DEALING WITH TEENAGE TANTRUMS
“I have no idea why they yell. Every suggestion I give is met with complaints, arguments and many times tantrums. It’s almost as if once I open my mouth to say anything to them, they’re waiting to tear my words apart. Parenting teenagers is hard! Why is no one talking about this?”
Sounds familiar? You thought the twos and threes were bad. Now you’re dealing with the horrifying thirteens—and it’s even worse. When she was two, she cried, kicked, and screamed. At 13, she’s yelling, slamming doors, storming out of the house, and screaming, “You can’t control me!” Teen temper tantrums are one of the many dilemmas we face as parents.
Is there a particular thing we as parents must do to successfully engage our ever tantrum-spewing adolescent? Might there be anything, in particular, we might be doing wrong as parents that set up teenagehood to be a difficult time for us? From our wealth of research and experience, the answer is both yes and no. There are times in life when we can control certain outcomes. But in situations where outcomes cannot be controlled, being equipped with the requisite knowledge helps one to go through with minimal scarring. Such is the adolescent dilemma.
So as parents, Yes!
There are principles we need to be cognizant of to guide our relationship and communication with our teens. These skills can be learnt and perfected over time as they greatly help in successfully engaging and managing teenagers and adolescents. If we violate these principles, what we get is a serious emotional lash out from our youngsters. Unfortunately, the traditional model of parenting constantly violates these principles. It’s no wonder there are never-ending squabbles and ever-present complaints while relating to our precious adolescents. Check out our free resources here on how to transmit instructions using our unconventional parenting principles. Adolescents can be groomed with certain cultural values that are necessary to sustain a high moral code and internal moral compass using 21st-century parenting skills.
And we also say No!,
Because there is a place in the physiological wiring of the typical adolescent that makes them into very emotional beings. In a previous article, titled ADOLESCENTS; WHY THEY ACT THE WAY THEY DO, we talked in detail about the physiological wiring of your adolescent. As you are aware, hormones are greatly beyond our control and as such, it is crucial we understand the hormonal changes that go on in your adolescent’s body so as to better understand the way they view life.
One major principle to successfully engaging your adolescent is in the art of communication. Adolescents are in a transitory phase of their lives and this puts them in an emotionally and biologically unstable state. They are at a phase of life where they seek independence but traditional parenting makes it somewhat difficult for us to either accept that they are no longer our little babies who need to be ‘controlled’ but our emerging adults who need room to discover themselves. So, in communicating with your teenager or adolescent, here are simple tips on what to avoid as we believe this will make a whole lot of difference when communicating with your adolescents and will help manage the never-ending heap of teenage tantrums.
But before you start, understand that you need to take these steps when things are calm and no one is being confrontational. Don’t try this in the middle of a full-blown tantrum when you are both on edge as it will end up counter-productive.
Teach Your Adolescent to Earn Your Trust
During an ongoing tantrum, what you see is an adolescent who looks totally and hopelessly out of control. And your adolescent in return sees you, the parent, as so unreasonable that you’ll never give her any control over her own life. But this isn’t the case. In reality, you’d probably give her more control if you felt you could trust her to make good decisions.
When trust exists in your relationship with your teen, she has a positive influence on you. And you have confidence in her. And you’re more confident about giving her more freedom. But your teenager doesn’t realize how much influence she could have on you if only she worked to build your trust. And a tantrum doesn’t build trust.
For example, let’s say you tell your 15-year-old daughter that she can’t go to a party on Friday night because you know there won’t be any adults present. And you suspect they will be drinking. If your daughter reacts by screaming, sulking and slamming the doors, it does more than make you angry. Her poor reaction erodes your trust in her. When adolescents learn to accept “no” for an answer and not have a tantrum, it builds trust and positive influence with parents. Your adolescent needs to understand this.
You can role-play with your adolescent to teach her how to build your trust in her. Still on the party example. After your daughter calms down, you can show her a better way to respond that gives her influence. You can coach her to say:
“Mom, I’m really angry and disappointed that you’re not letting me do this. But I want you to know that even though I’m angry, I’m going to follow the rules. I hope at some point you’ll reconsider.”
When adolescents manage their emotions gracefully and honestly, it has a positive influence on parents. Also, as you teach the difference between positive and negative influence—and manage your own emotions calmly—you’re modelling the behaviour you want to see in your child.
Teach Your Adolescent How to Influence You
Oftentimes, when your adolescents act out, beneath the outburst is something legitimate that they crave. But the way they’re going about getting it is completely inappropriate. When I work with adolescents who act out excessively, I ask them questions like:
- “What exactly do you want? More power to make your own decisions? More freedom?”
- “How are you trying to make them accurately understand you without any iota of misinterpretation?”
- “Are you getting what you truly desire?”
In most cases, the teenager will admit that it’s not working very well. Try asking your teenagers these same questions [during a calm time]. Then, you can shift the discussion into coaching mode by saying:
“Do you have any idea on how to get me to say yes to your request? Would you like me to teach you?”
Seek their opinion with genuine curiosity. Don’t attack or criticize them. Speaking to your teens this way helps them to see why their behaviour prevents them from getting what they want. It also helps with the proper development of the pre-frontal cortex. And, most importantly, you are providing them with an opportunity to learn to do better and to mature into wholesome adults.
Learn to Praise Them
As parents, we are constantly catching our adolescents doing something wrong. But we can also be deliberate in catching them doing something right. Let them know when they do something that builds trust with you. It makes them feel more confident in your love for them and that you see them as adults not as little children. Here’s an example. Let’s say your son wants to stay overnight at a friend’s house but you say no because you know there won’t be adult supervision. If your child respects your decision without a fight, reward him with positive praise. Say this to your child:
“I know you’re disappointed that I would not let you stay over at John’s house. But, I appreciate that you showed your disappointment politely. That shows maturity and respect.”
Here are some other examples of how teens can earn the trust of their parents:
- Behave with integrity
- Accept responsibility for mistakes
- Volunteer information about everyday activities that are even seemingly mundane
- Abide by the house rules
- Try to do excel academically
When your teen talks to you about the details of her day—without you having to pry it out of her—tell her that you appreciate her openness. When you see her being compliant with your rules, notice it and say something. Noticing the behaviours you want to promote helps to build trust. And it reinforces the preferred behaviours.
Look For Pointers to Stressors
Adolescents get pretty stressed up too. Oftentimes, because we see them as children, it is difficult to come to terms with the fact that they can be stressed emotionally, socially, physically, mentally, etc. Peer pressure can take a toll on them and impact their moods. Their relationships with friends, crushes, etc can do the same. When they’re in a bad mood because of a bad day, they can end up being more irritable than usual. You know this is a normal phenomenon because it happens to you too. So, the next time your child has a tantrum, ask yourself what the tantrum is really about? Is it really about cleaning the sitting room? Or is it about some other stress in his life?
Tantrums, especially those displayed by teenagers, can be viewed as part of a normal adolescent development process. Teenagers, like us all, are works in progress. Your adolescents’ success as an adult will depend on how well they can identify and advocate for their own needs and resolve to persist when facing obstacles. It’s important to recognize that your teen is practising behaviours that, when refined, can be very useful as an adult, even if they’re currently inappropriate. That’s where emotional intelligence will help them out.
Happy International Youth Day 2022 from us all at TSAGE and TBOG Consult