Anger

Boost Your Teen's Well-Being

Research-proven ways to reduce adolescent anger and increase motivation.

Posted Jan 01, 2020

william87/DepositPhotos
Source: william87/DepositPhotos

It’s a new year. Or maybe it’s just time to reflect on how your parenting practices affect your adolescent’s growth and development.

Whatever the reason, a few parenting resolutions may bring surprising results for your whole family.

Recent research studies show why the teenage years may be challenging for parents and children. They also suggest how the right parenting strategies can make a positive shift in a child’s life. 

The Purpose of Resolutions

Everyone makes resolutions from time to time. But what exactly is a resolution? And how can resolutions be applied to parenting? One of the ways the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a resolution is “the act of analyzing a complex notion into simple ones.”

Most parents agree that adolescence is complex and often confusing. The challenges of raising teens can be so overwhelming that many parents feel helpless during these formative years. But what happens when you break down the complexity into actionable parenting behaviors that can make a difference? 

You’ve just created a resolution that you can act upon!

Making too many resolutions isn’t sustainable. Here are two common issues facing families with adolescents. By breaking down the complexity and getting underneath the problem, parents can more purposefully nurture a child’s well-being from the inside out.

Parenting Resolutions That Ease Complex Problems

1. The Issue: “My Teen Is Angry”

According to a Harvard Medical School study of more than 10,000 teens and their parents, 63.3 percent of adolescents report attacks of anger that involved destroying property, threatening violence, or engaging in violent actions. If anger is an issue in your family, you can take steps to reduce outbursts by going deeper into the problem.

In the Power of Now, author Eckhart Tolle suggests, “Where there is anger there is always pain underneath.”

Where does anger come from?

Psychologists view anger as the tip of an iceberg. What you see on the outside are acts of frustration. Under the surface are feelings of helplessness, sadness, insecurity, or loneliness. A child may feel traumatized by a life event, overwhelmed by expectations, or anxious about how they are perceived by others.

The resolution: Meet anger with empathy.

Most often, anger can be diffused through empathy. Stop, take the time to listen for what is beneath the surface. Parents teach kids about anger by helping them identify and express their feelings—by modeling empathy.

In her book UnSelfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, psychologist Michele Borba claims that empathy is the key to raising healthy, thriving children. With over 350 references to neuroscience and developmental research in her book, she not only makes the case for empathy but also identifies nine teachable habits that foster its development.

The bottom line

Children want and need to feel seen, heard, and understood. When they feel misunderstood or disrespected, it’s easy for anger to rise to the surface.

2. The Issue: “My Teen Isn’t Motivated”

Apathy among middle and high schoolers has become an increasing dilemma for parents. A recent study of apathy among middle school students revealed the complex nature of motivation. Many issues caused students to feel unmotivated, including distractions of technology, lack of organizational skills, and the type of expectations placed upon them by parents.

One highlight of the study was on the topic of self-satisfaction. The data revealed that students who are highly motivated feel good about themselves and believe they can achieve. All the highly motivated students made similar statements about parental expectations. One student said, “My parents always tell me to just try my best.” Another commented that her parents say, “If I try my best, whatever the outcome, it will be okay.”

Students who identified themselves as “unmotivated,” said their parents required certain grades of them. None of those students described their parents as accepting only their best effort.

Like anger, lack of motivation is the tip of the iceberg—the outward manifestation of what’s happening on the inside. Under the surface, children want and need to feel accepted for who they are, not just for what they achieve.

The resolution: Let children know you believe in them.

If your teen is unmotivated at school or lacks interests outside of school, ask yourself, “What expectations am I communicating?”

In her groundbreaking book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck coined the phrase “growth mindset” after decades of research on what motivates children to learn. She explains that success and achievement extend beyond a child’s abilities to their attitudes about learning.

When parents praise children for their efforts, like doing their best and working hard, it develops a child’s belief that they can succeed. When parents focus on the outcomes, like specific grades or achievements, children often develop a fear of failure. This results in a fixed-mindset and is often accompanied by apathy.

The bottom line

Children need to believe in themselves to become successful in life. Find ways to encourage your child’s self-satisfaction.

Learn more ways to encourage your children, how your encouragement boosts their internal development, and the difference between praise and encouragement by reading "Encouraging Words for Kids That Ignite Self-Discovery and Growth."