Parents, you have so much to do with how your teenager handles their anger. Here are 5 things to think about with how you model anger for your teen:
1. Anger is not bad; mismanaged anger is bad. People tend to believe one should not feel or show anger at all, and that it is best to be calm all the time. That really isn’t true. Anger is sometimes justified. Anger is meant to help us move to action when a wrong is committed. When our move to action causes us to behave violently, belligerently, or rudely, is when it’s a problem.
2. We teach our children about anger. Our children learn about how to display and how to cope with anger from our example. If we yell and scream at the slightest provocation, they will quite possibly do the same. If we withdraw every time we feel mad, they learn to behave like that. If we take some deep breaths, slow everything down, and then think carefully, they will learn from that example.
3. Ask questions. When your teenager is angry, try to ask very gentle questions. If they realize you’re willing to listen to what they really need to say they will calm down. You might not give in, and you’re not obligated to. However, hearing them out for quite some time before you respond is really important.
4. Recognize when anger is justified. Be aware of when you’re angry because you were truly wronged versus when you feel offended without enough information. Managing anger is all about patience. If you are able to show your teenager that you can wait for all the pieces of the puzzle before you get heated, you’ll teach them the same. Here’s an example: Your boss gives someone else the project you’ve always expressed wanting to work on. You could get angry and feel personally offended. The other option is to ask why that happened. You just might discover that your boss has something even better in the pipeline for you.
5. Clarify. When it comes to your own family it’s rare they are trying to truly sabotage you. Get clarification on things you don’t understand. Oftentimes things are not how they look. If you see your spouse sitting around when you think they should be helping around the house, ask before you criticize. You will teach your teen the be the same way. That way they won’t accuse you of doing nothing all day while they’re at school, or some other such nonsense.
Anger is a tough emotion. I get a lot of calls from worried parents that their teenager needs counseling to deal with their anger. Sometimes these teens truly are angry, but it doesn’t come from nowhere. It’s not to say it’s all mom and dad’s fault. That is never the case. However, when we collaborate together mom and dad see how to help lead their teen to more constructive ways of dealing with this challenging emotion.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT