Treating Teens with Anger Management Issues

Ways to Help Your Teen Manager Anger

Anger Management Techniques for Teens

August 01, 2016

Being a teenager is an exciting but also frustrating period of life. Because emotions can run so deep, it’s natural for parents and teens to argue as they negotiate privileges and responsibilities. Sometimes, however, a teen really struggles with expressing these emotions and with managing their frustrations and anger. 

Anger takes on many forms for a young person. Teens sometimes experience an increase in emotional outbursts, leading to violence and relationship problems. Other times they hold in their rage, which can lead to anxiety problems. Anger isn’t just a behavioral problem either. Almost 15% of children and teens suffer from depressive symptoms, and depression sometimes takes on the form of anger or irritability. So your child’s frustration with feeling calm might be a sign that they need immediate, positive interventions to help them improve their mental health.  

There are many warning signs that can indicate your child or teen is struggling to manage their emotions. You can watch for emotional, behavioral, and verbal cues that are common among teenagers with anger problems. 

Emotional Signs

  • Lack of interest in the feelings of others
  • Silently holding in feelings
  • Feeling easily irritated by others
  • Difficulty controlling temper when teased 
  • Feeling angry about any small change in environment
  • Becoming frustrated easily when learning something new

Behavioral Signs

  • Having trouble calming down when upset
  • Making impulsive decisions without thinking
  • Bullying or shaming others
  • Disengagement with activities they once loved
  • Engaging in substance use
  • Breaking things when frustrated
  • Having other kids refuse to play or engage with them

Verbal Signs

  • Frequently blaming others for their anger/aggression
  • Talks, writes, or draws about violence 
  • Engaging in frequent arguments
  • Requiring constant placating when upset
  • Complaining constantly about others
  • Using foul language when angry

If you recognize many of these signs in your teen, chances are they may need help in learning to express and manage their emotions. Let’s take a look at some common mistakes in helping teens manage their anger and some effective strategies that can help them grow into emotionally mature adults. 

Common Mistakes in Helping Your Teen Manage Anger

Yelling or threatening. It’s tempting to raise your voice or curse when you lose all patience with your son or daughter. But this reaction will only escalate the argument and push your child further away. Similarly, threats of discipline in the heat of an argument rarely work. You can communicate there are consequences for their actions but also help your teen take some deep breaths and focus on what’s happening in the moment and how you can help each other. 

Taking physical action. When you choose to jerk something out of your child’s hands or physical prevent them from leaving a room, you are teaching them that people can get what they want by physical aggression. It can also motivate them to return your response with violence, which will only escalate the situation. Keeping your child in the room, grabbing their attention, and getting your way are not worth it in the moment. The only hope for real communication is deescalating the situation. 

Proving you’re right. During an argument, it’s easy to see the goal as winning or being right. “Winning” in the short term doesn’t mean that there won’t be negative, long-term consequences for your child and your family. Your teen isn’t an enemy that needs to be defeated. Instead, focus on how you can model the respect and accountability that it takes to for an adult to manage conflict and be solution-focused, even when it’s difficult. 

Anger Management Techniques For Your Teen 

Encourage an emotional vocabulary. From a young age, some children get away with using words like “okay” or “fine” to describe their emotions. As a parent, it’s your job to encourage your child to build and use a vocabulary that helps them express how they feel. Don’t punish them when they say, “I’m really angry!” or “I’m feeling irritated at you.” By allowing children to express anger rather than hold in it, and then you can begin to focus on a solution.  

Designate a cool down spot. Find a spot in your house that can be a designated space for calming down and managing emotions. Maybe there’s a journal they can use to write or draw their feelings, or perhaps there’s calming music they can listen to. Don’t use it as a punishment or “time out” zone, but allow your child or teen to go there when they need to take a break from a disagreement. 

Encourage positive thinking. You empower your child when you teach them how to use positive affirmations. Statements like, “I’m feeling angry right now, but I can find a way to feel calm,” can help your child see past the immediacy of the moment and give them the strength to find a solution that isn’t an angry outburst. Some parents have their teen write positive statements about themselves that they can turn to when they feel upset or hopeless. Don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to managing anger. 

Be a role model. Your child will never feel comfortable expressing emotions and managing anger if you aren’t able to model these behaviors for them. You don’t have to scream or shout to communicate when you feel frustrated with them. Telling them you need to use the cool down spot or gather your thoughts models anger management for them. Also, when you stick to the facts of a situation and remain as neutral as possible, your teen can learn and practice the problem-solving skills that will take them far in life. 

If you’re not sure where to start, consider how a mental health professional or other community resources can help you develop an effective strategy for modeling anger management for your teen. Never feel like you have to do all the work or that you can’t learn and grow as an adult. By learning to express and manage your own emotions, you become a effective parent for your child.