Teen Violence: Warning Signs and Hints

Teen Violence: Growing Problem?

Find out how to see warning signs of violence, and get tips about avoiding anger and violence. Information courtesy of the American Psychological Association.

If you see these immediate warning signs, violence is a serious possibility:

  • Loss of temper on a daily basis
  • Frequent physical fighting
  • Significant vandalism or property damage
  • Increase in use of drugs or alcohol
  • Increase in risk-taking behavior
  • Detailed plans to commit acts of violence
  • Announcing threats or plans for hurting others
  • Enjoying hurting animals
  • Carrying a weapon

If you notice the following signs over a period of time, the potential for violence exists:
  • A history of violent or aggressive behavior
  • Serious drug or alcohol use
  • Gang membership or strong desire to be in a gang
  • Access to or fascination with weapons, especially guns
  • Threatening others regularly
  • Trouble controlling feelings like anger
  • Withdrawal from friends and usual activities
  • Feeling rejected or alone
  • Having been a victim of bullying
  • Poor school performance
  • History of discipline problems or frequent run-ins with authority
  • Feeling constantly disrespected
  • Failing to acknowledge the feelings or rights of others

Here are some ways to deal with anger without resorting to violence:
  • Learn to talk about your feelings - if you're afraid to talk or if you can't find the right words to describe what you're going through, find a trusted friend or adult to help you one-on-one.
  • Express yourself calmly - express criticism, disappointment, anger or displeasure without losing your temper or fighting. Ask yourself if your response is safe and reasonable.
  • Listen to others - listen carefully and respond without getting upset when someone gives you negative feedback. Ask yourself if you can really see the other person's point of view.
  • Negotiate - work out your problems with someone else by looking at alternative solutions and compromises.

When you are angry, you probably feel:
  • Muscle tension
  • Accelerated heartbeat
  • A "knot" or "butterflies" in your stomach
  • Changes in your breathing
  • Trembling
  • Goose bumps
  • Flushed in the face

You can reduce the rush of adrenaline that's responsible for your heart beating faster, your voice sounding louder, and your fists clenching if you:
  • Take a few slow, deep breaths and concentrate on your breathing.
  • Imagine yourself at the beach, by a lake, or anywhere that makes you feel calm and peaceful.
  • Try other thoughts or actions that have helped you relax in the past.

Keep telling yourself:
  • "Calm down."
  • "I don't need to prove myself."
  • "I'm not going to let him/her get to me."

More Hints:
  • Stop. Consider the consequences.
  • Think before you act.
  • Try to find positive or neutral explanations for what that person did that provoked you.
  • Don't argue in front of other people.
  • Make your goal to defeat the problem, not the other person.
  • Learn to recognize what sets you off and how anger feels to you.
  • Learn to think through the benefits of controlling your anger and the consequences of losing control.
  • Most of all, stay cool and think. Only you have the power to control your own violent behavior, don't let anger control you.