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Coping with tween and teenage anger

Coping with tween and teenage anger
Photo: Coping with tween and teenage anger
From the age of around 10, children can become difficult to deal with. They can be moody, grumpy, even downright rude. They might throw big-kid tantrums, yell, or slam doors, or do the complete opposite and offer little more than a grunt when you ask them how their day was. 

But while it’s easy to put tween and teenage anger down to bad behaviour, it’s often a normal part of adolescent development, or could be a sign of a deeper, unrelated issue, says psychotherapist, Dr Karen Phillip

“Anger is part of development,” says Dr Phillip.

“One of the reasons we get angry can be because we are not getting what we want, or others are not giving us what we want.”

But it can also be generated from within, says Dr Phillip, with those inner feelings manifesting as displays of anger.
“Such as if we feel uncomfortable or unhappy in how we look, what we feel or who we are,” she says.

“Anger can be escalated by stress, anxiety or hormones rather than being created by it.”

According to Dr Phillip while many teens display anger, these displays could be due to a wide range of reasons.

“Certainly not just bad behaviour,” she says.

“Most kids want their parents to be proud of them, to like them, to do things with them.”

And that old attitude that a child with a bad attitude is a reflection of their parents should be discarded too, she says. 

“A bad attitude often has nothing to do with the parent.

“It is generated within the child due to their frustrations, wants, desires they are unable to satisfy.

“It can be generated by confusion about who and what they are, where they are going, how can they get there, plus a range of other emotions – very complicated our teens are.”

And while it can be tempting to return fire when your child is in the midst of an angry outburst, Dr Phillip says that will only make things worse.

“Becoming angry at your teen who is angry is just fuelling their fire,” she says.

“Guidance, tolerance and acceptance they are evolving is far better than punishment.”

The best approach, Dr Phillip says, is to give them some space.

“Leave them alone to process what they feel,” she says.

“When you speak with them never start with a negative about their behaviour.
“Start with something like,  ‘it seems you are rather upset/unhappy/angry, is there anything I can do to help or would you like to just share with me what you are feeling or what is going on?’

“They may or not. Allow the process and keep checking in on them.”

Become angry at a seemingly angry tweet or teen is the most common mistake made by parents.

“They are emotional little beings as teens, and this process needs to occur.

“Stand back, offer support when needed and keep lines of communication always open.”

And don’t forget, says Dr Phillip, anger is totally normal, and acceptable emotion, that we should all be permitted to feel.

“Most human beings, regardless of age, become angry.

“It isn’t the fact you get angry that is the problem, it is what a person does with their anger that can become the problem.”

Dr Phillip says when anger escalates to aggression, that’s when intervention and therapy is recommended.

“When the teen withdraws from family, friends, activities, these are also red flags.

“Also, if the teen becomes overly secretive, is lying excessively, becomes aggressive with self or others.”

Dr Phillip says being a tween or teen is tough at the best of times, but the current climate has only exacerbated this natural process.

“With social media it’s like being on hormonal steroids.

“They are continually being contacted, continually comparing themselves to others, and often continually criticised.

“Hence when a parent may say one small negative comment, the teen escalates excessively.

“it’s not from what the parent may have said, it is everything else they have needed to deal with.

“Anger is a symptom of something, not a reason. Seek the reason, help resolve or lower the symptom.”


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Nicole Madigan

Nicole Madigan is a widely published journalist with more than 15 years experience in the media and communications industries.

Specialising in health, business, property and finance, Nicole writes regularly for numerous high-profile newspapers, magazines and online publications.

Before moving into freelance writing almost a decade ago, Nicole was an on-air reporter with Channel Nine and a newspaper journalist with News Limited.

Nicole is also the Director of content and communications agency Stella Communications ( and a children's author.