Coping with Anger & Hostility From a Teenager: Advice & Strategies for Parents

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Causes of Anger in Teens

The first step to adolescent anger management is understanding what triggers rage in your teenager. The causes can be complicated with several factors combining to give an upsetting result. Here are some of the signs to look out for:

  • Teenagers are coping with changes in their bodies and hormonal changes can leave them feeling unsettled and emotional. Anger can be part of this, especially if they are not happy with their appearance and physical growth.
  • Social life is a major part of teen culture and brings a number of issues with it. If teenagers are not part of the in-crowd, they may react in anger against the perceived things that are stopping them from being popular.
  • Teenagers can become very angry with parents if they feel their rules are too restrictive. Conversely, they can also become angry if there are no boundaries and they are allowed to do as they please. This equates to a lack of caring in their minds.
  • Abuse and bullying at home or school can cause angry outbursts.
  • Fear can cause anger in teenagers as they struggle to cope with all the changes life throws at them.

How Teens Express Anger

Adolescent anger is expressed in a number of ways that are influenced by the teenager’s age, sex, personality type and upbringing. Here are some of the typical ways that teens communicate anger:

  • Resentment against parents is a form of teen anger that can simmer for years. It may be provoked by rules and curfews they consider unfair.
  • Teen anger may be internalized and come out as a bad attitude or surly behavior toward those in authority over them. Sarcasm is commonly seen and the teen may also engage in nasty gossip.
  • Other teens express their anger by violent or destructive behavior. They may destroy items in the home or harm themselves. Some vent their frustration through vandalizing public properties.

Depression and Anger in Teens

Anger can be a sign of teen depression and this is something parents should look out for. Symptoms of depression in children and teens are different than adults, meaning sometimes the condition is missed. If a teen displays the following behavior patterns on an ongoing basis, take them to a doctor for a professional assessment:

  • Irritability
  • Grumpiness
  • Hostility
  • Frustration
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Low self esteem
  • Feelings of rejection
  • Withdrawal from friends

Further Resources

It is important that parents work on communicating with angry teenage children. Although it may seem that their offspring hates and rejects them, this is generally not the case. Here are some examples of how parents have helped their teens to manage their anger and channel it in more appropriate ways:

Example 1

Cindy was angry and hostile toward her parents and accused them of restricting her freedom. Her mother and father sat her down at the kitchen table and asked her to tell them exactly how she felt toward them. They promised not to react, instead making notes of her frustrations. They then asked her what she saw as a solution. Cindy felt she had a safe place to express her anger and her parents were able to work through the issues with her and come to an arrangement that both sides were comfortable with. It may be necessary to repeat this process many times as a teen matures.

Example 2

Over a period of months, Matthew changed from a confident young man into an irritable teen who moped around the house. He would fly into a rage from time to time and he broke a door and smashed some kitchen appliances. His father bought a punching bag and some boxing gloves and when he sensed tension, would invite Matthew to go into the garage with him and practice some boxing moves. This helped defuse the physical side of Matthew’s anger and also gave time for good father-son communication.

Example 3

Sometimes a teen realizes they have overreacted in anger but don’t know how to back down. Laura was guilty of this when she had a screaming match with her mother and didn’t know how to end it. Her mother helped her save face by bursting into laughter instead of prolonging the shouting. She told Laura she had won that round in terms of volume but in future she would prefer it if they could talk instead of shout. Laura appreciated this response instead of threats and punishment.

Example 4

While parents can cause anger in their teenagers, their children may also suffer stress at school and with friends. Sean was being bullied on a daily basis and was angry that no one seemed able to help him. His parents asked if he would like them to speak to the school principal but he declined. Instead they sat down with him and helped him work out a plan of action which he carried through himself. With each minor success, his anger levels subsided until the bullying stopped and he was back to his usual self.

See What Works

Adolescent and anger management strategies will vary from teen to teen and family to family. It may be worth experimenting with a few approaches to see what suits your individual situation best. Communication is vital and parents should never be too proud to admit their mistakes – especially when they have caused upset to their teenager children.