
Teach your teen to do the same. If they feel themselves getting angry, as long as everyone involved is safe, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to walk away and retreat to their bedroom. Respect this option and, as long as your teenager is safe, allow them to walk away when tensions are high. This is a good way to control teen anger issues.
How to Diffuse Teen Anger Issues
When your teen is in a good mood, talk about ways that they might be able to diffuse their anger. The first is to be aware of the signs of anger. These vary from person to person, but your teen might notice that they’re clenching their fists or grinding their teeth. They might feel blood rush to their face or they might get a headache. Their heart might speed up and they might start to sweat. These are all signs that it’s time to take a breather, which will in turn diffuse teen anger issues.
Some Safe Ways That People Might Diffuse Their Anger Include:
- Listening to music.
- Going for a run or otherwise working out.
- Calling a friend to talk about their feelings.
- Watching a funny movie.
- Laying down for a few minutes.
- Breathing exercises
- Writing down their feelings in a journal.
- Using a punching bag or throwing a ball in the backyard to release pent-up frustration.
Love Your Teen Anyway
Even if your teenager seems unlovable when he or she is struggling with anger, be sure to love them anyway. Take time each day to chat for at least a few minutes about their day. Find things about their personality that you love and appreciate. Tell them often that you love them. Do nice things for them; bring them a snack or glass of iced tea, pick up a book you see at a garage sale that you think they’ll like, or invite them to go with you to get coffee or ice cream. Even though your teen is dealing with anger and moodiness, they still need and want your love and approval.
If these measures don’t help, it’s important to seek professional advice. Your teen’s doctor is a good place to start. They might suggest that you follow up with mental health counseling. Getting teen anger issues under control during the teen years is an important step toward becoming a healthy, productive adult; it will be difficult for your teen to have successful relationships and a career if they are struggling with keeping their behavior under control.