Why is My Teen So Angry?

Yes, teens are moody. They often roll their eyes, act annoyed, and slam doors. This is to be expected, as teenagers are going through rapid hormonal changes, tend to be overscheduled, are dealing with a lot of stress, and are trying to establish their own identity. It’s a lot for anyone to manage and that means that most teens will lash out from time to time.

However, there is a big difference between the teen who is moody, or occasionally lashes out, and the teen who is openly hostile. In previous blogs, we have discussed how to deal with defiant and angry teens, and you might want to read: 10 strategies for dealing with a defiant teen and dealing with teen anger and violence which give advice on how to deal with an angry teen. However, in today’s blog, we are going to examine an idea you might not have thought of before, and to be honest, you might not like to hear. Before you decide that your teen has a real anger management problem, at least consider this question: Could I be the cause of my kid’s angry outbursts?

Loving parents make mistakes. We all do! You might have no idea that something you have said or done has hurt your child, filling them with anger. You might have had the best of intentions when you made a statement or decision, but it wasn’t received the way you intended. Psychotherapist, Sean Grover, the author of When Kids Call the Shots, says there are five common mistakes parents make that can infuriate their teenager. Ask yourself if you’ve made any of these errors:

Criticism. Research shows that people thrive in a positive and encouraging environment, not in a critical one. Criticizing your teen makes them feel like a failure. If you feel like your teen is making poor choices, make sure you are role modeling the behavior you want and also ask your teen a lot of open-ended questions to help them get to the right path themselves. For example, instead of telling your teen why something they did was wrong, try asking your teen, ‘what would you do differently in this situation next time?’ Your words are very powerful in your child’s life. Teenagers may act tough, but underneath they have a very fragile sense of self. Never say anything to your teen that you wouldn’t want someone to say to you.

Unsolicited Advice. Children spend all of their lives being ordered around by the adults in their lives. As they go through adolescence, teens begin the process or establishing independence. They want to make their own decisions and create their own identity. As a result, unsolicited advice is rarely well-received by teenagers, especially when the advice is given with a built-in directive, such as “you need to do this…” Unsolicited advice tends to increase defiance and undermine trust. Instead, simply listen to your teen without judgment and acknowledge their feelings. All teens want their parents’ approval and attention.

Comparison. Comparing someone to another person never helps and is often unfair. Every person is an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses and deserves to be treated individually. Saying things like, “why can’t you finish your chores like your sister does,” will just hurt your teen’s feelings. These types of statements are frequently at the root of teenagers’ anger at their parents. Many teenagers feel they are under attack when their parents compare them to peers or siblings. It also undermines their peer/sibling relationships and increases emotional tension.

Victimizing. Do you complain about your kids? There are many parents who whine and grumble to friends or relatives about how annoying or frustrating parenting is. True, parenting is NOT easy, but imagine how your teen feels to hear you speak about them so negatively to others! It’s embarrassing and hurtful. If you need to vent, do it in private with a trustworthy individual who will keep it private. Otherwise, keep your complaints to yourself. Such negativity weakens your leadership, encourages your teen to complain about you, and causes emotional wounds that result in angry outbursts.

Boasting. Many parents start a lecture with “when I was your age,…” Boasting about yourself to your teen implies that your teen is not good enough as they are and/or they should be more like you. This will rub your teen the wrong way because, developmentally, adolescents are working on separation from family and establishing their own identity. No one is inspired by someone else’s boasting. Instead, find a way to highlight your teen’s strengths and praise their efforts when they try something regardless of the outcome. If you focus on your teen’s positives, you might be surprised how much happier your teen is and more willing to work to please you.

Final thoughts…

It can be a hard lesson to realize that the behaviors you don’t like in your teen can actually be a reflection of yourself. The truth is that teens model themselves on what you have demonstrated. If you are impatient, your teen will also struggle with being patient. If you bully your teen, they will likely become a bully to others. Take time to consider your values and make sure that your actions are in alignment with them. You might be surprised to find a great teen shine through when you make some behavior changes in your own life.

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