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2000 Jordan Institute
for Families

Vol. 3, No. 2
July 1998

Tips for Working with Aggressive Teens

Notice signs of aggression. Learn to identify clues that a teen is potentially violent. Know how to defend yourself and how to restrain a client if necessary.

Offer alternatives. Aggressive teens may not know what to do with their feelings. Expose them to positive ways to expend energy, like exercising, drawing and painting, running, playing sports—even crying.

Practice problem solving. Most adolescents get angry for good reasons, but express their anger inappropriately. Teach them how to resolve conflicts through honest discussion and compromise.

Quiet time. Encourage young people to take time for themselves, away from noise and activity. Explain that this calming, quiet time is a gift to themselves.

Shut off the TV. Studies have linked television with violence and hyperactivity. It's not just the violent content of TV shows, it's the barrage of stimulation that makes it hard for kids to focus.

Touch appropriately. Many adolescents and adults use touch only as a means of control or showing aggression. By touching our adolescent clients appropriately (e.g., pats on the back, handshakes), we help them learn a better way to use their bodies. Do not touch a teen who is angry, however.

Explain the consequences of violence. When they are relaxed, explain to teens that as adults, violent behavior can hurt their chances of finding a job, alienate friends, or lead to jail. Make sure teens understand that you are simply describing reality, not trying to manipulate them with guilt or fear.

Role model. By remaining calm, speaking in a respectful and rational manner, and never condoning violence, even jokingly, you can exemplify the behavior we expect from adolescents.

Set clear standards of behavior. Make certain your clients know that anger is natural and should be expressed, but that violence is unacceptable under any circumstances.

Travel safely. Transporting an angry, agitated teens can lead to accidents. Always warn drivers if a child they are transporting is upset. If he or she starts to act out while you are on the road, stop the vehicle and give them time to cool off.


Carlin, M. (1996). Large group treatment of severely disturbed/conduct-disordered adolescents. International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 46(3), 379-395.

Feindler, E. & Ecton, R. (1986). Adolescent anger control. New York: Pergamon Press.

Glick, B. (1996). Aggression replacement training in children and adolescents. In Hatherleigh Guide to Child and Adolescent Therapy. New York: Hatherleigh Press.

Masters, K. (1992). The angry child: Paper tiger or sleeping giant? Santa Monica, CA: Psychiatric Hospital Division of National Medical Enterprises, Inc.

Lagerspetz, K. & Viemero, V. (1986). Television and aggressive behavior among Finnish children. L. R. Huesman & L. D. Eron (Eds.).Television and the Aggressive Child: A Cross-National Comparison, pp. 81-118. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

1998 Jordan Institute for Families