Navigating Tween Tantrums

Emotional 12-year-old daughter: ” Why can’t I have one?”

Thoughtful parents of 12-year-old: “We need time to think about it.”

Peer-influenced 12 year-old-daughter: “But everyone else in the 7th grade has one!”

Firm parents of 12-year-old daughter: “Give us some time to decide if this is a good purchase…”

Irrational 12-year-old daughter: “I can’t believe you guys won’t get me one! You don’t care about me! You never buy me anything! All my friends’ parents get them the things they need!” (all said in the loudest, most piercing tone she can muster as she stomps upstairs and slams the door to her room leaving her parents — and younger siblings– to simmer in the wake of her tirade).

This has become a regular event in our average American household. Living with a tween (ages 8-12) and the accompanying tantrums can be exhausting for the entire family. As a parent I find myself wondering when this parenting phase will be over. As an educator and someone who has studied child and adolescent development, I find myself wondering why this phase is not somewhat easier for me because of my studies and training. Adolescents are supposed to be irrational, emotional, egocentric, peer-influenced, and unpredictable at best. So what else should we expect from them when they don’t get their way. Right?

Maybe. But the more important question is: What is the most effective parental response we can have when we find ourselves wondering if we are interacting with our own child or some awkward misrepresentation of her (sometimes my partner and I have to keep ourselves from laughing at how unreal the entire scene feels)?

Recently our very own Parenting Success Network posted a wonderfully helpful article on our Facebook page titled Tween Temper Tantrums. In the article one of our guest bloggers and other local specialist give information, advice, and tips that can help parents of tweens and teens understand and navigate the tween tantrum.

Additionally MIT has an informative website titled Raising Teens. The website includes basic information about adolescent development and basic “rules” for parenting adolescents.

I found both of the above resources helpful in understanding what my daughter is experiencing and how I can support her as she navigates the next few years (or less if we’re lucky).

As I reflected on how I felt and behaved, and how my parents responded (we’ll save this for a future blog post) during my teen years, my daughter sauntered down the stairs and sat next to me on the couch. I turned and looked at her curiously awaiting the onset of the next storm.

Post-tantrum 12-year-old daughter: “Sorry that I yelled at you mom. It’s just that I want it so bad. I just have to have it.”

Calm parent of 12-year-old daughter (after browsing the above resources): “I understand that you really want it. Now that you are ready, we can discuss our options as a family.”