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Children, Anger and the Tween Years

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Woman scolding her daughter
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Living with a tween can accurately be summed up by the words of Forrest Gump, "You never know what you're gonna get." How true. Predicting your tween's mood is practically impossible, but one thing's for sure: the most even tempered tween will exhibit anger from time to time. Children, anger and the tween years can make a parent's life quite challenging. If you consider all the social, physical and emotional changes happening to your tween, it's no wonder. But it helps to know where your child is coming from when you have to decide how you're going to respond to children, anger and all the other complex emotions your tween will display.

Tweens and Anger: What Causes It?

From a social standpoint, tweens are dealing with quite a lot. Between the ages of 9 and 13 the typical tween has to face increasing homework, changing relationships, middle school, and a whole lot of peer pressure to succeed, rebel, fit in, and conform.

Physically, tweens are changing at a rapid pace. Their bodies are growing, their hormones changing, and their brains are developing. Unfortunately, tweens are not always ready physically or emotionally to cope with all that's happening to them. Anger, often times, is the result.

Tweens may become angry at the slightest thing. A bad test grade may set them off, as may an argument with a friend, a bad day on the ball field, or a request to clean a bedroom.

Occasional outbursts are normal, and nothing to worry about. Keep in mind that when tweens are angry, they want everyone to know it, so door slamming, pouting, and yelling are likely. If your tween hurts himself or others, or damages property, you should contact your pediatrician. Your child's doctor may recommend a trained professional who can help.

Children, Anger and Your Response

For normal anger outbursts, you can help your tween by:

  • Remaining calm when your tween tries to talk to you. If you become angry that will only make her anger worse.
  • Avoid offering suggestions at first, just let your tween talk it through, and keep from criticizing or judging.
  • Do say, "I know you're angry, how can I help?" Don't say, "This is no big deal. Forget about it."
  • Be sure your listening skills are up to the task. Try not to interrupt your tween as he explains why he's upset. Ask questions to draw out more information and be sure to keep your voice very, very calm.
  • Keep in mind that your tween may not really be angry. He may be disappointed, jealous, embarrassed, or scared. He just may not know how to properly react to the situation at hand, and so anger is the result. Helping him understand his emotions is a good first step towards learning how to cope with them.
  • Make sure your tween is getting enough sleep. A sleep deprived child will get angry more often, just because he's tired and can't cope.
  • Offer suggestions that might help your tween calm down. If your tween's anger seems to be escalating, calmly suggest that she take some time in her room alone to calm down and pull herself together.
  • Some tweens find that journaling, drawing, or exercising helps them cope with stress, anger, and life's disappointments. Also, time alone with friends might help, as might a little television time or video game time.
  • Allow your tween to vent, but not too much. It's great to blow off steam, but you also want to make sure that your tween doesn't fuel the fire and make himself even angrier.
  • Ask your tween to consider how to prevent whatever it is that's bothering her. Is there anyway for her to handle the situation positively or prevent it from happening again?
  • Overlook small outbursts as they are quite normal and a part of growing up. Your job is to help your tween develop coping skills so that he can improve the way he reacts to bad situations and disappointments.
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