It happens to all of us: Things don’t go our way and we lose our cool. Granted, as grown-ups we’re a little more versed — prayerfully — at how we deal with our anger, but what about teenagers? We expect them to know the difference between right and wrong and how to act versus reacting. But is it fair for us to put those kinds of expectations on them if they’ve never been taught how to behave in certain situations? Here are a few key concepts you can use to help your teenagers learn to cope with their anger in healthy and respectful ways.
1. Let them vent
When your teenager comes home from school slamming doors and verbally taking out his frustrations on you, the dog and the refrigerator — let him. Give him the space to vent and get it all out of his system without judging, correcting or getting angry yourself. If he even needs to say an inappropriate word or 10, let him have at that, as well. It’s only temporary, and you’ll have your chance to remind him of the rules when things aren’t so emotionally charged. Regardless of the root of his rage, forcing your teenager to swallow his anger and telling him he’s wrong for feeling the way he does is a recipe for rebellion, self-destruction, bullying or all of the above. Remember, most of the time he doesn’t even know why he’s angry so letting him get to the bottom of the issue on his own will help him in the long run.
While it may be challenging for you to hear your son so angry and hurt, remember to keep calm. As long as everyone is safe, do whatever is needed not to take it personally and allow the anger to run its course. Pray, go outside, breathe, pray some more. Soon enough he’ll come around, and the two of you will have the chance to process together.
2. Acknowledge their perspective
What your teenager is feeling and going through is totally valid. By letting her know you understand what she’s feeling will help break down any walls or false pretenses she may have constructed. She’ll be more likely to open up to you when she feels you “have her back” and are truly there to help rather than judge or change her.
3. Change lenses
At this point, you’ll be able to help your teenager see things from another perspective. Whether it was a friend, teacher or unicorn that triggered the outburst, have him look at the situation through the eyes of the offender. Encourage him to see beyond the behavior of the person or mystical creature to discover the unmet need that was the cause of it and allow him to problem-solve from this new vantage point.
Now that your son or daughter has the full spectrum of information, he or she can fairly and lovingly come up with a solution that resonates on his or her own level. Your only job, at this point, is to continually support your child’s choices and keep things in balance if they tend to sway a little to one side or another. Allowing your teenager to learn coping skills in his or her own “voice” is gifting them with a lifetime of confidence and compassion that will transfer into every area of their lives.
5. Practice what you preach
Rest assured your teenager will be hungry for the chance to use your own words against you, so be ready. When you lose your temper with the driver in front of you or the boss that calls you at 10 at night, accept your teenager’s “correction” with grace and gratitude. Consider it a compliment when you hear your own words of wisdom coming out of the mouth of your son or daughter. It simply means you’ve done your job well, and your advice is solid enough to be recycled by even the most unlikely source.
Danica Trebel is a mom to two AMAZING teenage sons, a recovering perfectionist and a Life and Family Dynamics Coach. She specializes in helping families tune up their relationships through perspective, communication and faith www.danicatrebel.com