Parenting an Angry Teenager


“I hate you! Why can’t you just let me go? I know you let them go last year!” your troubled teen yells from behind the door of their room, which they’ve, of course, locked.

If you’re a parent of an angry teenager, especially a troubled boy, this article will help you recognize the roots of their anger and what you can do to help your teen. The tips you’ll be learning are research-backed and highly effective, mostly if they’re done in conjunction with things like family therapy and therapeutic boarding schools.

The Teenage Brain and Thought Process

As many researchers have found, anger often masks other emotions. Before we talk about what these emotions may be hiding, you’ll need to understand some teen psychology.

The teen years are a stage of life spent trying to figure out who you are and what’s important in life. This often means that your teen may break away from their family’s perspectives and values by experimenting with different ideas or even challenging their parents.

On top of wanting to be independent, your teen’s brain is not fully developed. Because of this lack of development, they may struggle with emotional regulation, and they may be impulsive. So, a mixture of wanting to be independent and a lack of emotional regulation can manifest into emotions like anger and behaviors like defiance.

An anger response is also often rooted in gender, as anger is seen as a typical and socially-accepted response from boys and men. That is, we’re more comfortable as a society with angry males than males who are what we consider “soft.”

Unmasking the Roots of Your Teens’ Anger

Understanding some of teen psychology is helpful, but you’ll also need to have the tools to recognize the root of teen anger. Here are some of the roots of teen anger and some strategies that may help communicate effectively with your teen.

1. Anger may be a sign of your teen’s boundaries being violated.

In The Upside of Your Darkside, Dr. Todd Kashdan and Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener write that anger often is a sign of our boundaries being violated. For example, your teen might respond with anger if you read their diary or enter their room without knocking. Your teen may take these two examples as a way of infantilizing them and treating them like their children without any rights.

Likewise, other boundary violations could include:

  • Expecting your child to take on the duties that a parent typically has, such as taking care of their siblings, especially on a routine basis. This is an example of what psychologists refer to as parentification, or treating a child like an adult.
  • Involving your teen in you and your spouse’s arguments or private conversations. This is also another example of parentifying your child.

2. Anger is a response to a supposed threat

The researchers Dr. Kashdan and Dr. Biswas-Diener write,
“Anger usually emerges because we believe we’ve been treated unfairly or that something is blocking our ability to accomplish meaningful goals.”

The physiological aspect of this might be having a lot of energy that your teen feels like they need to release. Sometimes, this results in an angry outburst.

3. Anger may be linked to certain mental illnesses and behavioral disorders

Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder are two common examples of a mental illness or behavior disorder that could be linked to angry outbursts. In these two specific disorders, rage may be triggered by what your teen views as a significant offense (which usually is a minor offense).

Irritability, which is common in bipolar mania and amongst those with autism, can also lead to angry outbursts.

2 Strategies to Help Your Teen With Anger Issues

Knowing the root causes of anger in your teen can help you empathize with them and have a deeper understanding of what they’re experiencing. However, you still need to be able to address these issues in an effective manner. So, here are two of the most effective ways to help your teen begin to manage their anger issues.

1. Talk to them!

It goes without saying that if you want to help your teen, you’ll need to be able to find out how they’re feeling and the cause(s) of their anger. If it’s boundary violations, then you’ll need to address that by honoring their rights.

If it’s the assumption that they believe that they’re under threat, find out who and why.

Finally, if you suspect that it’s a mental or behavioral health issue, speak to a clinically-licensed mental and behavioral health professional.

While you do this, remember that they’re brain hasn’t fully developed and that they might not know how to express themselves in a healthier way. Remind your teen that while anger can be useful and indicate that we’re unhappy with how we’re being treated, responding with anger in our behavior is not always the best or most effective approach.

2. Model the behaviors that you would like to see

If your teen sees you yelling at your spouse or being unable to contain your rage after a roadside incident, then they’ll also copy this behavior. You cannot tell your teen to engage in healthy ways of expressing themselves while you have angry outbursts regularly. So, model the behavior that you would like to see in your child.

How Liahona Treatment Center Can Help You and Your Teen

If your teen continues to have angry outbursts, consider a therapeutic boarding school like Liahona Treatment Center. At our Center, we’re able to help you and your teen in various ways, including:

1. Helping your teen with the ability to identify stressors and help them with emotional regulation

At our Center, we focus on coping skills and self-soothing techniques that will help your teen manage emotions like anger. That’s because the schedule we’ve created for our students includes daily activities such as recreational therapy, meeting with their therapist for individual sessions, journaling, and group therapy.

2. Helping your teen with setting and maintaining boundaries

Because anger is often rooted in the assumption that our rights are being taken away, at Liahona, we intentionally discuss with our students what their current boundaries are like and how they wish those boundaries were. This gives your teen the room to express themselves. It also gives them the tools that they need to engage with others in a healthy way. Your teen will learn that they will need to honor you and other family members’ boundaries.

These two key aspects are crucial to parenting an angry teen, and that’s why we’ve centered them in our schedule.

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