My Teen is Always Yelling at Me? What Can I Do?

It’s exhausting to always be in a screaming match with your teen. It’s both physically and emotionally draining to be engaged in a verbal battle, and parents often come out of the experience feeling used, abused, and fed up. How can parents stop their teens from yelling at them?

Teenage Anger

Parents who are the subject of teenage anger often wonder why their teens don’t have a better control of their emotions. Anger is a secondary emotion that is triggered by another strong emotion, most commonly by fear. Teenage anger is not necessarily a harmful emotion, but it can be a bit frightening to deal with at times. This anger can come in the form of rage, resentment or indignation. Different teens have different expressions of anger, which is the behavior that parents see. Yelling is a kind of behavior that teens use to express their anger. Yelling is not an emotion, it’s the behavior that your teen chooses to use in order to express what they feel inside.

Yelling is one of the many types of negative behavior that teens can use to express their emotion. Some examples of other negative behavior may be physical violence, antisocial behavior, addiction, and even withdrawal. When teens withdraw from society, the anger that they feel inside often intensifies much more rapidly than if they choose to be vocal about their anger. Many teens who resort to extremely violent acts against others or against themselves in expression of their anger show antisocial behavior before their outburst.

Teens who yell at least tell their parents implicitly that they need help dealing with something. It shines a light on the fact that there is a problem, yelling is just their way of expressing their anger about what is truly bothering them.

Stopping the Yelling at Home

Teens are going through a lot of physical, emotional changes during their adolescent years. This is the time when they are faced with the complexity of relationships, the questions that form their identity, and the desire for purpose and independence. It’s not just teens who are adjusting to the adolescent years but parents too. From their position of parental authority, parents need to learn to step back little by little in order to allow room for their teens’ emotional growth.

When teens and parents don’t get along, teens tend to be reactive, which often triggers a reactive response from parents as well. If parents are not careful to take control of this cycle of reactive responses, it sets a pattern to the kind of interaction they share with their teens at home. Sometimes, the interaction at home evolves to a shouting match because parents think “If my teen yells at me, I can yell louder.” The truth is that yelling (whether it’s coming from parents or teens) doesn’t work at all.

Working through teenage anger

Teens aren’t angry 100% of the time. It’s simply too emotionally and physically exhausting to do this. The best time to talk to an angry teen is when his/her emotions are at a lull. Talking to teens about their emotion and the behavior they are choosing when expressing this emotion will go a long way in helping teens understand themselves better.

It’s best if parents can help their teens understand their anger. To do this, here are a few questions parents may suggest their teens to ask themselves in order to achieve a greater self-awareness:

  • Where is this emotion really coming from?
  • Do I get angry over specific things? Do I have specific triggers?
  • Does my body show signs that I am getting angry?
  • How do I express my anger?
  • Do my emotions control me?
  • Am I expressing my anger in a way that people can understand?
  • Am I accountable for my behavior when I am angry?

Sometimes it takes a lot of time and probing questions to help teens understand why they are angry. Sometimes they don’t even know it themselves. Parents should let your teens know that anger is an acceptable emotion, however, the behavior attached to that emotion is something that they can choose to control.

Setting limits

When parents talk about acceptable behavior, sometimes they don’t really get into the details of what behaviors are acceptable and which ones aren’t. It helps if they are more forthcoming to their about it so that when teens go beyond the limits parents set for them, they understand that they did this knowingly and not out of ignorance.

It’s also important for parents to set limits on themselves when it comes to communicating their own anger. It’s hard to control this emotion, especially when raising teens, but parents need to be able to model the kind of behavior that they expect from their children.

How to deal with a yelling teen

How should parents handle situations involving an angry, yelling teen? Try not to lose your composure, as much as possible. Yelling back at them only escalates the emotions until they are completely out of control. Remember that you and your teen are not emotional equals. Illiciting an extreme emotion from you sends a message to your teen that yelling can be an effective tool for manipulation. Worse, this kind of emotional confrontation can lead your teen to shut you off mentally and emotionally.

In the long run, yelling at your teen causes a lot of problems and damages your relationship. Keep in mind that as the adult in this relationship, you have better coping skills than your teen does. So put those coping skills to work.

Here are a few tips for parents when their teens are always yelling at them:

  • Change the way you communicate – When your teen is yelling, turn off the TV, the computer, or any other distractions in the room. Sit your teen down and talk to them face-to-face. Look them in the eye, physically engage them.
  • Address the issue of yelling – Separate the issue of yelling from what your teen is angry about. For example, say something like “I know you’re upset that I didn’t let you go to that party, but I want to talk to you first about why you yell at me whenever you’re mad.” This highlights the fact that you do understand the frustration your teen is feeling, but the form of expression is objectionable and needs to be dealt with as the offense. In other words, you’re not disappointed that he/she is mad, you’re disappointed because he/she chose to express it through negative behavior.
  • Set expectations – Once your teen understands that you’re not okay with the yelling, tell your teen what to expect next time. A simple statement like “I’m not going to talk to you when you’re yelling at me” will do the job. No need for a long drawn out conversation about it. Just set the limits and stick to it.

Could your teen’s aggression be a disorder?

There cases where teens are often extremely oppositional towards their parents and their expression of anger is totally out of proportion to the situation. If your teen’s negative behavior is markedly different from that of his/her peers, and if it has begun to interfere with his/her family life, social life, and academics, it’s probably time to make an appointment with your family physician to rule out the possibility of other underlying disorders.