If your teenager is angry, firstly, let them know you understand why they’re angry. That means staying calm, not shouting and not arguing. You don’t have to agree with their point of view, you just need to guess what they’re feeling and why. ‘You seem really angry that we want you home from the party at 10 when your friends are staying till midnight…’ And then leave it hanging. Don’t explain why they can’t –they don’t want explanations or reasons at this point. Don’t add a ‘but’… ‘But that’s the rule, but you blew it last time by coming home late.’ The word ‘but’ means you’re counteracting all the empathy you’ve just shown. (If they do come back with a ‘yeah, so why can’t I stay later?’ – You can say: ‘Why do you think?’)But showing you ‘get’ their point of view – and can state their side of things – will help them calm down quicker.

Secondly, suggest you talk later when things are calmer. When your teenager gets angry, they can’t think straight. There’s a flood of hormones released in their brain ready for fight or flight. And it’s a bit like being emotionally hijacked and lasts for about 20 minutes. And during that time your teenager may say or do things that they regret later on when the thinking part of their brain kicks back in. So help them by creating some space, until they have time to think straight. You can say: ‘It’s really important we discuss this. And things have got a bit heated. Let’s take a break and talk about this later when we’ve had a chance to calm down. Let’s have a chat at 8.’

Finally, when you talk to them, listen, and bear in mind what you want out of the conversation. So before you talk with them – think –what do you want? Is it just that you want your teenager to understand the rule? And know that they need to be home at 10 o’clock three times before you’ll consider letting them stay later? Or do you want to come up with a solution you both negotiate and agree to? If you know what you want, you’re much more likely to stay calm and say things respectfully. When you go in – listen to your teenager and really try to understand their side. Then explain your side – and say it in a way your teenager can hear- neutrally without being rude or accusing them. Then talk about ways to resolve the problem and find a solution.

So, three things you can do when your teenager gets angry –

  1. Let them know you understand why they’re angry.
  2. Suggest you talk later when things are calmer.
  3. And then when you do talk, listen, and bear in mind what you want out of the conversation.

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child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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