Dealing with an angry teenager may seem like an unattainable goal. But a nice dose of patience and appropriate strategies will make this task a lot easier
Things often change as our kids get older. Our previously placid children may display angry feelings, mood swings. You may feel there is a continuous power struggle.
Anger strategies that worked in the past when you were dealing with your child’s anger seem to work no longer.
But the good news is that there are still plenty of strategies that we can try. And, some of the activities that didn’t work when they were younger may be a better fit now.
But before we start, let’s emphasize that if you are worried about your teenager’s anger issues, you should consider getting help from a mental health professional.
Mental health professionals will likely have a good number of ideas on how to deal with an angry teenager, specifically catering for your teen and situation.
Understanding Your Teen’s Anger
Teenage years may be difficult for all the family.
Parents of teens may be wondering:
- What am I doing to contribute to this anger?
- Is my teenager going through something vital in their life that I don’t know about?
- Did something happen recently?
- How are their relationships with others?
- Is this just a “mom and dad” problem or are they angry at school too?
- Is this a sign of more serious problems (bullying, substance abuse, teen depression)?
Parents, we have been in our teens’ situation!
Teen years are a hard time:
- Balancing school, home, friends, extra-curricular activities, jobs.
- Peer pressure
- Social media
- Teen transition
Put yourself in your teen’s situation.
It might surprise you to realize that the adolescent years are a difficult time, and despite what privileges they may have, they’re still navigating life and becoming their own people.
This is where we as the parents come in and help them through it.
It is also the point in your life where all your hard work from the ages of 0 to 13 is truly put to the test.
The Teenage Brain
Anger comes from the limbic center of your brain. This area of your brain is responsible for emotions and is more primitive than other parts of the brain.
Teenagers are known for having an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex that is responsible for thinking rationally.
It is also the part of the brain that helps make good decisions and think of long-term consequences.
Their brain has not developed fully, even if they already towering over you.
So, there is still a lot we can contribute to help them gain the necessary skills they need to prosper in life.
How to Deal with an Angry Teenager
We are going to share 14 tips on how to help your young people with their angry behavior.
We will group them into two categories:
- Things that parents of teens can do to help them (what we need to do ourselves) (tips 1 to 8)
- Coping strategies for angry teenagers (these are the ones that they need to implement themselves, even if you suggest, prompt, or help) (tips 9 to 14)
Parent Strategies on How to Deal with an Angry Teenager
1. Seek professional help when required
There are many situations in which the best thing will be to seek professional advice (mental health conditions, anxiety disorders, aggressive behavior, or even if you just feel you don’t know how to deal with your young person’s negative emotions).
2. Be a role model. Set a good example.
Modeling appropriate ways of dealing with anger oftentimes gets overlooked, but it is crucial for your child’s upbringing.
If you are tested with your own anger and are exhibiting that anger irresponsibly, that’s what your children are learning.
It’s okay to be angry. Anger is a normal emotion. It may even be a good learning opportunity for your young people.
Do you talk through your issues? Do you find solutions to your problems?
As controversial as this may sound, dealing with an angry teenager, can sometimes be like dealing with an angry toddler. You work with your child, not against them. You are patient and understanding just like you would with your 2-year-old.
Of course, expectations are different, and their reasons for being angry are different, but at the end of the day, we are still their parent and they still need us.
3. Set boundaries / Establish clear rules
How about we start by setting some boundaries?
Boundaries are a tricky thing for parents to understand.
Some parents think boundaries mean, not letting your child do anything, while others think, no rules entirely is better.
In reality, humans actually thrive with clear and concise boundary setting.
As parents, it is our duty to set appropriate boundaries to keep our children safe and help them gain independence when it is appropriate.
The best way to do that is to work with your teenager.
Let’s say, for example, your child wants to stay out until 1 am. But you’re not comfortable with them staying out that late. What do you do?
Do you just give in and say “Oh, it’s fine, you can stay out as long as you want”. And then die inside every time they’re out past midnight?
Or do you say, “You know what, if you can’t follow my rules, in my house, then you’re not going to be allowed to go out at all”?
Both of these responses are unbalanced.
How about you ask your teen, to compromise with you?
You tell them that you’re not comfortable with them staying out past 11:30 p.m. because of safety reasons (you can explain those safety reasons), and you would hope that they can meet you in the middle.
You also tell them that if a situation arises where they must be out past 11:30 p.m., then it will be met with an open mind versus an absolute “No”.
This way, your teenager knows why you want them home by 11:30 p.m. (to keep them safe), what can happen if a concert or dance arises where it won’t end until past their curfew, and they’re having a say in their boundary because you could have easily said 10 p.m., be home, or be grounded forever.
4. Be ready to compromise
Now, what happens if your child comes home past the 11:30 pm curfew?
How about you ask them?
“Hey (enter child’s name), what do you think should happen to you if you don’t come home when you’re supposed to”.
Let them come up with an answer and again, you compromise.
You can also set the boundary that 30 minutes before their curfew, you’re going to text them reminding them that their curfew is in 30 minutes so they might want to start heading out and getting their stuff ready.
By doing these simple things, you’re actually teaching them so much more than appropriate boundaries. You’re teaching them compromising skills, critical thinking, time management, and even assertiveness.
All of which they will need as adults.
Your children will not only feel heard and understood, but they will feel in control.
This is ultimately one reason why teenagers get angry to begin with.
5. Validate their feelings
As a parent, you can also validate those feelings.
The sentence “I understand why you feel that way” should be used often.
