Pre-teens have drastically different motivations, environments and emotional problems than children of younger ages. Anger is a natural reaction to these significant life changes, especially when pre-teens perceive parents as getting in the way of their lives. But how you react to that anger sets the stage for how your pre-teen reacts to you. By developing a clear strategy that can help you directly respond to your pre-teen’s anger, you will be able to guide your pre-teen in a better direction for emotion and life management.
1 Reinvent how you see your pre-teen’s anger. Change your natural reaction of feeling that his anger is an obstruction or annoyance to a logical reaction of knowing that your pre-teen’s display of anger is an opportunity to grow closer to her. Pre-teens tend to distance themselves emotionally from their parents yet do not have the mental capacity to control how they react to their emotions. Thus, a tantrum is a sign that your pre-teen needs your support -- a need that your pre-teen would not otherwise make known to you.
2 Start a conversation that allows your pre-teen to express her emotions with comfort. Choose a comfortable setting and time to sit your pre-teen down and discuss the recent anger issues she’s having. Make it clear to your pre-teen that your goal is to listen, not judge. The reason for this is that pre-teens have a different concept of expressing their feelings than younger children: They now know that being completely open about how they feel exposes them to teasing or rebuke. By making her feel comfortable to express herself, you allow her to raise the true issues behind her anger, which you can then address.
3 Address your pre-teen’s criticism in a direct manner. Know that when discussing anger issues with pre-teens, you are dealing with a child who is now at an age at which parents are no longer idolized but can be criticized. Be ready to hear criticism about you or other facets of the adult world. Pre-teens want to separate themselves from their parents as they grow, and they are likely to place the blame of their anger on you or others, such as siblings or classmates. Without returning criticism, clarify how criticism can hurt others. Use feelings in your speech, as feelings cannot be denied. For example, respond to a pre-teen who criticizes your level of control over her by saying, “I feel hurt when you say I don’t care about you. I feel like you don’t appreciate the things I do for you.”
4 Elicit and explain your pre-teen’s motivations. Work on compromising with your pre-teen to allow both you and him to reach your respective goals. Show that you understand that your pre-teen is no longer a child and has her own independent goals. For example, respond to a pre-teen who wants more time with his friends and less with you by saying, “I know that your friends are more and more important to you these days, and I want you to be close to your friends. But at the same time, I feel like you are moving away from me. Let’s think of a way to balance family time and time with your friends.” As the Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba points out, showing your pre-teen that you understand his needs helps him learn the life skill of addressing and fixing problems, which makes it easier to achieve a compromise.
- Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child; John Gottman
- Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers, Michael Riera
- Child and Family Services of Western Manitoba: Where do an angry preteen’s feelings come from?
- David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images