In this lesson you are going to learn why so many youth are defiant and how to address the emotions of an angry teenager. We are going to cover:
If you have not done so already, make sure you have taken our FREE foundation program The Neutral Parenting Formula: A Blueprint For Raising Successful Teenagers. This will really help you get the most from this lesson otherwise some of the concepts outlined may not make sense. You can access it here for FREE through the end of 2012. After this the program will cost $997.
But before you begin this lesson, I want you to think back to the last time you were angry. What made you angry and how did you express it? Did you yell or scream? Did you want to start a fight? Or did you internalize it hoping that it will go away on it’s own? Before you can help your teenager address their anger, it is important that you take an honest look at how you do the same for yourself.
While there may be some crossover between the teen rebellion lesson and this one, I wanted to separate the two because in all practical terms, rebellion is an extreme stage of anger. At times, this emotion is so powerful and scary that most of us shy away from it because we don’t know what to do with it. Because we view anger as a bad thing, we want to sweep it under the rug and never look at it (until it builds up to the point where it explodes and sends us in a downward spiral).
This module is important because if you look at our world now, you will see that we are one giant mass of conflict where most of us are so angry that we don’t know what to do. We don’t get along with other countries, other states, our neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers, and so on. Anger is everywhere and yet we wonder why teens are so angry?
Simply put: Our teenagers are reflecting the world around them. And what I mean by this is that our world does not know how to handle anger and address their emotions in a calm and centered way. So why would they?
Your teenager is on an emotional roller coaster right now because of the intensity of challenges he or she is dealing with. Because many kids don’t know how to handle stress and conflict, they internalize it and it manifests into anger, resentment and then rebellion.
As your child’s guide, you need to help him or her express their emotions in a constructive way. Your child needs to get their anger out or it can completely change how they grow up in the world. The first thing you need to understand is that anger is ok. Let me say this again: anger is ok. Not only is it ok, it’s your friend because it shows you that something is out of alignment. It’s a signpost that says, “Hey, I don’t like this!”
The challenge arises when we don’t know how to face and resolve anger. The main reason that most people don’t know how to do this is because we judge anger as something bad. We only see the negative side of it so we want to ignore it and sweep it under the rug.
When your teen is angry, the first thing you need to do is understand where this anger stems from:
1. Are they angry with someone?
2. Are they angry with themselves?
3. Are they angry because of a situation that happened?
4. Are they angry with you?
If the situation is one of the first three, let them know that it’s ok if they’re angry and that you understand. Acknowledge their anger and let them know it’s ok. By acknowledging their anger they won’t feel bad or wrong and it relieves some of the weight and tension off their shoulders because you have taken some of it on. Also, by acknowledging their anger and letting it be ok, you neutralize the situation. You take the charge out of it and that can help to calm it.
Acknowledge Their Anger
You can say something like: “I can understand why you must feel so angry. If I were you, I would be angry too. It sucks huh?”
What this does is provide them a neutral space to feel it and because you are not invalidating them, they will be able to process it right then and there instead of internalizing it.
Releasing Their Anger
Help them get it out. Tell them to shout, scream, or yell. Punch a pillow. If dad is around let dad be a punching bag and go at it until all the energy is out. Anger is real energy and it needs to land somewhere like a lightening bolt. Be creative in how you help your child face it and let it out.
What if my teen is angry with me?
If they’re angry with you, then you have to dig a little deeper to resolve the issue. Remember you don’t want to take it personally. You now have to be mature for the both of you because they have to be able to vent, and you have to listen without reacting regardless of whether they’re right or wrong. This is what is meant by being a “neutral parent”.
More importantly, you have to be able to decipher what it is they’re actually saying. You have to see through the anger and emotions to figure out what’s underneath it. They’re not going to be able to speak to you in a calm and rational way so you have to be a detective and search out the core truth of their information (I know, sounds easier on paper right?).
Then you need to have the patience to transform their anger toward you into something constructive. The best way of doing this is by letting them say everything they have to say so that they can release the tension inside. Then give them some space so they can relax and calm down. Once they have calmed down, you can try and resolve whatever issue they’re angry about.
Changing Your Approach
It should be noted that if your teenager is angry with you, then they are angry because of “how” you have been developing your relationship with them and “how” you have been approaching your parenting. Generally speaking, parents assume that their kids are angry at them because they are trying to discipline and this is NOT true. Many kids are upset with their parents because of “how” they have been disciplining them and why they discipline them.
Being A Strict Parent
Setting boundaries for teenagers is a good thing. Controlling them and trying to keep them from living their life is not a healthy approach. If your teenager has ever accused you of being too strict, then you will need to take an honest look at yourself to find out if this is true. Now, the trick here is that if you base your reasoning on “how” your parents raised you, then you may need to look at the fact that your parents taught you by being too strict.
Were Your Parents Too Strict?
This is where many families struggle because your teenager lives in a much different world then the one you grew up in. These days’ kids have access to everything and while this does not mean that they should be able to do what they want, it does mean that you need to change “how” you approach the situation. Most of the rebellion you see taking place stems from parents being too strict and what this means is that you need to change “how” you set boundaries which is what this entire course outlines: change “how” you set your boundaries so that your teenager will not rebel.
Teaching your child to become more attune to their emotions is going to be vital to the success of their life. Anger is a sign and symbol that is sending a loud and clear message: “Hey, I don’t like this so please do something about it”.
It’s an empowering experience when someone is capable of being constructive with his or her anger. It’s an art form when an individual is able to share their emotions and still get their point across without shouting or screaming. When you look at spiritual philosophies such as Buddhism, where an entire culture has devoted their life to this way of being, you can truly start to see how powerful it really is.
