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What to do about your teen’s temper

Anger can be a typical part of the teen experience. It can also be one of the scariest emotions to see in your child, especially if the anger results in conflict or explosive behavior. If you’ve noticed your teen losing their temper quickly, this guide will help you know what to look for, how to respond, and when to seek help. 

At Joon, anger is one of the most common topics we help 13-26 year olds with in therapy every day. Our therapists are experienced, and we can help.

Katey Nicolai, PhD
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
VP of Clinical Services

Understanding teenage temper tantrums.

It’s common for teens to experience emotions more intensely than they used to. This intensity is due to significant physical and neurological changes during these years, and most of these changes are not cause for alarm. Supporting your teen with these new emotions, including new feelings of anger, is an important part of parenting teens. 

Anger is an essential emotion that allows people to recognize when a boundary has been violated, or they have been “wronged” or hurt in some way. As teens develop more adult relationships, learning how anger can be a signal for change is essential.

In contrast to typical teen anger, some people experience a more extreme version of anger and other mood shifts. Some teens struggle more with the changes of their teen years, which can result in increased conflict in their families and friendships. Frequent, persistent anger can also be a signal that a mental health concern is developing and your teen needs more support. Like toddlers with developing brains, “temper tantrums” are normal until they interfere with your child’s ability to live a safe and full life.

Is it time to get support for your 13-26 year old? We’re here to help.

Why would my teen be losing their temper so easily?

Because of your teen's physical and neurological changes, some “temper tantrums” are expected and healthy. Learning how to respond to and cope with new, more intense adult experiences and feelings is an essential task of adolescence and young adulthood. Parents often set the most direct model for responding to emotions at home. 

While it’s normal for a teen to “lose their temper” occasionally, here are some signs that anger is problematic for your teen and that it’s time to seek therapy for them:

  1. <h3>Anger is frequent and persistent.</h3>
    Intense emotions are normal for teens, but they should be experiencing strong positive alongside negative emotions. If your teen is always angry and seems unable to feel joyful or find relief, they may need more support via therapy.
  1. <h3>Anger is interfering with life.</h3>
    Is your teen’s anger preventing them from connecting with family and friends? Is it interfering with their ability to attend school or sports? Is it resulting in changes in their routines and habits? It’s time to seek help.
  1. <h3>Anger is causing them to seek relief in unhealthy ways.</h3>
    Feeling angry for long periods without support can cause some teens to seek relief from substances like alcohol and drugs, self-harm, negative relationships, and risky online activities. Noticing some of these behaviors may be your first signal that anger is taking over your teen’s life.
  1. <h3>Anger is triggering aggression or violence.</h3>
    Feeling angry is healthy, but enacting that anger through violence and harming others is not. If your teen has been violent, verbally aggressive, or physically aggressive, then this is a clear sign that anger is causing them great pain, and they urgently need support through therapy.

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What to do when your teen seems angry all of the time.

If your teen is confiding in you about anger, responding with acceptance and support is a good first step. However, if you’re observing the signs outlined above, it’s important to take action quickly to get them more support rather than wait for it to worsen. 

Here are three easy steps to follow to prepare your teen for getting help with anger management:

  1. <h3>Remind them you are their safe adult.</h3>
    It’s important for your teen to hear that no matter what anger has caused them to do, you are their parent, and it’s your job to support a safe and happy life for them. Remind them that they are loved and accepted before, during, and after they get support.
  1. <h3>Normalize and validate their struggle.</h3>
    Remind your teen that it is very common for teens to feel emotions in extremes and equally as common for teens to need extra help from qualified adults like counselors. Their experience is valid and real, and needing help from others is a universal adult experience.
  1. <h3>Provide the pathway to therapy.</h3>
    Show your teen that you’ve found a therapist who is an expert in working with teens with anger. They don’t have to commit to therapy long-term right away, but they have to be open to trying something new since anger has started to interfere with their ability to have a safe and happy life. Be calm, consistent, and persistent.
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Therapy works for teens who lose their temper easily.

Frequent, persistent anger in teens can be an urgent signal that they are struggling with a mental health concern like depression, anxiety, symptoms of trauma, and others. Left untreated, anger can lead to worsening mental health and other related symptoms, such as aggression, substance use, and academic decline. Fortunately, anger management is one of the most common presenting problems for therapists who specialize in teens. 

The most effective evidence-based therapy for anger and aggression in teens is a cognitive-behavioral skills-based approach (1). Teen therapy for anger can include learning practical skills for emotion regulation, relaxation training, cognitive restructuring, and conflict resolution skills in relationships. 

When teens seek therapy from an experienced provider who specializes in skills-based CBT in teens, like the therapists at Joon, they begin to notice differences in their mood and behavior within a few weeks. And these skills and changes can benefit the rest of their lives. If you worry that anger is affecting your teen, take the next step to get therapy for them now. 

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