How to Handle Teenage Tantrums

Parenting books and other parents seem to go out of their way to let us all know about the terrible twos and threes. Toddler tantrums, screaming, hitting, heavy toys thrown, and miserable parents. You’ve seen it all as your sweet baby turns into a tantruming toddler.

As your child grows up, becomes better at communication, and starts to be fun to be around, you may be tempted to forget all about tantrums. What no one wants to tell you is that once puberty hits, you may see those tantrums coming back with a vengeance.

Parenting can feel like it’s one big learning curve, with many a curveball thrown into the mix. Hang tight. It does get easier.

Whether you’ve just started to see your teen acting out, or you’re finding yourself frustrated and miserable, there is hope. There are several approaches you can take to restore peace in your home.

It’s not always personal

When your toddler is melting down and throwing things, it’s not always about something you’ve done or said. It can certainly feel quite personal when you’re taking the brunt of their anger and violent behavior.

More often than not, you are the target of your teen’s anger or sadness simply because you are there, and they know they are loved.

In a world that can feel uncertain, parents offer stability and comfort. Your teen also knows that you are more likely to forgive their explosive behavior.

If you can keep this in mind, it might make dealing with a screaming teenager just a bit easier as you work through difficult situations.

Communication is key

It may sound like a cliché, but you truly can’t put a price on the importance of communication in your relationship with your teen.

Teens are naturally inclined to become more secretive as they enter into those turbulent years. They may start to hide friendships, romantic relationships, trouble at school, and other problems from parents.

However, even when your teen is hiding things from you and is making you angry with their outbursts and attitude, you need to offer them a safe space to talk. You may not always enjoy what they tell you, particularly if drugs, alcohol, or sexual encounters are involved.

But, remember that you are a safe space for your child. They must understand that the safe space expands to communication and the ability to tell you anything without judgement or issuing harsh punishments.

In an ideal world, you’d be a sounding board for your teen. You’d want your teen to let you know what is happening, what they are thinking and feeling, and how they are coping.

If your teen is prone to angry outbursts, it can be hard to find the right way to communicate with them. You can start with topics that may be benign, to begin that flow of communication. You certainly don’t want to feel like you have to walk on eggshells in your own home, but rather take it slow and opt for a non-controversial approach that will minimize frustration for all.

Remind them the love is unconditional

The behaviors that your teen is displaying with tantrums and outbursts are not acceptable. You will need to make it clear that this behavior is not going to be tolerated, but it also won’t impact how much you love them.

You can dislike outrageous and abusive behavior but still love your teen unconditionally.

You can put boundaries in place, with strong reminders of just how important your teen is to you and how much you love them.

Each teen is different

You could experience extremes that are difficult to face. The parenting learning curve can often feel more like a roller coaster.

If you have more than one teen, you may struggle with figuring out how to treat each teen and their outbursts. What works well with one of your teens may not necessarily work well with your others.

One could be great at letting you know what is going on in his life, while another withdraws completely and takes much cajoling to get a greeting in the morning.

One of your teens may respond to boundaries and restrictions, while another may completely go the other way and rebel to the point of running away.

Finding their calm zone

When most teens react with anger, violence, and other undesirable behavior, it is often due to an inability to cope. Your teen may be struggling with anxiety, depression, peer pressure, bullying, or too much of a workload at school.

While working on getting to the root of the problem, you must help them find that calm zone.

What that looks like will be different for each teen. Perhaps one will enjoy just time alone with his thoughts, loud music, and plenty of space while he works through his feelings.

Another teen may prefer more time with you, watching silly movies or going for an afternoon drive. Sometimes it is simply about being the stable presence your teen needs.

The topic of trust

What your teen might see as control, you may see as an issue of not yet having sufficient trust that your teen can make the right decision. Your teen might be acting out, screaming at you, throwing things at walls and doors, slamming those doors, and making threats. You may see a teen who is completely out of control.

Your teen is likely seeing you as someone who won’t give him the freedom he feels needs. You are unreasonable, controlling, and decidedly uncool.

The reality is that you would give him more control over his world if you felt that you could trust him to make better decisions. Seeing him have a tantrum over a household restriction and rule will not inspire trust.

Trust is a process that can lead to you having the confidence he’ll make the right choice.

Tantrums don’t build up trust. Learning to accept the established rules can help your teen to earn your trust.

You don’t need to go it alone

Parenting can feel like one of the loneliest experiences any adult can go through. You must have the support of your parenting partner, other family members, and others who influence your teen’s life.

Getting family therapy can be an excellent first step to consider. Individual therapy can also help your teen to work through the challenges he’s currently facing.

Some teens who are completely out of control may often recover better in a supportive environment outside of the home. This can often benefit other family members, particularly if there have been concerns with violent outbursts. Your family should not feel threatened or afraid of your teen and their tantrums. Everyone deserves to feel safe, heard, and loved.

A residential treatment center can offer your teen the space to address his inner turmoil, learn the right coping strategies, and understand how their tantrums can contribute to difficulties for others in the family.

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