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Reading Between the Lines of Your Teen’s Anger

Anger is a warning light on the dashboard of your teen’s life. When it’s flashing, it’s alerting you to an area that needs your attention. In this article, I’ll help you to navigate normal adolescent ups and downs and give parents insight to deal with their teen’s anger in a way that helps them and gets them to a better place.


Why is it Important to Read Between the Lines of Your Teen’s Anger?
Your teen might be saying one thing to you––very loudly––but he may actually be upset about something entirely different. In fact, your teen may not even understand exactly why he’s upset or be able to tell you clearly what’s wrong. Very often the root of your teen’s anger is hidden behind angry outbursts and slammed doors. But don’t assume that after the outburst is over, the problem is resolved. Your teen’s anger won’t subside until the root cause is addressed. When things calm down, you can open up a conversation to get to the heart of the problem and encourage your teen to talk to you. Only when you know what’s really upsetting your teen can you help him solve the problem.


What Your Teen Is Really Saying With Their Anger Toward You
Parents are the most important relationship in their teen’s life and they often feel the brunt of their teen’s anger, even when they aren’t to blame. So you don’t need to take it personally. You can recognize that you teen’s display of anger is an emotional response to not getting what they want. But there are times when parents can inadvertently provoke their teens to wrath. Here are some examples of what your teen might be trying to say when he’s raging:

  • “You haven’t prepared me for this.”
  • “I am hurt by a loss.”
  • “I’m abusing substances and can’t control myself.”
  • “I want more freedom, and you are too controlling.”
  • “You’re the safest place to unload my pent-up feelings.”
  • “I wish things were different.”

Once you know what your teen is really saying, you can start to coach him toward a solution. That may include making some changes at home. You should be willing to admit your role in your teen’s frustration. You may need to apologize, make changes, or seek outside help. But first, you need to discover what’s really motivating your teen’s flashes of fury.


How to Respond Lovingly While Your Teen is Angry With You
It’s hard to get past the insults and hurtful words, but it’s essential that you listen to what your teen is really saying. Ask questions to understand why they are upset and where they’re coming from. Don’t downplay your child’s feelings or views, even if you think they are totally wrong and misguided. Instead, help them think through their anger to get to a better place. In the heat of the moment, parents should resist the urge to escalate an argument. Your natural reaction to your teen’s anger might be to raise your voice, engage in the heated argument, or exact punishment on the spot. But bringing a calm attitude to the situation can help a lot. When the situation is defused, you are better able to reach your teen’s heart, be heard, listen, and express your family’s position. Don’t fuel your teen’s anger with shaming words, criticism of his feelings, or rushed behavior correction. Give your teen room to express his frustration, without reacting. Then come back to the issue later. Your calm during the storm is a good example to help your teen learn how to deal with his anger well in the future.


Hey moms and dads … the world of comparison that your teen lives in can steal the joy out of their life. They may be angry that their world just isn’t turning out as good as they had hoped for. Their display of anger is an emotional response to not getting what they want. So your time spent trying to control how they respond to any situation, while ignoring the real message behind the anger, will sometimes only cause the anger to grow. When your teen is angry, they’re really showing you what they want and what they don’t like. It’s a perfect opportunity to dive deeper into their thinking and help them process out loud to get to a better place. You can help them learn that they can be angry and respectful at the same time.

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.