Dealing with Your Teen’s Aggressive Behavior

You thought the outbursts and the tantrums over when your child reached his teens, only to realize that you are up for another (and far more stronger) dose of aggressive behavior. Aggression and rage can be a common response in teens, with all the hormones raging uncontrollably.

Manifestations of and Reasons behind Aggression

Aggression is mostly physical (hurting others, harming other people’s property or getting into fistfights), but it can also be passive (glaring, temper outbursts, surliness, self-isolation or deliberate silence). Aggression can also be verbal (intimidation, insulting or bullying). A teen’s anger may also cause him to self-harm such as acts of cutting or suicide attempts.

Why do teens act this way? There are a number of reasons that explain why it is perfectly normal for teens to act aggressively. These include:

Physical upheaval, changes and growth. With teenagers, the area of the brain that is responsible for one’s ability to direct his energy and angst into positive channels has not yet been developed. As such, teens will have problems with controlling tempers and impulses, making decisions and acting logically. What’s more, puberty ramps up the production of hormones that make a teen’s sensitive emotions go into overdrive.

Family environment. If a child grows in an environment where conflict and aggression are just normal ways to deal with anger, he will grow to have problems reigning in his emotions and aggressive impulses.

Mental issues. Depression and other mood disorders can exhibit itself in violent behavior.

Substance abuse problems. The use of drugs and alcohol can negatively affect the development of the adolescent brain. These substances also loosen up inhibitions and self-control, leading to an increased difficulty in controlling aggressive behaviors.

With these reasons, episodes of aggression may be simply a phase in your teen’s life. However, the following can indicate that the teen may need more professional intervention:

• You have problems controlling your teen’s behavior and setting boundaries for them.

• Your teen’s actions have caused others and him some physical harm.

• The family atmosphere no longer feels safe for other family members.

• Your teen’s behavior has resulted in serious problems with authority (the school, the teachers, the police) and may even land him in jail.

Getting help for your troubled teen

With patience, training and support, you can guide your teen towards discovering ways to positively channel their impulse for aggression and violence. There are a number of areas you can look into, this includes:

• Reinforcing a positive home environment. As parents, you can start by making a good example to your teen when dealing with aggressive behavior. Being more self-aware and watchful of your actions and reactions to situations can be a great beginning. Rather than simply reacting to your teen’s outbursts, being more watchful can also help you search out the root behind your teen’s actions. You can also work to establish an agreed set of rules and consequences, especially when it comes to your teen’s aggressive behavior.

• Cognitive behavior therapy. This behavior modification treatment aims to guide the teen into self-discovery, identifying action and thought patterns that lead to their behavior and providing tools for them to act positively.

• Psychotherapy sessions. This aims towards helping the teen uncover the roots of his aggression. He may be acting out due to anger that is rooted in a certain issue (substance abuse, problems with family or friends, mental illness or sexual abuse).

• Group counseling. Putting the teen in a group of other teens with similar issues can help them open their eyes to the fact that they are not alone and that other teens are also going through the same thing.

• Family counseling. This attempts to face issues as a family so that every member is knows how they can respond, calm their emotions and use communication and relaxation tools with their interactions as a family.

• Teen wilderness program. This program uses physical challenges and the wilderness environment to develop a positive outlook and sense of self in the teen. Getting the teen away from his usual environment and putting him in a place where he has to exert effort and learn to work with others can help a teen grow into maturity.

• Troubled teen boarding school. This is an option to teen summer camp. This is more long-term and some boarding schools are able to provide an academic curriculum so that the teen does not miss out on his schooling even as he gets help for his behavioral problems. A troubled teen therapeutic school also provides some of the things that are mentioned above.

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