Teen violence at home

When teenage anger turns to violence

Arguments are to be expected as part of family life, and these can certainly start to happen more often, as your child enters their teenage years. Sometimes disagreements will turn into blazing rows, with your teenager insulting you or swearing. This can be hurtful and disappointing, leaving you asking yourself how things ended up this way or what you could have done differently.

A certain level of anger and frustration is to be expected from teenagers, but it’s important to maintain your disciplinary boundaries. It is not acceptable for your teenager to become aggressive and it is never OK for them to physically hurt you.

If you have experience violence from your teen, then you need to face the issues behind all the anger. It may be hard to admit that there is a problem, but if your teenager is hitting you, then this is domestic violence and needs to be dealt with. You deserve to feel safe in your own home. 

Tips on coping with arguments

Accept that arguments do happen. Sometimes your teen will say really upsetting things, but remember that they are still learning to cope with new situations and new emotions. Difficult feelings like anger and fear can be frustrating for your teen and the may sometimes let them out in ways that are difficult for you to hear. Try to stay calm and avoid saying anything you may later regret.

Listen to your teen and try to see their point of view. Even if you only see it slightly, let them know, instead of just disagreeing with everything. When your teen trusts that you can hear their views, they may be more likely to talk calmly instead of shouting.

Try to resolve the argument with a compromise, or at least show that you have understood where their emotions are coming from. If the situation becomes too heated and you are finding it difficult to stay calm, walk away. Avoid blame, and let your teen know that you will be able to talk to them again when you have calmed down.

If you find arguments are getting out of hand regularly, consider counselling. Your teen may find it helpful to talk to someone new and unbiased, who isn't in their family and won’t judge them. You can even attend family counselling sessions together.

Tips on dealing with violence

If your teen is violent towards you, you can take steps to stop this behaviour. Violence is never acceptable and should not be allowed to continue. The most important this is to put your safety first. Any time your child lashes out violently, get out of the way and go somewhere safe. If you still feel threatened or scared and don't know how to protect yourself, then you have every right to contact the police.

Once you are out of danger, there are a few things you can do to try to manage the situation of your teen's violent behaviour. Be clear that you will stand by the boundaries that you have set and the values that you believe in. Your child needs to understand that any type of violence is unacceptable.

Give them space. Recognise that your teen is taking anger out on you and may not know how else to deal with difficult feelings. Once they have calmed down, you may be able to talk to them about what has happened and suggest they let you find them some help.

If your teen admits they have a problem and is willing to get help, book an appointment with a counsellor as soon as possible  Show them that you will support them in getting through this stage. With your love and forgiveness, your teen stands a much better chance of identifying anger and learning to express it safely.

If they are unwilling to accept that they have a problem, then you may still be able to arrange counselling for them. Speak to your GP or their school about what help there is available for them

Finally, avoid using violence with your teen. If you are hitting your teenager as a form of punishment or discipline, or even because you are losing control of your temper in an argument, then you are giving them the message that it is OK to use violence to solve disagreements. By avoiding using violence, you are setting a positive example of what you find acceptable.

Expert advice on dealing with teen violence

"All teens need opportunities to be independent, push boundaries and even hurl some hormone-induced verbal abuse at you at times," says psychologist Dr Sandi Mann. "They're entering a new phase in their life - searching for a new identity and trying to reject the old one, whilst all the time wrestling with rebellious hormones they can’t control.

"Some door-slamming and arguing is therefore totally understandable - and even healthy. But if a teen is becoming aggressive - verbally and physically - then, as a parent, you need to take control in a firm but non-aggressive way."

Having an aggressive teenager rule the roost in your house definitely needs tackling, and its effect on the family can be far-reaching. "Not only does it make life miserable for everyone else in the house, but you could find younger siblings copying the aggressive teenager’s behaviour, too" says Dr Mann.

"If your child is being aggressive in some situations only - say, in the home and not at school - then the good news is that they know what they are doing, they do have the capacity to control their behaviour, and so can change.

Mental health problems

"The main thing to remember is that, unless your child has a mental health problem, or a condition such as ADHD, which often goes undiagnosed, then there will be an underlying issue which is making them unhappy and act aggressively." And while going in guns blazing might feel your only option to combat the behaviour, it’s actually the worst thing you can do.

"Aggression breeds aggression, so take a deep breath and attempt to get to the root of the problem calmly with your child, to see where this is coming from," advises Jonny Wineberg. "Admitting to your child you sometimes find parenting difficult - or that you are sorry for something you’ve done - can also help.

"Don't lose control if you discover something they're up to which you don’t approve of - such as being part of a gang, having a weapon or drugs on them. When they’re attacked they will be more likely to retaliate with aggression. Instead, try and ask them calmly why they have done something and what you can do together about it.

"The basis of a good relationship with your teen is good communication. So talk to them rather than shout at them, be as non-judgmental as you can - and that way they should be more likely to open up to you."

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How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers through Live Chat, email us or call our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums.  Family Lives is here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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