This post: Sass, Sighs and Slamming Doors: Proven Ways to Defuse Your Teen’s Moody Outbursts
Teenagers don’t come with a manual… if they did, I’m pretty sure no one would have kids.
Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But can we all agree that raising teens can put your parenting to the test? It’s that time on our parenting journey when we mutter “WTH” to ourselves more times than we care to admit. (At least I do, anyway.)
Setting all sarcasm aside, parenting teens is actually wonderful and rewarding … provided you know how to sidestep a few landmines.
As a mom of three, the most challenging part of raising teens for me has always been dealing with my kids’ unpredictable (oftentimes unreasonable) moody outbursts. I didn’t always handle it right… trust me, I failed on more than a few occasions. But I eventually learned that there’s a right way and a wrong way to handle them. Here are a few powerful and proven ways to defuse your teen’s moody outbursts and bring harmony back to your house.
Sass, Sighs and Slamming Doors: Proven Ways to Defuse Your Teen’s Moody Outbursts
1. Don’t Fuel It
If you don’t want to witness the mass destruction of a hurricane unleashed within the four walls of your home, then I can’t emphasize this one enough. When your teen’s emotions are high, the worst thing you can do is add fuel to the fire by saying things like, “You’re overreacting,” “This really isn’t that big of a deal,” or “Will you just chill out?”
Your teen needs as much understanding, patience, and compassion as you’re capable of mustering up at the moment – even if they are going on and on about something that seems totally ridiculous to you. The more you accept them (especially in their toughest moments) the more they’ll feel validated and empowered to manage their emotions.
2. Remind Yourself “This Won’t Last Forever”
This might be of little consolation when you’re in the thick of a heated moment with your teen, but their hormonal, “I will argue with anyone about anything” phase won’t last forever. Their ramped-up emotions really are a byproduct of their growing bodies and brains and their hormones. In fact, so often, I found with my own kids that they were often just as taken back and confused by their fluctuating emotions as I was.
This is one wave you just have to ride. So grab your sturdy surfboard and remind yourself that some waves will be small while others might knock you flat… but eventually, the sea will calm.
3. Dig a Little Deeper
Sometimes, our kids’ moody outbursts seem to have no bearing whatsoever. Other times, there is a legitimate reason. Don’t assume, just because your teen woke up or walked in the door in “one of their moods,” that it’s hormones. Our kids need us to dig deeper than that and not chalk up every mood to hormones or “teenagering.”
Maybe they found out a girl or guy they’re crushing on doesn’t like them back. Maybe they bombed a test they studied hard for. Maybe they’re dealing with friend drama and it’s wearing them out. Always give your teen the benefit of the doubt. There’s a ton going on behind the scenes in your teen’s life… make sure they know it’s okay to pull back the curtain and let you in.
4. Remember, They’re Little on the Inside
Even if you have to stand on a chair to get eye-to-eye with your teen, be under no illusion – beneath that grown-up body is a child who still desperately needs you. They’re still vulnerable and confused and scared. They’re still learning how to manage conflict, express themselves, and handle their emotions. (Which is why it’s so important not to jump too quickly into discipline mode.)
When your teen puts their fists up (figuratively speaking, that is) or loses control for any reason, stay as calm as possible and don’t jump into the ring with them. Instead, stay out of the ring, coach them, and praise them when they step out. Most importantly, keep your ego in check, and don’t take it personally.
When the dust settles, talk to your teen, help them to identify their feelings, make sure they know it’s all so normal, and help them recognize their triggers so they can fend them off next time.
5. Don’t Try to Fix It, Just Listen
Whether it’s a moody outburst or a legitimate reason, when our kids come unhinged, more often than not, they’re not interested in hearing our advice, ideas, or solutions.
All they really want is a sounding board and a little empathy.
So stop being the fixer. Let them vent, let them get it off their chest, let them dump their worries and concerns and problems on your shoulders. Just be there to listen AND validate their emotions.
When your daughter walks in the door complaining about how much homework she has, for instance,… listen and validate: “Wow… that really IS a lot. I can see why you’re upset. Is there anything I can do to help?”
6. Feed Them
I’m pretty sure if someone did a scientific study on parent-teen relationships they’d find 90% of arguments occur because their teen is either hungry, tired, or totally overwhelmed (or the parent is). So, the next time your teen gets snarky or sassy before you react, make sure you H.A.L.T.
H – HUNGRY: Are they starving? Before you respond or react, cut them some slack and FEED THEM.
A- Anxious: Are they worried, stressed, or anxious? Talk to your teen, ask questions, and be supportive. They need you.
L- Lonely: Are they feeling left out, isolated? Maybe what they need is your patience and understanding.
T- Tired: Are they exhausted? Did they pull an all-nighter last night studying? Cut your teen a little slack and tell them you’ll be happy to talk calmly about it when they’re rested.
7. If You Don’t Know How to Support Them, Ask
When you’re at a loss on how to calm or help your teen, ask them.
“Listen, I can see how upset you are and I want to help but I don’t know how. What can I do to help you feel better?” OR, “I know you’re having a hard time right now. Talk to me… how can I help?”
Not only will this immediately defuse the situation, it will also encourage your teen to bring their feelings and emotions to a conscious level so they can be verbalized. Suddenly, you’re no longer on the opposing team. You’re right alongside them, working the problem together. (A hug can go a long way in defusing a situation, too – IF they’ll let you.)
8. Call Them Out… Gently
Sometimes, when our kids get lost in a sea of emotion, a gentle reminder might be all they need to reel themselves back in.
“I get that you’re upset and I’m here for you. If you talk to me calmly, I know we can figure this out together.” OR, “You’ve been going on about this for the last 20 minutes and I hope you can see that it’s not getting us anywhere. Let’s work this problem together… calmly.”
Using words like “WE,” “US,” and “TOGETHER,” will let your teen know they’re not in this alone and you’re on their side.
9. If It Gets Too Heated – Walk Away
So here’s a parenting truth bomb we don’t often talk about… you DON’T have to put up with your teen’s crap. (There I said it!) Sure, you should be calm and caring, empathetic and gentle, and supportive and respectful along with every other “good parenting” adjective in the book. But if you’ve exhausted every effort to be the loving parent your child needs and they’re still sassy or unreasonable, it’s okay to walk away and give the situation a rest.
Go for a drive, lock yourself in your bedroom, or take a walk around the block – it’s far better to remove yourself from the storm than to get smack dab in the middle of it and have both you and your teen sustain damage. Revisit it later when your teen is calmer and you’re in a better mindset.
10. Love ‘Em Through it ALL
The BEST advice I can offer is this: Just love the absolute heck out of your teen through it all. The outbursts, the sassiness, the snarkiness, and the slamming doors. That doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t discipline them or put consequences in place. What it means is that they need to know you’re their rock, the steady in their storm, and the one person in this entire world who will stand beside them and have their back no matter what.