Anger Management for Teens
Everyone gets mad. Getting angry is normal, but sometimes anger can lead to behavior that is uncomfortable or out of control. People who learn coping skills for managing their anger receive innumerable benefits including getting sick less often, better relationships with others, and feeling better emotionally. No one is born with these types of skills; they must be learned, so teens often have difficulty with anger because they haven’t learned how to deal with the emotions they feel inside.
The Effects of Poor Anger Management
Even for young people, not dealing with angry feelings can actually put stress on their body, which can lead to medical problems such as high blood pressure, chronic back pain, and stomach aches. It can also increase their risk for developing depression, drug addiction, and eating problems. Teenagers who have trouble managing their anger often have fewer friends, behave in more negative ways, and receive lower grades in school.
Signs That Anger Is Not Being Managed
Below are signs you can share with your teen to help them determine if their anger is out of control. Each person will only exhibit one or two of these signs, not all of them.
- you find yourself getting angry at everything that inconveniences you, annoys you or otherwise gets in the way of what you want to be doing,
- it leads you to act out aggressively or violently as in yelling, ranting, hitting, shoving or plotting revenge,
- it consumes you long after the event has passed (if you dwell on the things that make you angry then you’re in trouble because normal anger is only a temporary emotional response to unsettling external stimuli),
- things that didn’t used to make you angry are suddenly major issues, such as when somebody gets a higher grade than you or when a person is taking too long in the bathroom,
- you find yourself doing self destructive things to cope with your angry feelings, such as reckless driving, hazardous recreational activities, physical fighting, drugs and alcohol, or unsafe or random sexual activity.
Tips to Offer Your Teen to Manage Their Anger
- Take a time out by following these steps. Step 1: If you’re too angry to think rationally, remove yourself from the situation. Step 2: Give yourself a few quiet minutes alone to cool down. Think of something relaxing. Step 3: When you feel your body relax, take a few deep breaths. Step 4: Return to the original situation and try a different approach. Step 4: If your new approach doesn’t help you stay in control of your temper, repeat steps 1-4.
- Recognize the difference between an annoyance and a real reason for anger. If somebody hurts you or damages your property, then you likely have a good reason to be angry (though you still need to handle your anger appropriately). However, someone getting in your way or slowing you down is just an everyday annoyance.
- Know your triggers. Pay attention to what upsets you by noticing how your body feels when you are angry. Sometimes people are first aware of experiencing anger through their bodies rather than their thoughts or feelings. You may feel like your heart is racing, you might be breathing faster, your muscles may tighten, or you could feel hot or sweaty. When you notice your body beginning to react, it’s time to slow down and identify the feeling before reacting. If there are certain things that you know bother you, you can make decisions about how to manage these triggers. Sometimes you can avoid them. Sometimes your triggers may not be avoidable and then it’s up to you to be prepared with strategies that will help you stay in better control.
- Plan your time wisely. One of the most common anger stressors is being in a rush. The simplest way to avoid this is to exercise effective time management.
- Talk to someone you trust. Reacting in anger often causes the reasoning center of the brain to shut off for a time and the way you can turn it back on is to talk rather than act out when anger takes hold. Taking a few minutes to gather your thoughts and speaking them out loud can do wonders to diffuse an angry situation.
- Improve your problem solving skills. When faced with a difficult situation or conflict, learn as much as you can about it and think about what happened and identify all the feeling you are experiencing. This will prevent you from making quick judgments that may be wrong. Remember, there are many ways to look at the same situation.
- Think about the consequences of your behavior. Realize that how you behave affects not only you but also those you love and others around you.
- It is not a good idea to bottle up anger because it will usually explode later. If you have a problem with someone, talk to them about it at a time that you are calm. Many times disagreements can be worked out quickly and painlessly when everyone has a cool head.
Help your teen identify methods for relaxing when they are angry. Relaxation techniques help to calm us, and when we are calm, our bodies relax and stress is reduced. Every person is different, so a relaxation technique that works for one person won’t work for another. Here is a list of possible ways to share with your teen to help them relax:
- Take slow deep breaths.
- Repeat a calming word or sentence, such as “I am in control of my feelings”.
- Close your eyes and think about a person, place, or thing that makes you feel calm.
- Exercise. Get that anger out by taking a long walk or run, work out at the gym, do yoga, or play a sport. Exercise stimulates the release of a chemical in the brain called “endorphins” that make us feel more relaxed and calm.
- Let your feelings out by writing about them in a journal or create poetry or song lyrics.
- Listen to or play music, which has a soothing effect on almost everyone.
- Draw, paint, or do other creative project that makes you feel happy.
- Rest. It’s fine to take a break, nap, or go to bed early to recover your energy. Sleep helps us focus so we can deal with our feelings better.
Parents can remind their teens that controlling their temper will be hard at first. They will make mistakes and parents should encourage their teens to not be too hard on themselves, but take responsibility for how they acted and how it affected other people. Remind them that “I’m sorry” is a powerful phrase that can help do damage control.
What Parents Can Do
- Listen. When you listen without interrupting or judging, you are sending a powerful message to your teen that you care about what they think and feel and that you’re willing to consider their viewpoint even if you disagree. Many times, repeating back what your teen says to you will help them know they are being heard, but you must show respect for this to work. The slightest hint of sarcasm, cynicism, judgment or insincerity will completely defeat your purpose in any adolescent anger management effort.
- Express empathy. Try to imagine yourself in your teen’s situation. For example, you might say, “When I put myself in your shoes, I can see why you feel that way. It’s ok to be angry, but I would like to help you manage it in a positive way.”
- Avoid teaching or correcting while your child is angry. When someone is angry, they are not ready to hear what they should be doing better or how they should change. There will be a time to offer your child instruction or discipline, but it is when they are calm. It is often helpful to share some of your own similar struggles or experiences with your teen, but again, if they aren’t calm first, then you will be wasting your breath.
- Claim your authority. It is important that you let the teen know that you are in charge of the situation. Adolescents will often try to claim more power than is good for them, but you’re not doing them any favors by giving them more power than they can handle.
- Be a good role model. Youth learn how to deal with their feelings through example. Children watch us more than we think and absorb our actions. Seeing how you react in various situations is the most powerful teacher to your child, so be sure to take the advice of this article for yourself as well!
The key is to not let your teen’s anger control the household. There are lots of anger management support groups throughout the country. Contact your local school or public health agency to find out what groups are available in your area. If you feel like your child’s anger is out of control and/or if you ever feel afraid of your teen, you must get your child professional help – for your sake as well as their own. Contact a counselor, therapist or doctor who will be able to refer you to the right people. Remember that getting angry is normal; letting anger get the best of you is not.