Teenage Problems: Anger Management

mad at teenYou can be having a perfectly fine day then a single interaction from your moody teenager can turn your previously stable mood upside down.  What is it about this adolescent age that has the ability to completely change your emotional state in an instant?

The teenager also is experiencing an internal state of flux – going from a seemingly pleasant child to an angry young adult in a flash, taking you and your pleasant mood with him along for the ride.

“How was your day at school?”

“Huh?”  or silence

“I would like to be able to talk with you once in a while.”

“Yeah, like you care or even understand my life.”

“Well, I can’t understand if you won’t give me a chance.”

“Whatever.”

Where does this sullenness come from? You ask yourself, ‘what did I do to warrant this behavior?’ Without communication from the other side the answers seem as silent as the teenager.

There are two common reactions to this typical situation. One is to give up entirely and wait for the difficult adolescent years to pass, hoping that this phase will pass quickly. The other reaction is to get mad and fight to get your pleasant child back. This latter response rarely works because an adolescent is changing and will never be the child of old. The sullenness, the rebellion, the withdrawal from most things ‘parent’ is the fight for independence, which every adolescent must go through to become a healthy adult.

Yet you miss the sweet child that was, and resist the pending independence, even while knowing deep down that it’s the natural course of events.  You’re mad that your teen doesn’t seem to need you anymore, and is making it perfectly clear with her attitude. The ungrateful, unappreciative little wretch is trying to fly away, but in the meanest way possible (or so it feels like).

A couple of anger management tips will help you check your behavior so you don’t do or say something you’ll regret later.

1) Give him some space – don’t jump right in and crowd the playing field with your anger, which will serve to escalate a bad situation, making it worse.

“What you mean by using that tone of voice with me young man?” is not helpful.

Preferably, “It seems like you have something serious on your mind.  Could we revisit this later this evening when we can both come at this a little calmer?”

2) Weigh the consequences of responding with high emotion and physical violence versus a more measured response.  It can be hard to refrain from lashing out verbally or physically during the heat of the moment, when anger is running strong and you just want to show that unruly, stubborn, rebellious teenager who’s the boss. But stopping yourself to consider the pros and cons of your next action – even taking a few minutes to allow the anger to dissipate (emotion runs the height of its course after 90 seconds) – is the mature course of action.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  The difficult adolescent years often bring parents quick to anger, as you grapple with a confused, frustrated teenager who’s really just trying to figure it all out the best way he knows how — without your help. This is hard to accept, that she would push you away, but it’s the only way she can gain her independence.  As this process unfolds your anger must be contained, over the many years of adolescence into young adulthood.

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