Unpacking anger

This can help if:

  • you want to gain control of your anger

  • you're concerned about your teenager's anger

  • you want to help your teen control their anger.

People experience angry for all sorts of different reasons and teenagers are no different. To find out more about the whys and what’s check out our Understand page on anger. The anger cycle is a handy way to visualise how anger is triggered and escalates. You can see how, if you don’t address and recognise anger, it can just keep going on and on and on.

Diagram showing the cycle of anger. 'Triggering event' at the top with a mother and son arguing, arrow to 'Negative thoughts' with teenager with lightening filled thought bubble, arrow to 'Emotion response' showing an xray body with a heart with a fuse, arrow to 'Physical symptoms' showing an xray body with stress markers around it, arrow to 'action' showing the mother and son arguing.

Nobody wants to be stuck in an unhealthy cycle forever. It can be exhausting for the person getting angry and those around them and can make everybody feel hopeless about the possibility of change.

One way to try to get to the bottom of it all is through using an anger diary. It’ll help you understand where and how anger comes up. Sometimes anger can be a bit of a chicken and egg situation and we don’t want to single anybody out so the diary can be used by you, your teen or both of you.

If your teen is filling it in, use it to start the conversation with them. Discuss the things that they write down and use it as a jumping off point to find solutions and coping strategies. For instance, are they feeling the same things physically each time they get angry – maybe a burning in their chest? If they can recognise this feeling and let you know it’s happening then you’ll know to start deescalating the situation. You can find some tips on how to do that here.

The final part of the diary looks at consequences. By reflecting on this you and your teenager can start to see how anger impacts others. This can help your teen develop empathy, particularly around where you are coming from when you respond to their anger with boundaries.

Unpacking anger diary. Readable version can be downloaded below.

Ask yourself or your teen ‘What could happen differently next time?’ and use the columns of the diary to think about what your answer is. Download our Unpacking anger diary here and start to get to the bottom of anger in your home. You can print it out and write in it or use it as an interactive PDF.

Tips for getting your teen to use the anger diary

  • Use it yourself! By filling out the diary as well you’re showing your teen that you’re willing to go the distance and work on the conflict as well. It’ll make them feel a little less like it’s you vs. them.

  • Even better yet, let your teenf ill out a row for you. By allowing your teen to write, using their own words, where they think you're coming from you'll get a good insight into what they're thinking and how you might be best placed to approach them.

  • Make it a regular thing. If you have regular family meetings or a list of things they need to do to earn priveleges you could try including it in there.

  • Start small. Agree that they can start by filling in just one column if they'd like and build from there. Hopefully once they see how little time it takes they'll be more likely to just fill it all in.