HOW ANGRY IS TOO ANGRY?

April 26, 2016 | 0 comments

It’s difficult to be objective about your teenage child’s anger — you’re so close to the situation and so emotionally involved that objectivity can be nearly impossible. Teenagers are often dealing with unfamiliar external pressures as well as dramatic internal changes, and their reactions can be extremely emotional — often angry. While anger is a normal, healthy emotion, it’s tough to determine how much anger is normal, especially when you’re dealing with an adolescent. Yelling, arguing, name-calling, and crying can all be normal teenage responses to anger. When anger turns to rage or violence, however, the behavior has crossed the line into dangerous territory. The list below outlines the behaviors to look for if you’re worried that your teenage child is in trouble.

SIGNS OF PROBLEMATIC ANGER

  • Getting into physical fights at school or at home with siblings
  • Excessive arguing with parents, teachers, peers, siblings, etc.
  • Excessive emotional outbursts and rage
  • Frequent irritability
  • Irrationality
  • Bullying
  • Relationship/dating violence
  • Verbal threats
  • Being cruel to younger siblings or pets (those who can’t defend themselves)
  • Physical violence
  • Destroying property
  • Self-harm (cutting, burning, etc.)

WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP?

HELP GET TO THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM

First, wait for your child to calm down. Trying to have a rational conversation while your teen is still having an emotional outburst or fit of rage will be counter-productive, and may cause you to become frustrated as well. When your child has calmed down, talk to them — try to get to the heart of the problem. Ask questions: “Is something wrong at school or with friends?” Listen to his or her problems without judgment. Remember, they may become angry, or they may not tell you. It’s still important to show that you care.

ESTABLISH EXPECTATIONS, RULES, AND CONSEQUENCES

It’s important to remember, at this point, that you can’t control someone else’s emotions — don’t try to “manage” your teen’s anger. What you can do is set realistic expectations and consequences, and give your child the tools to more effectively cope with his or her negative emotions. The first thing to do is to sit down with your adolescent child when you are both calm. Explain that anger is a valid emotional reaction that everyone experiences, and that you are more concerned about the negative, angry behaviors that they are displaying than the emotion itself.

REDUCE SCREEN TIME

Spending too much time on electronic devices (smart phones, video game consoles, tablets, etc.) can disturb your child’s sleep patterns. Poor sleep patterns can lead to irritability and increase the likelihood of an angry outburst. It’s also important to monitor your teens’ electronic device habits — exposure to violent TV shows, video games, and movies can increase the likelihood of violent behavior and outbursts as well.

FIND A HEALTHY OUTLET

The ideal solution is to find a healthy outlet for your teen to channel his or her anger. It’s a way to literally turn a negative into a positive, especially if they can use the energy to improve their physical condition or practice a skill. Of course, every child is different, so they may have to try a few things before they land on something that really sparks their interest. Healthy outlets can include (but certainly aren’t limited to):

  • Sports
  • Exercise
  • Yoga
  • Writing in a journal
  • Playing loud, angry music

LEAD BY EXAMPLE

It’s important to remember that your child learns their behavior from you. If you channel your frustrations into positive activities, they will, too. On the other hand, if you fly into a rage and start shouting and throwing things, your teenage child may think that this is an appropriate emotional response to frustration. This is even more important to remember when your teen is having an angry outburst. While it may be extremely difficult to do, remaining calm during your teenage child’s outburst will set a behavioral example for them as well as help diffuse the situation.

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