How to Help Your Angry Teen

The yelling, the swearing, the volatile emotions, the black-and-white thinking…the angry teenager.


The outbursts are becoming not only more frequent but maybe also scary. You've try reasoning, punishment and consequences, and nothing is changing. You find yourself on the brink of giving up hope, counting the days until his or her 18th birthday. You're not alone - I’ve talked to many parents that find themselves in this scenario. 


I've noticed a trend in my practice. I'm receiving more and more calls from parents concerned about the inflexible thinking, quick to anger temperaments, and the seemingly out of control behaviors in their child or teen.  


I ascribe to the belief that kids will do well if they can - the pervasive theme in Dr.  Ross Greene’s book The Explosive Child. Unfortunately for the youth today, adults in their lives either do not have the time or do not have the understanding to support the development of adaptive behaviors  and coping strategies for which they lack skills. 


This is not to say that as a parent, you haven’t tried. Frankly the enthusiasm and vigilance to support your teen in managing their behavior and emotions in a healthier way is difficult to sustain. You have your own feelings, experiences and thoughts - both current and past - that pull your energy too! Added to the struggle, parents of behaviorally challenged teens tend to get more blame than is really deserved for their kids’ difficulties. I see you, 


Truth bomb: It’s not that your teen is lacking motivation to behave differently - your teen is lacking SKILLS. Consider this - they haven’t ENJOYED your lectures, or loss of privileges, right? In fact, my guess is you probably see a spike in those undesirable behaviors and mood swings. They have motivation to not continue this cycle! The continuation of it reflects a delay in theIR development of flexibility, frustration tolerance, and problem solving. Handling a disagreement, a disappointment, a change of plans all require these skills. Challenging moods and behaviors are a result of demands being placed on your teen that surpass the skills he/she has to adapt to the demands.


So how can you help your angry, behaviorally challenged teen? 

  1. Shift your perspective on the situation: your teen needs support to develop the skills his/she needs to make real change
  2. When they are not in agitated state, sit down together and collaborate
  3. Discuss  and identify what the problems or situations are that cause the challenging episodes 
  4. Develop strategies to address them (read: work TOGETHER, do not lecture at your teen or they are going to turn those ears right off!)

You and your teen need to learn to view one another as partners, not enemies.

Easier said than done? You bet. However, consider how long your teen has worked on the skills they’ve mastered. Learning to walk? Months. Learning to read? Months. It will take time, because it’s supposed to. 

Need support getting started? Let’s talk!