Whether your teen throws his smartphone against the wall when he’s frustrated an app won’t work, or he yells and swears when he doesn’t get his way, teens who can’t manage their anger are bound to have serious problems.
While some teens lash out verbally, others may become physically aggressive. And if they don’t learn how to manage their anger better, they’ll have difficulty in relationships, in their careers, and throughout their educational endeavours.
Although anger is a normal, healthy emotion, it’s important to know how to deal with it. Knowing how to cope with anger and how to express it in a socially appropriate manner are important skills for teens to learn.
Strategies to Help Your Teen With Anger Management
Here are eight ways to teach teens anger management skills:
Establish Anger Rules for Your House
Every family has different expectations about how anger should be handled. Some families have very little tolerance for yelling while in other families, yelling is a normal means of communicating.
Create rules about what constitutes acceptable behaviour and explain what behaviours will not be tolerated.1 Don’t allow name-calling, physical violence, or threats in your home. Establish clear consequences for breaking the rules.
Discuss the Difference Between Anger and Aggression
Teach your teen the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior.2 Angry feelings are completely acceptable.
Aggressive behavior, however, is not OK. Make it clear that it’s never OK to throw things, slam doors or break objects because he feels angry.
Teens need to know that aggressive behaviour—even if it is only verbal aggression—can have serious ramifications.
Making threatening comments over social media, for example, could lead to legal consequences.3 Discuss the potential academic, social and legal consequences of aggressive and violent behaviour.
Teach Assertiveness Skills
Sometimes, aggressive behaviour and anger issues stem from a lack of assertiveness. Teach your teen how to speak up for herself in an appropriate manner.
Talk about the importance of speaking up for herself without violating anyone else’s rights. Role-play specific issues with your teen, such as what to do if someone cuts in front of her in line or how to respond if she feels she is being taken advantage of by someone else.
Teach Your Teen to Recognize Physical Warning Signs of Anger
Teens often fail to recognize when their anger is on the rise. They allow themselves to grow so angry that they can’t help but lash out someone.
Ask your teen, “How does your body feel when you’re getting angry?” Teach her to recognize physiological warning signs of anger, like a rapid heartbeat, clenched fists, or flushed face.
Encourage her to intervene when she notices her anger is on the rise. That may mean taking a break, taking a few deep breaths, or counting to 10 in her mind.
Allow for Self-Directed Time-Outs
Teach your teen to put herself in time-out when she’s struggling with anger. Give her a quick break to gather her thoughts in her room or encourage her to end a conversation with a friend that is getting heated.
Create time-out rules.4 For example, agree that if anyone in the house is getting too angry to continue a discussion, you’ll take a 15-minute break before continuing the conversation.
If your teen chooses to take a time-out, don’t follow him or insist on continuing the conversation while he’s still upset.1 Instead, agree to revisit the conversation after a brief cool-down period.
Teach Socially Acceptable Coping Skills
Teens need to know socially appropriate ways to deal with angry feelings. Teens who lack coping skills are more likely to become verbally or physically aggressive.
Help your teen identify coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions, such as disappointment and frustration. While drawing may help one teen calm down, another teen may benefit from going for a walk when he’s angry. Work with your teen on identifying specific coping strategies that help diffuse his anger.
Teach Problem-Solving Skills
Teens who lack problem-solving skills may resort to aggression to try and get their needs met. Teach your teen basic problem-solving skills.
Whether he’s struggling with a school project or he’s trying to resolve an issue with his friend, encourage him to identify three potential solutions. Then, he can review the pros and cons of each potential solution before choosing the one he thinks will work best.
This can help your teen see that there are many ways to solve a problem without lashing out. Over time, he’ll grow more confident in his ability to successfully solve problems.
Model Appropriate Behaviour
You’ll teach your teen more about anger with your behaviour than your words. If you yell, swear, and break things, don’t expect your teen to control his anger. Role model appropriate ways to deal with angry feelings.
Show your child how to talk about angry feelings and how to express those feelings appropriately. For example, say, “I’m really angry that you didn’t clean your room like I asked you to. I’m going to go take a break for a few minutes and then we’re going to talk about your consequence.”