Finding the Source of Your Teen’s Outrage

Finding the Source of Your Teen’s Outrage

A vicious wasp stings your fragile skin. Your body fills with adrenaline, and you run as if your body is engulfed with flames. This biological response stems from the amygdala — the area within our brain that affects emotions, decision-making and memory — inside of your brain, which reacts and sends hormones rushing through our bodies and brains when we are in danger. This response keeps us safe, but not all hormone-flooding amygdala responses start with physical danger. Sometimes the amygdala fires from emotional stress, and our brains struggle to tell the difference between physical and emotional danger. Now imagine this biology in a teenage body that is dealing with growth and hormonal imbalance.


Identity Needs

Teens and adults have similar needs. Abraham Maslow discovered that physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization needs are central to the human experience. When one or more of these human needs are not met, our brain, and at times, our amygdala responds. The severity of response depends on the situation and the individual. If needs aren’t met, especially for a teen, outrage might result. In adults, some of these behaviors are predictable, but the added cocktail of new hormonal imbalances to the teenage experience can cause emotional upheaval in your house. Your teen might over-react to what seems to be an insignificant issue.


Focus on Problem Solving

A step-by-step approach to problem solving can help you work through the process of resolving these issues as follows:

  • Identify the real issue. An overreaction from a small problem is generally caused by not fulfilling a core need. Discovering that core need defines the actual problem. The challenge is digging deeper to find it, which requires talking, and more importantly, listening.
  • Listen carefully to solve problems since the outrage is not about the insignificant surface argument. Teens must learn to define their own experiences and communicate with others as well.
  • Understand the biology of our children. They demonstrate less patience than we do, and their hormones can cloud logical thinking. Their amygdala can fire more often and with more power than ours. We have to slow down and monitor our own emotions. We have to act as thermostats to set the temperature instead of reacting as thermometers that respond to the temperature.
  • Help your teen understand what is happening to his or her body. We are the teachers and examples, responsible for candid conversations to help them focus on addressing their core needs and help to meet needs even when it doesn’t always end up how they pictured it.

Take a Break

When your teen is outraged, give him or her space to breathe. You have to take a break as well. We recognize our biology and think about our thinking. Teach your teens that their amygdala leads them to behave in ways that are not representative of who they truly are. When they recognize that their emotions aren’t representing them, they simply have to breathe. Pause. Slow down. Gain control. Think about their thinking, and move forward in a sensible manner that both represents their greatness and focuses on core needs.

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