8 Ways to Teach Teens Anger Management Skills

Teen girl sitting on couch, staring off into the distance while mother is talking in the background

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Whether they throw their smartphone against the wall when they're frustrated that an app won't work, or they yell and swear when they don't get their way, teens who can't manage their anger are bound to have serious problems. While some lash out verbally, others may become physically aggressive. If they don't learn how to manage their anger, they'll have difficulty at school, in relationships, and in their careers.

Although anger is a normal, healthy emotion, it's important to know how to deal with it. Knowing how to cope with anger and how to express it in a socially appropriate manner are important skills for teens to learn. Here are eight concepts and strategies that can help teach teens anger management skills.

Anger Expectations

Every family has different expectations about how anger should be handled. Some families have very little tolerance for yelling while in other families, yelling is a normal means of communicating.

Create rules about what constitutes acceptable behavior and explain what behaviors will not be tolerated. Don’t allow name-calling, physical violence, or threats in your home. Establish clear consequences for breaking the rules.

Anger vs. Aggression

Teach your teen the difference between angry feelings and aggressive behavior. Angry feelings are completely acceptable. Aggressive behavior, however, is not OK. Make it clear that it's never OK to throw things, slam doors, or deliberately break objects.

Teens need to know that aggressive behavior—even if it is only verbal aggression—can have serious ramifications. Making threatening comments over social media, for example, could lead to legal consequences. Discuss the potential academic, social, and legal consequences of aggressive and violent behavior.

Assertiveness Skills

Sometimes, aggressive behavior and anger issues stem from a lack of assertiveness. Teach teens how to stand up for themselves in an appropriate manner.

Talk about the importance of speaking up without violating anyone else's rights. Role-play specific issues with your teen, such as what to do if someone cuts in front of them in line or how to respond if they feel they are being taken advantage of by someone else.

Physical Signs of Anger

Teens often fail to recognize when their anger is on the rise. They allow themselves to grow so angry that they can't help but lash out. Ask your teen, "How does your body feel when you're getting angry?" Teach them to recognize physiological warning signs of anger, like a rapid heartbeat, clenched fists, or flushed face.

Encourage them to take action when they notice their anger is on the rise. That may mean taking a break, taking a few deep breaths, or counting to 10 in their mind.

Self-Directed Time-Outs

Similarly, teach teens to put themselves in time-out when they are struggling with anger. Give them a quick break to gather their thoughts in a private space, or encourage them to end a conversation with a friend if it is getting heated. 

Create time-out guidelines. For example, agree that if anyone in the house is getting too angry to continue a discussion, you’ll take a 15-minute break before continuing the conversation.

If your teen chooses to take a time-out, don’t follow them or insist on continuing the conversation while they are still upset. Instead, agree to revisit the conversation after a brief cool-down period.

Acceptable Coping Skills

Teens need to know socially appropriate ways to deal with angry feelings. Teens who lack coping skills are more likely to become verbally or physically aggressive.

Help your teen identify coping skills to deal with uncomfortable emotions, such as disappointment and frustration. While drawing may help one teen calm down, another teen may benefit from going for a walk. Work with your teen on identifying specific coping strategies that help diffuse anger.

Problem-Solving Skills

Teens who lack problem-solving skills may resort to aggression to get their needs met. Teach your teen basic problem-solving skills.

Whether they are struggling with a school project or trying to resolve an issue with a friend, encourage them to identify three potential solutions. Then, they can review the pros and cons of each before choosing the one they think will work best.

This can help your teen see that there are many ways to solve a problem without lashing out. Over time, they will grow more confident in their ability to successfully solve problems.

Role Modeling

You’ll teach your teen more about handling anger with your behavior than your words. If you yell, swear, and break things, don’t expect your teen to control their anger. Role model appropriate ways to deal with angry feelings.

Show your child how to talk about angry feelings and how to express those feelings appropriately. For example, say, “I’m really angry that you didn’t clean your room like I asked you to. I’m going to go take a break for a few minutes and then we’re going to talk about your consequence.” 

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