Anger and teenagers

teenager sits at a table frustrated with their head up in the air

Teenagers can go from 0 to 100 in a flash. One minute they're happily streaming movies, the next all hell breaks loose. So what's the deal with that? There's a way through the maze.

Why do teens get angry?

We all get angry—it’s to be expected. Getting angry can be a good thing, and stop you from bottling-up emotions. Teens get angry for all the same reasons that adults do. But teenagers might struggle to express it. It can seem intense.

Everyone shows anger differently, and their anger could come out as:

  • violence - hitting, punching, wrecking things
  • verbal abuse - screaming, swearing, threats
  • complete shutdown - not saying anything and ignoring you

Anger is not always a bad thing

It’s true that anger is not always a bad thing. Sure, sometimes it can just be straight-out frustration – and there are certainly plenty of things in this world to be legitimately angry about. But it can also be a sign that there’s an issue that needs working on - even a chance to bond and connect. You can use it as a chance to talk. You might want to ‘strike while the iron’s cold’, and wait until they’ve calmed down before you try to chat it out. For example, if they are upset about not being allowed to go out with their friends, ask them what they think would be fair, and how you could work together to get more of what they want. Like instead of going out, maybe their mates could all hang out at your place.

A short fuse

All of us can to go from 0-100. Often, it’s no-one’s fault. When you’re angry, the thinking part of the brain shuts down, and it can be very hard to plan too many steps ahead or filter how you feel. Sometimes it’s also hard to know exactly what you’re feeling. Things start to feel complicated and frustrating, so we just go straight to anger. It makes sense at the time. That’s also why threats don’t work with teens, or adults for that matter. When we’re passionate or think things are unfair, we just react. Understanding that anger is the same for parents and teens can go a long way to calming things down.

When anger becomes violent

Remember that dealing with anger is different to physical violence. Physical violence is serious. When there’s physical violence with siblings, or even parents with older teens, it’s actually a type of domestic violence. You can read more about what to do in a crisis here.

So what can you do right now?

It’s hard to talk about things in the heat of the moments, so giving things time to cool down is probably a good idea. Try to work out where the anger is coming from, and have a chat to your teen about it. Sometimes, just knowing that you understand can help calm things down. Let your teen know that you’re on their side, and work on a solution together that works for both of you.

If nothing seems to be working, it might be time to get some help. You can talk to your GP about referring you to a psychologist or counsellor who can help. ReachOut has resources, tools and apps that point you in the right direction, Parents Coaching or you can talk to other parents on our forums. Organisations like Headspace and Relationships Australia also do individual and family counselling.

Visit our Things to try page for more tips.