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How can I stop my teenage son from his angry outbursts and physically intimidating his younger brothers?


​​​​​Hi, I am having a hard time with my 17-year-old son having anger outbursts and physically intimidating his younger brothers (ages 14 and 11). I know he is modeling what he sees his dad do while at his house, but I am not okay with this and don't want my 14- or 11-year-olds to feel unsafe in my home, especially when I am not home. Do you have any suggestions or advice to stop this b​ehavior? I am​ trying to find some anger management resources for him. Thank you. ​


Thank you for reaching out for help with your situation. Parenting can be tough, and you are wise to reach out for support.

Looking for anger management or counseling could be really effective; you are on the right track with that. Also, you are probably right, kids, including teens, often model the behavior that they see from adults. Is it possible to talk with your child's dad about this situation? We understand that sometimes that is not always a possibility. If you can have a conversation about your older son's behavior with his dad, you might just let him know that this is behavior you are seeing at your home and ask if he is seeing it as well at his. That might start a constructive dialogue about how you both can best help your son.

Another suggestion is to have a conversation with your 17-year-old during a neutral time about what you see happening; this might be a good way to intervene with the behavior and understand why it is happening. Set the tone for the conversation by starting out with something positive. That might be a recent conversation you had with him when he looked you in the eyes or a time when he and his brother worked on something together without any outbursts. Next, tell him your concerns, but separate the emotion from the unacceptable behavior.  It is okay for him to be angry or have emotions in general.  People feel what they feel.  It is how he expresses and handles that anger that counts.  Think about the times when you see his anger building up – maybe he clinches his fists, moves in close to the person, hits the person, shouts or starts breathing heavily.  Whatever his body is doing, you can teach him to recognize those cues and reverse those physical elements by opening up his hands, taking two steps backward, keeping his arms to his side or taking three slow deep breaths.  Have him practice these things.  Help him come up with a code word that he or you can say when his temper is escalating. Also, try to find out what your son believes is causing him to act out in these ways, and if it is in any way related to feeling unsafe at his dad's house, or what he feels triggers his behavior.

When your son does act aggressively towards your other sons, what happens afterward? Are there consequences that are given for his misbehavior? If consequences are not currently in place for his misbehavior, find out what motivates him. Whether it is electronics, being able to skateboard, participating in sports, hanging out with friends or holding a part-time job, all of these are examples of privileges and not rights. Privileges can be removed as consequences when behavior is unacceptable but let him know specifically what he could do to earn his privileges back little by little.  If you remove everything at once, sometimes the child feels like they can continue to misbehave because they have nothing else to lose.

As a parent, you are aware that safety comes first. In this situation, safety planning is important. A safety plan includes any neighbors your younger sons could go to if they feel unsafe when you are not home and people they can call and talk to about how to not react to your older son's behaviors, including avoiding him if they know he is escalating. It can be hard for people to not react when things are happening to them but in this situation, it is helpful for their own safety to not be aggressive back toward the 17-year-old. Make sure your other two sons know that they can come to you about any of his behaviors. If he has hurt someone in the household, damaged property or cannot calm down, you could contact 911 for a police presence, too.  Sometimes a parent can actually get a citation due to violence from their child and sometimes just having a person in uniform is a deterrent to engaging in violent behavior.

For all of your sons, the website Your Life Your Voice might be helpful. It is specifically for teens, and there are pages about anger, bullying, coping skills and more. You can find it here: Your Life Your Voice . We also found a resource in Boise that offers Mobile Crisis Response. Mobile Crisis Response can vary for each organization, but it usually means that you can call the organization, let them know what is going on and they will send a mental health professional out to help de-escalate the situation. The information for this organization is listed below. Also, remember that 911 is the quickest way to get help if there is immediate danger

Idaho Mobile Crisis

208-334-0800—during business hours (8a.m.-5p.m., M-F)

208-334-0808—after hours and weekends

Thank you for reaching out. You are welcome to call the 24/7, toll-free number Boys Town Hotline number anytime to talk with a Crisis Counselor about issues you need help with.