Parents have been navigating teen mood swings since the creation of man. Generations of moms have been plagued by the hormonal roller coaster of their teens’ meltdowns. I’m no exception.
Many have heard me share about navigating my adopted son’s volatile behaviors. It was our family’s brutal journey with him that led me to a life completely shattered. And then God rebuilding me into a completely different parent and teacher. For more about our story through adoption and special needs, start here.
Mood Swings With My Tween & Teen Daughters
However, it’s not only my son who needs support with his mood swings. While my oldest is generally a very respectful young lady girl, she’s still a teen. Hormones come with the territory.
Let’s be honest, we adult women suffer from the occasional hormonal rage. Mood swings are real for so many of us.
So understandably, my girl and her younger sister experience teen mood swings and meltdowns every once in awhile. No big deal. Right?
Teen Mood Swings & Attitude Over Mexican
Let me share a story with you. About a year ago, I took my girls out on a dinner date. Of course, we all agreed on Mexican. Who doesn’t love chips and salsa?
The date was supposed to be just my middle daughter and me. However, at the last minute my oldest begged to join us. Middle daughter graciously agreed that Big Sis could tag along on our date night.
Fast forward about an hour. We’d enjoyed our chips, salsa, queso, nachos and a burrito. (I have to clarify that we shared. Just sayin.) In the end, we had lots of silly conversations. It was a success… Until…It wasn’t.
Teen Moodiness to Meltdowns in 30 Seconds Flat
In what seemed like a thirty second window of time, my oldest daughter shifted. She was suddenly sucked into the cyclone of teen mood swings. Her face changed… she was no longer laughing at my stories about how Aunty Jamie used to be obsessed with Davy Jones from The Monkees… Anyone else remember The Monkees on Nickelodeon after school?
“Hey, hey, we’re the Monkees!”
“Daydream believer and a homecoming queen…”
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Nobody cares?
Ok… apparently my cousins, my sisters and I had strange taste in entertainment. We still had tons of fun growing up.
Back to the story.
My girls had been asking questions about my life as a kid. As such, we were having fun and laughing. So it took me off guard when my oldest suddenly shut down.
Teen Attitude and Complaining
We were chomping down on our chips and salsa when she began complaining about “being full” and wanting me to drive her home. I asked her what was wrong. Classic teen response,
Pushing her further, (I knew she wasn’t telling me the truth), she responded with,
“I’m just tired.”
Mom Mindset & Teen Mood Swings
‘Oh! That’s how she is going to play it. Great!’
Frustration was beginning to creep up as the possibilities ran through my head. My initial reaction was to become a little P.O.ed at her.
See the shift? I am just as guilty of my own meltdowns when things don’t go my way. That’s for another post.
‘Great! After she begged her little sister to jump in on our scheduled date night… she gets what she wanted. She got her yummy Mexican food and now she is done with us.’
Let’s be real… teens do have a knack for being just a little ego-centric. I couldn’t have been that off in my assessment of her new shift in attitude. Right?
Parenting Fear & Mom Trying To Make Everyone Happy
Disappointment started to rise up in me. Deep down I feared that my daughter’s mood swing might possibly ruin her sister’s date night. And we all know how desperately we mommas try to keep everyone happy. For more on how to deal with sibling rivalry, listen to Episode 27.
My Teen’s Moodiness Was No Excuse For Mine
As the adult I had to make a decision. My initial impulse was to lay into her about ruining her little sister’s date time and being a bit selfish. But I didn’t. Not this time.
In the past, I likely would have pointed out her self-centered motives, her attitude and mood swing. My oldest errs on the side of taking too much responsibility for others’ reactions and responses. Because of this, she would have likely shut down and apologized profusely before I finished even speaking. Sadly, that typical response would have likely satisfied me at one point in time.
I mean, who doesn’t appreciate it when anyone takes responsibility for their actions?
Our Kids Shouldn’t Always Apologize
An apology would have been a satisfactory response. Not always. In this case, I could have slammed a door on our relationship. Even if just temporarily. Fortunately, this is not how the interaction went down. Praise God!
By God’s mercy, I have learned a lot over these past several years navigating my son. One thing I’ve learned is that I need to check myself when navigating relational conflict.
Teen Mood Swings as Information
My daughter was having her own version of a meltdown. I know what to do when one of my cubs has a meltdown. No, it wasn’t a drop-down kicking and screaming meltdown that the whole restaurant was privy to. However, it was my teenage daughter’s (lite) version.
So I made a mental pivot from the perspective that told me she was being willfully selfish. My mind had to drop the deep-rooted belief that all outward behavior is willful and intentionally ugly. Fortunately, God has opened my eyes to see so much more behind the behavior. So in that moment, I took a step back and paused.
“Something just happened. She had a thought or something just came to mind and she is responding. Let me investigate.”
4 Steps To Deal With Teen Meltdowns
The reality is this. After all the drama and the hell we went through with our son, God has allowed me to completely reframe my parenting.
Ultimately, this has impacted my response to outward behavior. In my parenting course, Barely Surviving To Outright Thriving, I dive deeply into how to use the four steps.
It started with my son when he was throwing meltdowns and tantrums. But ultimately, in that moment with my girl, I realized that was exactly what I needed to do with her. So, here goes.
4 Simple Steps: How To Deal With Teen Mood Swings
Step 1: Relationship
I looked directly at my girly and made eye contact.
Step 2: Provide Emotional Vocabulary & Reflect
“Hey, What happened, Sweet Girl? You went from happy and laughing to ‘shut down’. What are you thinking? You look like you are feeling sad.”
Step 3: Provide Physical Input
I rocked her in my arms like a baby. No. That totally did not happen.
Step 4: Shift Attention & Distract
No. Didn’t have to do this one either.
In a nutshell, I walked through steps 1 and 2. I connected with her through relationship. Then I offered her an emotional vocabulary and reflected back what I saw. Suddenly, everything changed.
Having A Parenting Plan Can Save Our Relationship With Our Teens
Her defensive wall of perceived teenage mood swing crumbled almost immediately. My girl opened up to us.
“I just heard a song that reminded me of Grandma,”
She managed to confess as she held back tears. Mom had passed suddenly about 9 months prior. My girl had been struggling terribly with her grief.
Her sudden change of mood had nothing to do with selfishly “using” her sister and me for Mexican food. My perception of her shift in attitude was actually sadness.
RELATED POST: Obey Right Away? Is That What We Want For Our Kids?
Barely Suriving? Here’s What To Do!
Whether a toddler tantrum, an elementary-age explosion, or a teen mood swing, we need to offer grace. We moms can choose to equip our children to work through the thughts and feelings that lead to those tough behaviors.
Then we can watch them smile and say, “Thank you, Mom.” Eventually. Hopefully?
Be encouraged, Mom Friend. Join the 5 Day Devotional For the Exhausted Momma. Toddler to teen. Learn about:
- Executive Functioning
- God’s Design of the Brain
- How The Gospel Points Us To A Radically Different Approach To Parenting,
- & More!
Or if you’re ready to dive in and end the daily stress of meltdowns, disobedience, and downright exhaustion, check out Barely Surviving to Outright Thriving. This parenting course will change it all for you and your child.