How to Handle Teen Outbursts
Anger is a natural human emotion and it's an absolutely normal response to a variety of different circumstances. You don't need to hide it or pretend it doesn't exist, but you shouldn't let your teen blow her top every time she's upset. Instead, it's important to acknowledge her feelings and help her find other methods to vent her frustrations and deal with emotion. Your home might just be a scream-free zone before you know it.
Stay calm. Even if your teen is yelling, shouting and howling, keep your cool. While she might not want to acknowledge it right now, you're still a leading role model in her life. Your reaction to heated outbursts demonstrates to your teen what is appropriate and what is not when she is upset.
Do not yell back, even if you're just trying to be heard over his ruckus. A teenager's brain differs in some ways from an adult's brain. There is much higher activation in a teen's amygdala, the emotional center, than in an adult's brain. When you yell, your teen likely will react automatically to your decibel level, which just escalates the problem.
Listen to what is frustrating your teenager. She's yelling, so you might as well hear what she is trying to say. While it might be more ideal if she brought down the decibel level, this is an opportunity to try to discern information about what caused the outburst. If you already know the cause -- maybe she's grounded or you won't give in to a request -- she's probably telling you exactly why she disagrees with your decision. Think of this time as an opportunity for your teen to vent and for you to pick out some droplets of information from the steam 2.
Validate his feelings. Teens often spout lines such as, “You don't care" or “You don't understand." Instead of criticizing him for his emotions, let him know you do care, you do understand how he feels and you're willing to work out a solution together. For example, “I understand that you want to go out with your friends every night, but it's important for you to get your homework done. Let's work out something to help you stay on track with your homework and get as much time in with your friends as possible."
Talk about the outburst at a later time when her temper has cooled. While your teenager might still be upset, telling her that her outbursts are not appropriate probably won't help. Wait until later and tell your teenager how her outbursts make you feel. Turn it into a positive discussion about other ways to talk about troubling circumstances and feelings and how to blow off steam.
- Secrets of the Teenage Brain: Research-Based Strategies for Reaching and Teaching Today's Adolescents; Sheryl G. Feinstein
- Why Do They Act That Way?: A Survival Guide to the Adolescent Brain for You and Your Teen; David Walsh, et al.
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