WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW
-Stay calm. Your silence can control their rage; your own can explode it.
-Mentally place their 4-year-old tantrum face on that 14-year-old rage body (it makes things less scary).
-Refuse to discuss the issue that prompted the rage until they're calm.
-If they won’t calm, just withdraw, saying that you love them and that you’ll talk later (I know that’s impossible. Just do it).
-If they physically threaten or restrain you, tell them one time that you’ll call
9-1-1 if they can’t stop.
-If need, call 9-1-1 without a second warning. Do not rescind that call even if they calm
(otherwise you might be calling again soon).
-Go back after they’re calm to ask what happened and how you can avoid that ever
happening again. Don’t judge or argue their words. Just listen.
-Be sure to always apologize if you “lost it” as well. Be what you want to see (the bigger person who never excuses their own bad actions).
-See a mental health professional if this happens again.
WHAT YOU DON'T DO
-Demand that they leave and calm if they won’t (that can become a lose/lose contest).
-Yell, threaten, or push back (gas doesn’t put out fires).
-Run away, just walk. Show them sadness and control, not fear and panic.
-Issue consequences on the spot (this is the time for containment; the parenting part comes later).
-Continue to discuss their issue while they’re raging. Show them that nothing ever gets decided while people are out of control.
-Think that rage is somehow OK for parents. That only teaches a terrible way of handling conflict. It’s OK for no one.
Staying calm in the face of their rage might be the hardest and single most respect-getting interaction you can have with your teen. You staying composed teaches them that they are not in your league of in terms of emotional discipline and control, adult skills which they badly need to master.
The first way to stay cool is to paint their old toddler face on their new teen body. Understand that what you’re really seeing is that same 4-year-old tantrum but this time on a large screen TV with a great sound system. Your second trick is to use the “Jedi Mind Control” (Star Wars) techniques which include
(1) the crazier they gesture, the calmer you become, and,
(2) the louder they yell, the quieter you speak (“No one is screaming at you. Please calm down” and “Please leave and then come back when you are calm.”) If they continue to rage, don’t repeat yourself or turn up your volume, just calmly withdraw (they’ll quiet quicker without an audience).
Why not just scream back? Have you ever noticed how hard it is to continue screaming at someone who speaks respectfully? Have you ever noticed how easy it is to scream at someone who’s screaming at you? The fact is that, like rage, calmness is contagious, so contaminate your kid by modeling the behavior you want to see in them.
After the storm passes, go back in to resolve things. The odds are that they’re already feeling humiliated and ashamed even if they act as though they were justified, so go easy. If you raged back, apologize for your actions even if your insanity was only in response to theirs. Then ask what happened, and how the two of you can work to keep that from ever happening again.
Explain that it’s OK to be angry but not to be assaultive, even with words. State that if they want to hurt with hands, or wound with words, you’ll be gone in two seconds, and nothing good will happen, AND, add that if they want to share their feelings, even/especially their angry ones, then you’re theirs all night, and maybe together you’ll find a solution before the sun rises.
Which it always does, even after the dark night of a scary rage.
Rage is that scary region beyond angry and upset. It takes anger and turns it into a weapon by adding a lack of control along with a terroristic demand that someone witness and/or be the victim of one’s fury. Your response to rage must be very different than your response to anger.
A loud, angry teen is to be listened to concerning their issue. A raging teen is to be disengaged from until they’re calm. The rage-triggering issue should be discussed only after the rage issue has been discussed and resolved. If there are physical threats, restraint, or contact, call 9-1-1 after one warning and never rescind that call even if they calm down. Do this even (and especially) if you are a black belt and twice their size. The flashing red lights in the driveway are embarrassing but they convey a powerful statement to your child that rage is never acceptable as a method to achieve an end, and that they will never succeed in getting you hooked into that dangerous behavior of using physical force to resolve emotional conflict.
Have other teen concerns?
Contact Dr. Bradley to discuss creating a program tailor-made for your specific needs
Dr. Michael J. Bradley Adolescent Psychologist
Suite 15-B, 1200 Bustleton Pike Feasterville PA 19053
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