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How to Talk to an Angry Teen

by Tiffany Raiford

If there’s one thing parents don’t want to do, it is attempt to carry on a conversation with an angry teen. Knowing your teen the way you do, you know what will set him off, and that probably puts your own nerves on edge when you know you need to speak with him about something serious that may cause him to start yelling and screaming out of anger. According to Sara Bean, M.Ed., of Empowering Parents, one of the biggest mistakes you can make in this situation is losing your own temper.

Understand what is causing your teen’s anger, advises Mark Goulston, M.D., psychiatrist and author. What fuels your teen’s anger could be anything from low self-esteem to a controlling parent. If you micromanage his entire life, from how he folds his underwear and socks to how he positions the seat in the car when he drives, he’s likely to live an angry existence. Other reasons could be discord in your marriage; he’s angry because to the rest of the world your family presents a happy face but at home the anger and hatred is strong. Knowing what is behind the anger may help you when talking to your teen.

Speak to your teen in a calm tone rather than yelling or screaming in return, advises Bean. When you attempt to talk to your angry teen, keep your voice firm and level. Do not raise your voice at any point and do not allow your teen to fluster you by interrupting you or yelling. She is much more likely to listen to you when you speak reasonably rather than out of anger.

Avoid threatening any sort of consequence during this discussion. According to Bean, telling your angry teen that you will take something away from her, such as a privilege, in the middle of a discussion if she does not stop behaving with such anger, is only going to fuel the fire. The point here is to carry on an adult conversation that allows you to get to the bottom of her anger, not make her even angrier. Threats will not help the situation.

Make the conversation less of a lecture and more of a heartfelt conversation, advises Goulston. Instead of telling your angry teen you need to talk and launching into a recital of all he does wrong and all you dislike about his behavior, ask him about it in a conversational tone. Try asking him what it is that you do or say that makes him feel so angry and how you can change that. By hearing what he has to say and getting his feedback, he will feel more like an equal party than a chastised child.

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