Angry outbursts are a problem in every household. There are families where angry outbursts are so common that it is considered normal. In these families there is no safety for anyone. There are other families where anger is never expressed. In these families the anger goes underground. Your family may fall somewhere in between. Whenever an angry outburst occurs your first impulse is to do what you can to get the angry person to stop being angry. This only make the situation worse. If they are angry with you, it’s almost impossible to get away from them so what do you do? If you understand anger and it’s role in your life, in everyone’s life, then it is easy to de-escalate an escalating situation.
If you want to eliminate angry outbursts then follow these 5 Steps. Then you and your family will finally get some peace and quiet.
Step 1. Anger is for Armor
The first step is to understand what anger is. Anger is your armor. Anger makes you feel big, strong and righteous. Anger step in whenever you feel vulnerable. Your anger is your responsibility, just like every other emotion you feel. Nobody makes you angry. Nobody make you sad. You make yourself sad, you make yourself mad. So, when your teen or another family member or even you are having an angry outburst, you are really expressing your vulnerability.
The more intense the anger, the more vulnerability exists.
Underneath your teen’s anger, your anger, my anger and everyone else’s anger are deep feelings of vulnerability. The more vulnerability your teen feels, the more intense their anger. It’s a direct 1-1 relationship. When you look beneath the surface you connect with your teen’s vulnerability and when you connect with them in this way, you begin to feel empathy for them. It is this empathy that makes it safe for your teen to let go of their anger.
Step 2: Breath Slowly and Deeply and Listen to Understand
This is a critical step. Skip this step and you set yourself up to fall into your teen’s anger trap. They want to be angry; you don’t. Before doing anything, focus on your breath. Listen to your teen tell their tale. As you listen, watch your breath go into your nose, down to your lungs where it rests for a moment and then it slowly rises and leaves your body. This breathing exercise will keep focused on what needs to be done. Remain, calm, loving and slightly detached. Listen as closely as you can.
Step 3: Acknowledge the Vulnerability
The words your teen is using during their angry outbursts are clues to their vulnerability. Listen for the pain. Listen for the sadness. Listen for the powerlessness. You will here it under the shrill cry of their rage. It may barely be noticeable, but it will be there. You don’t really need to know what specifically is going on with your teen in order to intervene successfully.
Empathy opens the door to sanctuary.
By listening for their vulnerability, the empathy you feel for your teen is now expressed in your eyes, your face, your body language and your words. “This must be very difficult for you.” or “You must feel overwhelmed with all that is going on.” or “You are absolutely right. I’d be angry if I were you too.” Their words tell you where to target your response. Listen carefully. Be empathetic.
Step 4: Meeting of the Minds
When your teen is cool, calm and collected again, it is critical to revisit the angry outburst and all that led up to the angry outburst. Continue listening to your teen and work with them to develop a plan to address the pressures that made them feel vulnerable in the first place.
Encourage your teen take responsibility for their anger.
Don’t demand that your teen take responsibility for their behavior. Demanding anything from a teen is counter-productive. You must keep in mind that this is your teen’s problem. He needs to own it if he is going to solve it. This is not easy for someone who is feeling vulnerable and victimized. You need a gentler and kinder approach if you are going to help your teen. Here’s a tip for you.
If you feel strongly that you need to tell your teen something for their own good, use the Jeopardy rule and express that advice in the form of a question.
By asking questions puts you into the role of trusted adviser as opposed to the role of enforcer. It’s not your job to control your teen, it is their job to control themselves. This also helps you teen to understand themselves better. Your teen knows they are responsible for their actions. They don’t need you to remind them. They need you need to be safe. They need you to listen.
Step 5: Follow Up
Regardless of the plan your teen comes up with to be a better manager of their emotions, it is your job to support them. You can effectively support your teen in some of the following way.
- Acknowledge the baby steps.
- Listen more than you talk.
- Be curious in their lives, genuinely curious.
- Focus on what your teen does that you like.
- Give them a hug (privately of course).
- Take a walk together or go for a drive. Spend 1-1 time together.
- Eat meals together.
- Turn off the TV and play a game.
- Brainstorm more ideas with your teen.
- Always expect the best.
I hope this is helpful and I invite you to comment and share this post with others you know who might benefit from it.