Watching your teen having a temper tantrum is scary. Adolescent anger management is not something most parents want to deal with, but unfortunately, the situation often can’t be avoided. Here are four strategies that we used in our household with great results:
1. Communication: “There’s nothing wrong with feeling angry.”
Sometimes my teenage son would become so angry that we needed to help him regain control. First, it was important to communicate to him that, “There’s nothing wrong with feeling anger; the important thing is what you do with it.” By acknowledging his anger as a real emotion, we took the first step in successful adolescent anger management. Second, we let him regain control by taking a few minutes to gather his thought and then, by calmly talking about the incident, he could reconnect with his reasoning skill which had shut down during the episode. Speaking out loud, or “verbalizing” about his anger, actually diffused the angry situation.
Another central part of communication is listening. Listening to your teen sends the powerful nonverbal message to him or her that, “What you think and feel matters to me. I may not agree or like what you say, but I’m willing to listen and consider your viewpoint.” This is one of the best ways we helped with our teen’s anger management. Listening also allowed us to show understanding. We imagined ourselves in our adolescent’s position, and attempted to see things from his viewpoint.
2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle: Never underestimate the power of exercise.
Getting rid of stress by exercising regularly is very helpful for teens and something we make time for in our household. Also, eating healthy, nutritious foods helps the body maintain proper energy levels. People who exercise regularly and eat well are less likely to overreact to those annoyances and inconveniences that crop up in daily life. School sports or working out at the local gym are good activities for teens to include in their schedules.
3. Improve time management skills
Teens are busy, and planning their time wisely can be a real challenge. However, one of the most common anger stressors is poor time management. We worked with our teen to maintain a realistic schedule, accommodating school, home and leisure-time activities. When your teen is in a rush and something goes awry in the schedule, he or she likely may react in anger. Learning how to manage time effectively is a great way to avoid the adolescent anger management issue.
4. Create a positive learning opportunity
After the feelings around the angry incident subsided, we worked with our teen to reflect on what had happened and why it had happened in order to prevent such situations from occurring again. We shared similar struggles and experiences and suggested strategies to avoid such anger meltdowns in the future. By stepping away from the situation we could review why our teen was mad. Often people misdirect anger, caused by a valid yet bigger issue, onto everyday annoyances and inconveniences. There are valid reasons to become angry, but there are also triggers (sometimes call hot buttons) that can provoke an angry outburst.
Our teen learned to recognize his triggers, which were certain things that bothered him, and he took steps to avoid them. He also considered what reaction he could have that would not produce anger if the trigger occurred so that he could have a more appropriate reaction next time.
We found that adolescents actually feel more secure when their parents are in charge of the situation and able to pay attention to their concerns. Adolescent anger management is an ongoing challenge in many families, but if you have strategies to use, your house can be a much calmer place.
Maybe you have other tips to add to this list. We found that being proactive was very helpful with our boys. What have you found?