What To Do When Teens Get Mad...and THEY WILL!

One of the issues parents bring up most often in coaching sessions is how to manage their teenager’s anger.

Parents really struggle when their children are upset and angry, particularly, when they are the reason their teens are mad. Let me assure you that parents who are doing their job will inevitably face an angry, disappointed -- maybe even a hateful – teen. It’s all OK. As parents we set limits, we enforce rules, we say No. And let’s face it; teenagers don’t love No as an answer!

What’s most important to remember is that anger is one of the emotions that our children will display…so we need to be prepared to react appropriately to it.

To Do or Not to Do…That Is the Question

There are some basic Dos and Dont’s for standing firm in the face of a teen-produced storm.

First… the DON'T’s.

Don’t attend every fight you’re invited to. As seductive as it may be to get drawn in, remember that you’re the parent. You don’t have to engage just because you’ve been baited.

Don’t try to mollify, manage, shame or blame your teen’s angry feelings. They have a right to their anger (and all their feelings) as long as they don’t act out inappropriately.

…Don’t scream back or respond in kind. Your emotional reaction simply escalates the situation and drives you further from the endgame.

Don’t try to win the debate. There’s no need to convince your teen that you are right or defend your decision. A parent’s say is the final say.

Don’t get physical. Ever.

Don’t be overly rigid. If there’s an opportunity for a win-win, grab it! E.g., They can go out with their friends after Shabbat dinner or their grandparents’ visit, not before.

Don’t make outsized threats you’ll eventually have to walk back from. In the face of unreasonable threats, angry adolescents don’t have the capacity to respond appropriately. Angry threats only heighten the drama.

Don’t give in just to end the fight. Teens have tremendous stamina when it comes to getting their way. When you give in, they win – and you lose your credibility and authority for next time.

Now…the DOs.

 ...Do know your values – and articulate them to your teen. Knowing your values means you know what is worth fighting about.

…Do make sure you understand what they want so you can think through the options, as well as what you want the endgame to be. In every situation, ask yourself, “What’s a good outcome?”

...Do stay calm. Walk away if you need to. If a fight escalates, take your own time out to cool down. You’re entitled to a chance to think about how you want to respond versus simply reacting.

...Do be empathic. Use loving language even if their tone is hateful. You can say things like, “I’m sorry you’re disappointed.” Or “I’m super angry about your behavior – but I still love you.”

...Do provide reality testing. Let them know that their strategy of being abusive or hostile or screaming won’t help them get what they want.

...Do offer choices and options. Give your teen the opportunity to devise a plan that satisfies both family values and rules and their desires.

...Do follow through with consequences. If you issue one, be sure to enforce it. Otherwise your kids will learn they can do whatever they want.

...Do accept that your teens may stay mad at you for a while. After all, to their way of thinking, your decision has ruined their life. Eventually, they will calm themselves down.

As parents, we want to be loved and adored by our children all the time. Sadly, that’s not going to happen. Our kids aren’t automatons or reflections of us. As they struggle with growing up, they push back against us because we’re the safest people in their orbit. It’s our job to stand true to our responsibility for and to them. And most importantly to love them, even (especially) when they are angry at or disapproving of us.


If you’re concerned about your teens and anger and want to talk, please call.