Mental Health

Teen aggression and arguments

Find out how to cope with heated arguments with your teenager, and what to do if they become violent.

This page covers:

How to defuse arguments with your teen

How to deal with violent behaviour

Concerned about mental health issues?

How to defuse arguments with your teen

It's useful to remember that your own behaviour can improve or worsen an aggressive situation, so it's important to be a good role model for your teen.

If you act aggressively but tell your teenager not to, they will not listen. It's also helpful to remember that their anger is often based on fear that they're losing control.

Try these tips:

  • try to maintain a calm and peaceful presence – you need to be strong without being threatening
  • make sure your body language reflects your willingness to listen
  • avoid staring them in the eye and give them personal space
  • if an argument feels out of control, explain to your teen that you are going to walk away and come back again in half an hour in order for things to calm down

Breathing exercises can help take the intensity out of an argument. Take a deep breath, hold for a few seconds and then exhale. Repeat 5 times.

When your teen is calm, suggest this technique to them so they, too, have a way of controlling their anger.

Remember that teens may not know how to handle their anger, and this can leave them frustrated and frightened.

However, as with toddlers, if you give in to teenagers because their shouting and screaming intimidates or baffles you, you are in effect encouraging them to repeat the unreasonable behaviour as a way of getting what they want.

How to deal with violent behaviour

Sometimes, teen aggression can turn into violence. If they lash out at you, or someone or something else, put safety first.

Let your teenager know that violence is unacceptable and you will walk away from them until they've calmed down. If leaving the room or house is not helping, call the police. After all, if you feel threatened or scared, then you have the right to protect yourself.

Family Lives offers this advice for coping with, and helping, a violent teen:

  • give them space – once they have calmed down, you may want to talk to them about what has happened and suggest that they let you find them some help
  • be clear – teenagers need to know that you will stand by the boundaries you set. They need to know that any kind of violence is unacceptable
  • talk to their school – find out if their aggressive behaviour is happening there as well. Some schools offer counselling
  • avoid using violence towards your teen – this sets a positive example that violence is not OK
  • arrange counselling – if your teen admits they have a problem and is willing to get help, book an appointment with a counsellor or psychologist as soon as possible. Speak to a GP or their school about what help is available

Concerned about mental health issues?

If you're worried that your teen has a mental health problem such as depression, talk to a GP.

They can then suggest suitable treatment.

You may, for example, be referred for counselling, or directed to support groups or other services in your area.

Read more about the benefits of talking treatments.