Part 2 in the Ending Negativity Series
Tweens and teens are a challenge. One of the biggest challenges in parenting tweens is dealing with their mood swings and tendency towards grumpiness and surliness. Sometimes it can feel like your tween is one big bad mood.
Many of us parents have worked hard on our own mindset and strive to be positive. We look on the bright side, look for the silver lining, try to make the best of things, believe “everything happens for a reason” etc. It can be really hard when you have worked to cultivate your own positive attitude to parent someone who is a BIG GRUMP.
After you read this series on ending negativity, you will have tools and ideas to help you get through this difficult stage. Your sanity will be salvaged and you will help your kids develop resilience – which will make them into more quality humans.
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To read part one in the Ending Negativity series, click here:
This article, part two, focuses on how you as the parent can deal with your tween’s bad moods.
1) Notice if there is a pattern to your tween’s bad moods
Is there a consistency in your tween’s bad moods? Are they cranky when they are hungry? Grumpy when they wake up or at bedtime?
If you notice a pattern, you can plan accordingly.
If hunger or tiredness is part of the problem, meeting their physical needs can be part of the solution. I’ve found an ebook that is an excellent resource for making sure that you are giving proper nutrition to your tween’s brain, which can affect behavior. Food & the Brain by Mary Tate dives deep into this topic.
If you think your tween or teen is not getting enough sleep, read this article: Count Those Sheep: Teens and Sleep
Know your tween’s stressors
Does your tween get agitated when in a new situation? It is very common for tweens (and little kids, and teens, and adults!) to be “freaked out” when experiencing something new for the first time. Notice if this happens for your tween.
If you know that new situations stress out your child, you can help. Maybe they need more time to get ready. Maybe they need you to have a conversation with them beforehand to think of how they will handle the new situation. Maybe they need to choose the music you listen to on the drive over to “get pumped.”
The same applies for if there is a certain type of situation or activity that consistently gets your tween into a bad mood. Does your tween stress about tests? Sports tournaments? Musical performances?
Put some thought into what are your tween’s stressors. Then do your best to get your tween into the best position for handling that stress. Make sure they get enough sleep the night before and eat a healthy meal. It could be helpful to make sure they get enough sleep all week and eat healthfully the day before the stressful event.
Watch out for overscheduling
Also, take a look at your tween’s schedule. If he is following a full day of school with music lessons and sports practice and tutoring and homework and and and…maybe you need to let something go. Overscheduled kids are often exhausted and have no downtime. This leads to stress, which leads to bad moods.
2) Remember that the mood is not the same thing as your child
Your tween and their bad mood are not the same thing. Ignoring the bad mood is often a good strategy so that the bad attitude can’t be used for attention-getting.
However, don’t ignore your tween. Make sure your tween knows that you always accept him/her. This will help your relationship without encouraging the negative attitude.
What I mean is, you don’t always have to respond to the bad attitude. You can choose to ignore it. Just don’t give your tween the silent treatment in general. If you make them feel invisible, they may choose to make the grumpy attitude “bigger” to get your attention.
Make it clear that your tween is important to you and is an important member of your family.
If you need help connecting with your tween, try one of these books:
3) Help your tween find a positive activity
Encourage and help your tween find activities that can calm their negative mood and spark joy and/or contentment.
That could be art or crafting, listening to or making music, watching movies with the family, cooking or baking, reading, exercising, being in nature…
Get some ideas in part 4 in this series, Calming Activities for Tweens and Teens.
Connecting with friends in person can be great to help their moods.
Plus remember that even though your tween is a bit surly and has changed rapidly over the past few years, they really do need time with you. Set aside some time to spend one on one with your tween if you can, or make some time for the whole family to be together. Remind them often that you love them.
4) Limit time on devices
Do your best to help them find some quiet. TAKE AWAY THEIR DEVICES SOMETIMES. They won’t like it – they will argue with you – but they need it. Be strong. Many tweens are addicted to their devices and can’t stop on their own. If you need help, click here to read my article about making a phone contract.
Too much time on devices can magnify your tween’s bad moods. Their attention span is shortened and the doses of dopamine and oxytocin brain chemicals that their phone or computer gives them can really screw up their thinking.
We all need time without technology. Encourage your tween to spend some time crafting, reading, baking, walking outside…
Chances are they will claim to have no idea what to do without their technology. Help them find something. For ideas, read Calming Activities with Tweens and Teens together. I compiled a list of very specific ideas, and some of them are bound to work for your grumpy tween or teen.
5) Give your tween some space
While it is valuable to spend time with your tween and try to understand what is going on with him/her, it is also important to remember that your tween needs space.
At this age, tweens can feel like there are so many demands on them and so many changes going on – they feel overwhelmed. They also can feel like their own negative voice in their head won’t be quiet.
Don’t corner your tweens or make them feel like they have to “cheer up” to please you. If they don’t feel like having time with you right now…let them be. Give them space.
6) Talk to them about what they want to talk about
Lastly, talk to your tween about what they want to talk about. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s really not. We as parents tend to have our own ideas of what is important and what our kids should be doing/working on/thinking about. Often we bulldoze our way through conversations with our kids.
Take a breath. Take the time to ask your kids: “So, what’s up?” Annoyed that they are spending mindless hours playing video or computer games? Instead of jumping in and telling them to stop, make an effort to ask them about what they are doing. What game is it? What’s the objective? How did you decide to play it? How’s it going – what level are you on?
The same goes for the book they are reading, the movie they watched with a friend, the Instagram or Tik Tok or YouTube feed they are obsessed with, the new music or fashion they are into…
Whatever your kid is interested in – find out about it. Keep the conversations going. Keep yourself relevant. Keep yourself in the conversation so that the lines of communication stay open. If you know the basics of what’s important to your tween, then it will be easier for him/her to open up to you if things go wrong.
If your tween or teen is suffering from extended bad moods and a feeling of hopelessness, you may need to get professional help. If you are really worried about your child, please read part 3 in my Ending Negativity Series:
I hope you’ve found my tips about handling your tween’s bad moods helpful. Comment below and let me know: what other challenges are you facing with your tweens and teens?