Do you feel like you’re treading on thin ice when you’re around your teen?
Maybe a quick reminder to do his chores is met with a fit.
Or a request to put her phone away at the dining table turns into a big argument.
Teenage tantrums happen when your teen displays an emotional outburst of frustration and anger. As a parent, it can be difficult to handle.
It can leave you feeling exhausted, and make you wonder why your teenager hates you.
It’s common to think that screaming teenagers are either spoiled or disrespectful. Some parents might write it off as teenage attitude. But this is a simplistic view.
Tantrums happen for various reasons, and getting angry at your teen will only make the situation worse.
So, what can you do as a parent to prevent your teenager from shutting you out?
Understanding the issue at a deeper level is a good first step.
In this article, I’ll explain the most common causes of teenage tantrums and the best ways to manage them.
(Make sure to download your free quick action guide below.)
Understanding the causes of teenage tantrums
The real reasons behind your teenager’s outbursts aren’t always obvious.
It’s similar to having a fever caused by an underlying ailment. Treating the cause is a longer-lasting solution than just treating the fever.
Similarly, parents need to look deeper when dealing with teenage outbursts.
Here are some possible causes of your teen’s temper tantrums:
- Hormonal changes: As teens go through puberty, hormonal shifts can influence their mood. This makes them more susceptible to anxiety, stress, sadness, and frustration.
- Social and emotional development: The part of the brain involved in self-regulation doesn’t fully mature until early adulthood. So teenagers aren’t able to process negative emotions as well as adults.
- Lack of communication skills: Your teens might not know how to effectively communicate their needs and wants. For instance, asking for more autonomy, freedom, or a bigger part in decision-making are sensitive issues that can be tricky to navigate. As such, tantrums are sometimes an indirect result of a lack of communication skills.
- Environmental factors: Exams, looming deadlines, conflicts with friends, the pressure to fit in, and relationship issues can be a lot to handle for teens. This can contribute to teens’ mood swings and angry outbursts.
- Mental health issues: Depression, anxiety, ADHD, and other mental health issues can influence a teen’s mood and emotions. For example, teens with ADHD may feel irritated more often, as ADHD affects impulse control.
Of course, some of these causes may not directly be your teens’ fault. But this doesn’t absolve them from taking responsibility for their emotions and actions.
Signs of teenage tantrums
Temper tantrums don’t have to only involve screaming teens.
A variety of behaviors can indicate that your teens are in the midst of a tantrum, including:
- Isolating themselves
- Screaming, shouting, or swearing
- Giving others the cold shoulder
- Stomping or pacing
- Moaning or whining
- Acting aggressively
- Throwing items
The impact of teenage tantrums on adolescents and their environment
Tantrums can impact your teenagers and those around them in various ways.
Some possible consequences that you and your teens might face include:
- Your teens might struggle to form healthy relationships with others.
- Your teens’ behavioral problems may affect their performance in school.
- Your home may no longer feel like a safe space for you and your family.
- Your emotional and mental well-being could be affected.
- Your relationship with your teens may become strained.
The good news is that emotional regulation is a skill that your teens can learn.
Instilling this valuable life skill in your teens will equip them to manage negative emotions and challenges in the future.
Effective strategies for managing teenage tantrums
Small and intentional changes can make a huge difference. These tips will help you teach your teens how to respect others, communicate effectively, and regulate their emotions.
1. Recognize the triggers
After your teen has a tantrum, think about what events led up to it.
Was your teen trying to share his or her thoughts but felt unheard? Did your teen ask to go out with his or her friends or participate in an activity and you said no?
By recognizing your teen’s triggers, you can learn how to approach certain topics in the future. This will also help you to understand when your teen needs to be heard, is asking for help, or requires emotional support.
2. Respond calmly
When your teen starts to scream at you, it may feel instinctual to respond with anger. But mirroring your teen’s behavior isn’t going to help.
Respect is a two-way street, so refrain from shouting back, making threats, or talking down to your teenager.
Remind yourself to pause and take a deep breath. Modeling self-control and emotional regulation is a great way to lead by example. Your actions will speak much louder than your words ever will at that moment.
You may need to give both you and your teen some time and space before coming back together to work things out.
3. Create a safe space
Create a safe space for your teens to be heard. Be present, listen attentively, and let them speak without any interruptions.
Let them feel safe, seen, and heard, even if they aren’t acting like their best selves.
This reassures them that you’ll be there for them whenever they go through challenging situations.
4. Encourage communication
Communicate with your teens by occasionally paraphrasing what they’ve said. This lets them know that you’re listening and that you acknowledge their feelings are valid.
If your teen doesn’t seem to be calming down, remove yourself from the situation. Once your son or daughter has calmed down, you can discuss possible solutions and ways to work through the issue at hand.
5. Set limits and boundaries
When the tantrum has passed, set reasonable boundaries. Your teenagers must understand that bad behavior isn’t a tool to get what they want.
Teach your teens that being angry or frustrated is okay. But shouting, throwing things, swearing, or disrespecting others is never okay.
Let them know what the consequences of these actions will be, and follow through on the rules you’ve set.
Work with your teenagers to create these rules. Including your teenagers in the process will help them to see that you value their input. This can help to reduce the occurrence of future tantrums.
6. Seek professional help
Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s one of the bravest things a parent can do.
Therapists, psychologists, and coaches are well-equipped to help your teen. (I work with teens 1-to-1 through this coaching program, so I’d be happy to help.)
And if you’re concerned that a mental health condition is affecting your teen’s behavior, now is the time to engage a professional before the situation gets worse.
Your teens are learning how to handle their big emotions. In a fast-paced, high-stress world, the best thing you can offer them is empathy, patience, and guidance.
Managing teenage tantrums is challenging, so don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t get it right the first time around.
Keep persisting and you’ll find approaches that work for you and your teen. And remember to always be kind to and patient with yourself!
(Don’t forget to download your free quick action guide below.)