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Angry Teens

How can you help an angry teen?

Recently I had the privilege of being a guest on a national radio talk show. The show's topic was Anger. As callers phoned in with their questions and comments, I heard a recurring theme; "what do you do when you're teen is angry all the time?" That made me realize how big of a problem we really have. It seems that we have a lot of angry teens out there. The Ethics of American Youth Survey, by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, indicates that many teens are using physical aggression to express their anger. The survey questioned 43,321 teens ages 15 to 18. The findings revealed that in the past 12 months:

  • 52% of these students have hit someone in anger.
  • 28% (37% of boys, 19% of girls) of these students say it's okay to hit or threaten a person who makes them angry.

Why are teens so ready to lash out in anger? What can we do to help them?

Upon devoting many years researching and studying anger, I have developed a seven step process to help people cope with anger. Below I've included a brief synopsis of each step in hopes to give one more person the ability to defeat the controlling effects of anger...

Seven Steps to Control Anger

Seven Steps to Control Anger

1. Explore Your Anger

Have you ever wondered why you're so angry? Exploring the roots of your anger and how it is affecting your life and your relationships with others is the first and most important step in anger management. All behavior serves a purpose. Explore what's got you so hot headed. What purpose is your anger serving?

2. Understand Your Anger

Understand where all of your anger is coming from. It is important to become aware of situations that make you angry, notice what you do when you get angry, and think through the consequences of your actions. Learn to identify your anger triggers. Also, identify your body's response to anger. Does your face get red, your muscles tighten or does your heart beat faster? Knowing these signs and your response to anger will increase self-awareness, which may help you to diffuse an anger provoking situation. A great way to track your anger patterns is through self-monitoring and journaling. By becoming more aware and keeping track of your anger episodes, you can begin to change your response to anger.

3. Communicate Effectively When You're Angry

Communication is an important part of working through anger. Learning the art of effective communication can turn a tense situation around. Practice using good listening skills, make eye contact, clarify what is being said, use non-accusatory statements and most of all, make sure that you have all of the information before you react. Using "I" as opposed to "You" messages is another great communication tool. Below is an example:

"I" Message

I felt angry when you ignored me today because it made me feel like you didn't like me.

As opposed to...

"You" Message

You always ignore me!

Notice how the "You" message is an accusatory statement that puts the receiver on the defense.

4. Identify Your Feelings

Anger is an emotion that can be concealed and oftentimes confused with other emotions (i.e., jealousy, greed, embarrassment and being hurt). Learn to sort through your emotions before acting out of impulse. Identify what you're really feeling and address that emotion rather than mask it with anger.

5. Think About Your Anger Differently

When things make us angry, we tend to distort how we think about the situation. For example, you may misinterpret events, think the worst about everything, blame others or blow things out of proportion. Being able to identify your negative thoughts and change those to more positive ones will help keep things in perspective. Cognitive restructuring or changing how you think about the situation can change how you respond to it.

6. Release Your Anger

Find an outlet to release some steam. Focus on deep breathing, shoot some hoops, hit a heavy bag, meditate, or just read a book. It doesn't matter what you do to relax, just do it. Make it a priority in your life.

7. Transform Your Anger

The final stage involves putting all of the steps together and synthesizing them into who you are and how you handle anger. It's okay to move back and forth through various steps of the anger management cycle as you work through the transformation stage. As with any behavioral change, it's going to take time to transform your response to anger. If you approach this change with dedication, discipline and determination you'll see some great results.

"For every minute you're angry, you lose sixty seconds of happiness" ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

It is important to note that anger may be associated with other mental health disorders. If you are looking for more information regarding anger disorders Dr. Stephen Diamond has a blog that you may find useful. If you feel that you or your teen's anger is attributed to something bigger than just a short fuse, please seek professional help.