Becoming A Therapist
Once again, you can either learn to do this yourself or you can spend thousands of dollars having a therapist do this. This is why people go to therapy: to get in touch with their emotions. All you need to do is be willing to be neutral and provide your teenager a safe place where they can talk about what is going on, then you can avoid having to go to therapy. It just requires that you ask good questions, be willing to listen, and then follow up with more questions. It is the good questions that helps guide the person in therapy to reveal to himself or herself what is going on. This is what will put them in touch with their emotions.
If you’re not able to teach your teenager how to be more in touch with their emotions, he or she will internalize it. Anytime you turn on the news and see kids out of control, fights, and other destructive behaviors, this is the result of them not being able to be in touch with their emotions. Our anger must go somewhere and if we cannot strike a balance so that we have control over it, we will internalize it. It causes havoc down the road because it builds up inside and explodes into something that creates chaos (whether at home, school, or elsewhere).
When a child internalizes their anger and does not have anyone to talk to or a way of releasing their anger, this is how they become a troubled teen. What happens is that they are experiencing turmoil “inside their body” and this is affecting their behavior. As time goes on and their emotions go unchecked, then other aspects of their life will become affected and they will act out with erratic behaviors until their issues and emotions are addressed.
One of the biggest pitfalls people enter into when dealing with anger is that they take on the victim role and re-create situations as if they have been victimized. When people choose this path it can send them on a downward spiral because they haven’t accepted responsibility for their choices and actions. While it’s true that someone else may not have been very nice or a situation may not have turned out as they would have liked, it’s still important not to create a story in their minds that they are victimized. The most powerful tool you can teach your child is to see everything from a neutral perspective. When people make themselves out to be victims, they’re really saying that they don’t have control over their lives and that what happens outside of them controls them. As your teenagers guide, you need to teach them how to take responsibility for their choices and actions.
Here is something you can say to them:
“No matter what happens in life, you are responsible for how it makes you feel. Just because someone does something wrong or bad does not mean you have to take it on as your own. You’re in control of your emotions and it’s up to you not to let things get the best of you. Remember, you can’t control what others say or do but you can control how you respond to it.”
Using Anger In A Positive Way
When your teenager is angry, it’s your responsibility to teach them how to channel their energy in a constructive manner so they can explore their emotions and do something positive with them. Just as in the other modules of this course, first you need to confront your own issues with anger to ensure you have a healthy relationship with it.
Helping your teenager find their balance with anger so that he or she can use it in a constructive way is a great gift to bestow on them so that they do not have to suffer as much as others do. Here is a step-by-step action plan for helping them put their anger into perspective:
Step 1 – Acknowledge It
First you need to teach your child that being angry is not only ok, but also healthy because it’s a sign that they can use to show them that something is out of balance. When something happens that makes your child feel angry, tell them it is ok to be angry. This is very important because it will help to neutralize the situation.
Step 2 – Look At It
By teaching your child to acknowledge their anger and take a close look at it, they can then learn more about themselves and come up with potential solutions. Be specific and make them tell you what it is about the situation makes them so angry? Show your child that by remaining neutral with their anger, it allows them to resolve it and move on with their lives. Once it’s out on the surface it can actually be transformed into something healthy. Take the time with your teenager to objectively look at what it is that angers them so much.
Step 3 – Feel It
Once your teenager looks at the situation, they can feel the emotions that come with it. Help your teenager feel their anger. Say things to them like, “It hurts doesn’t it?” “It sucks that this and that has happened doesn’t it?” By allowing them to feel it they won’t suppress their emotions and it provides the initial phase of the healing process.
Step 4 – Release It
Anger has a lot of passion behind it that needs to be released. You can help your teen do this by allowing them to scream, yell, shout, hit a pillow, exercise, or something physical. Whatever works for them is fine as long as they can release the emotions. Martial arts is a great platform for kids to release their anger because it allows them to fight at the same time that it teaches them honor, respect, and discipline. I cannot stress how important it is that they have a physical outlet for their anger.
Step 5 – Transform It
Once your teenager has looked at their anger and gotten it out of their system, they can transform it by exploring what it was and how it angered them. You need to ask good questions about what happened and help them accept their role in the process even if it means them just accepting that they can’t control everything (accept their emotions). It’s very important that you help them put it into perspective so that they can resolve it and move on with their lives. What you need to do is go through the scenario with them and explore what happened, why it happened, and what they could have done differently (what choices they could have made) that would have sent them in a different direction. Or, the other side of the coin is that sometimes people just need to learn acceptance and allowance (meaning you can’t control everything) and this could be a good time for them to start learning this tool.
When a teenager has not been taught to transform their anger at the early stages of it, then it bottles up inside of them and grows into something quite nasty(i.e. Troubled Teenager). If your teenager is experiencing extreme forms of anger, then make sure to read the modules entitled:
An important factor here is “how” you handle your anger with them and the world. Your kids are watching you so they will internalize how to handle anger by the way you handle anger. I recall growing up and always seeing my uncle yell at cars next to us as we were driving saying things like “fucking asshole!” or “Learn to drive dumbass!” and I remember thinking to myself, “Is this the way I am supposed to talk to people if they do something wrong?”
Be aware of your own approach to anger and do it in a healthy way. Don’t hide or keep your anger from your kids. Show them so they don’t feel that anger is something we just put away and ignore. By doing this you show them that its ok to express feelings and it helps them deal with it in the moment. If you haven’t learned how to deal with anger yet, use the step-by-step tools I suggest above and start your process of learning how to transform anger.