The sooner your teenagers realize that they’re not “crazy”, and you and the world aren’t against them, the sooner they can get back to being themselves.
We all want respect, love, and understanding.
As a parent to teenagers, you should be able to provide those things without question. If your teenagers feel that love, respect, and understanding, their reactions to your discipline should not be met with anger and rage, but rather understanding.
6. Expand their circle of trust
Another tip on how to deal with an angry teenager that can really benefit your teen is getting another trusted adult to help you.
Teenagers don’t want to be nagged by their parents and they certainly don’t want to be made to feel like they’re your little baby.
So you know what you do?
You start cultivating a relationship with another adult that you know and trust to help you do the heavy lifting.
Of course, this adult isn’t going to be a surrogate parent, but rather a listening ear for your teenager when they can’t tell you exactly how they feel.
As their parent, you should accept the fact that they won’t tell you everything 100% of the time. But they might reach out to some other adult that they trust. This can be an aunt, an uncle, a grandmother, maybe even your best friend.
7. Share decision making
They are not little kids anymore, so let’s share the decision-making with them.
Let’s say, for example, your child gets angry when being told what to do.
That can be triggering for kids of any age, but especially teenagers.
Because they think they know it all, they think they’re old enough to know what to do, they think you’re micromanaging them, or you don’t have confidence in their ability.
As their parent, understandably, it might come naturally to tell them what to do. It’s what we’ve done their entire lives.
But is it necessary all the time?
For this specific type of teenager, how about you ask them how they would like to be reminded to do things?Is it through a text? Is it through a post-it note on their bathroom mirror? Should you leave the household rules out throughout the house? Should they set reminders on their phone? Does an email work?
All of these solutions are possible if you work through them WITH them and not against them.
8. Reward them for controlling their anger.
Keep in mind that positive reinforcement is a lot more effective than punishment.
9. Prepare a behavior contract for your teen
A teen behavioral contract may be a very effective tool to assist them to modify their behavior.
It is a collaborative approach to behavior management, and consequently, your teen is more likely to buy into the expected behavioral changes.
Anger Coping Skills for Teenagers
As I’ve mentioned, being a teenager can often times be hard.
Helping your teenage kid develop coping skills for anger is also an important parental task.
The anger coping strategies listed in this section are captured in my post about anger management activities for kids, but they are equally relevant for teens or adults.
Healthy ways to deal with teenage anger and angry outbursts:
10. Teach Problem-Solving Strategies
Anger is often a sign that there is a problem that we need to fix.
Problem-solving is one of the most important skills they will need to learn.
Problem-solving strategies will help your angry teenage kid fix independently whatever issues they face.
These five steps are a good start for problem solving:
- Identify your problem
- Brainstorm potential solutions
- Evaluate pros and cons for each solution
- Choose the best option
- Act on it!
11. Deep Breathing Exercises
Anger is a strong emotion that results in excessive physiological arousal.
Breathing exercises help us deactivate that state and relax.
Our post on breathing exercises for kids takes you through plenty of breathing technique examples (deep breathing, lazy 8 breathing, yoga breathing, square breathing and many more).
Exercise is a great way to deal with teen anger. Physical activity works at two levels:
- It helps you burn that build-up of negative energy that anger creates.
- Exercise also releases in our brains endorphins that help us feel calmer.
Your young adult may enjoy exercising at a gym, running or biking. It all helps.
13. Taking a Break
Sometimes the best coping strategy for your teenage kid may be to take a break from whatever is triggering their anger:
- Any leisure activity may work: reading a book, playing a game, going for a walk, listening to music.
- Creating a calming corner might be beneficial.
- Bring out all the things that your teen needs to calm down.
- Get them a loft bed (an upper bunk bed without the lower bunk) in their room where the space underneath it is used as a calm down space.
- Put up curtains so that they have privacy while calming down.
- Give them a puzzle, or a fidget toy (yes they have them for teenagers).
- Let them squeeze a stuffed animal or even hit a pillow.
14. Turn unhelpful thoughts into helpful ones
Your teenage kid may feel that their anger triggers are making them angry, but our thoughts about the event are the real issue to deal with.
Help your kid identify unhelpful thoughts and turn them into positive ones.
15. Help your teenager identify triggers.
When your young adult is able to identify the anger warning signs they can also start working on their coping strategies early on.
Related reading: Anger triggers worksheets for kids
So, let’s recap the answer to the question that inspired this post:⇓
How Do I Help My Angry Teenager?
These are 15 tips that will help you deal with your angry teenager:
- Seek professional help when required
- Be a role model. Set a good example
- Set boundaries / Establish clear rules
- Be ready to compromise
- Validate their feelings
- Expand their circle of trust
- Share decision making
- Reward them for controlling their anger.
- Try a behavior contract for kids
- Teach Problem-Solving Strategies
- Deep Breathing Exercises
- Physical activity burns negative energy and releases endorphins
- Reframing negative thoughts
- Taking a break from the anger situation
- Identifying anger triggers.
As you can see, learning how to deal with an angry teenager is an achievable goal.
Remember that your teenager is not using their “thinking brain” to make rational and sound decisions, therefore they’re going to need your help to deal with the anger resulting in their actions. It is our job as their parents to help them identify triggers, as well as identify any coping skills that may work for them.
If anything seems out of the ordinary or uncontrollable, you would likely benefit from getting help from a mental health professional.
Mental health professionals will likely have plenty of ideas on how to deal with an angry teenager, specifically catering to your teen and situation.