A regular scene in my home: The two boys are at the dining table, laughing and chattering noisily. Suddenly, the conversation grows animated. Some screaming is thrown in the mix. And then the tween gets mad, says something nasty in a high-pitched voice; there is an exchange of angry words as the teen bellows in his heavy baritone. Next thing we know, the tween has dissolved in tears. There is some slamming of doors and pretty mean stuff that is said loudly. Yes, a full blown tween tantrum is playing out.
I feel helpless and upset at this. Despite many talks and also inputs to control his response to the frustration he feels, the tween has regularly been showing mood swings and tantrums. So much so that he erupts pretty easily even in school and dissolves in tears helplessly.
Remember the post I did on parenting a child different from you. I feel myself grappling with strategies when it comes to my child whose behavior sometimes is so tricky that I am at sea as to how to approach it. The past few months, I’ve seen the younger child become increasingly moody, ready to blow up at the slightest provocation. It is also true that he is very sensitive when it comes to things about him. Sometimes things said in banter are totally misunderstood. Such situations often end up in tears and rude words from his side and a baffled confusion on mine.
After reading extensively on the subject, I found out a few facts:
- It can be normal for tweens to have tantrums: Thank you very much! I had thought that teenage was the period that I had to brace for. Looks like the goodies landed at the doorstep faster. That outburst aside, I guess, tweens struggle with emotions and hormones that can sometimes make them vulnerable to cope with frustrations and emotions.
- Tweens wish for more independence, control and privacy: As they transition from little children to teens and young adults, tweens want more control. While their bodies fill out fast, their minds are still coping with thinking maturely. It is like a conflict in their brains as they switch between anger and frustration to feeling happy and respected.
- They become more sensitive: Touchy would be the right word here. Tweens worry a lot about what their peers think of them. They are also ultra sensitive to what others says even in jest. I have seen this first hand. Also they may find it hard to articulate what they feel. And sometimes they feel that it is okay to throw a tantrum especially if they can get away with it.
- It is not bad parenting if tweens throw tantrums: I felt so relieved when I read this one. Often, we as parents just tend to internalize every bad behavior of our children as a fault in our parenting approach. It is bad enough that other people immediately blame parents when the child is seen to misbehave but the guilt within is often even more merciless. I guess, it is a growing phase and this too shall pass.
Here are some tips that I am using to handle tween tantrums:
- Family time: Even the husband is devoting only-him time daily to the tween to give him plenty of time to share his angsts and thoughts and most importantly to make him understand that he is important.
- Taking care of health: I started him on multivitamins to supplement any deficiencies that he may be having.
- Meditation: He has been complaining of lack of focus and I have been meditating with him. I am teaching him how to breathe deeply when he is feeling overwhelmed, out of focus or in general troubled. He is being patient with learning the same.
- Figure out the issues: He is unhappy since the start of the school year as his closest friend has been moved to another class. He was quite heartbroken and since he takes some time to make friends, he has been struggling a bit on that front. Add to that woe is another ‘friend’ who blows hot and cold at the drop of a hat. He can be very mean and nasty. I’ve tried to tell him to avoid this boy but somehow that strategy has had limited success. These days, he is trying to be friends with another group who are more at his wavelength. We all know how that takes time and patience.
- Set rules: This is tricky as dealing with someone who is a bit volatile can create more conflicts. But rules always help me define reasonable boundaries and expectations. And children work well when the rules are clearly spelled out.
- Acknowledge my own feelings: As a parent, I undergo the entire roller coaster of emotions from despair to frustration, anger to pity. Yet, it is good to fully understand my own feelings and not blame myself as a parent.
- Talk when calm: This works really well, I’ve noticed. When the storm has passed, talk together about ways in which you can help your child calm down. As I explained earlier, making him understand his own triggers, teaching him techniques that help him delay his response and understand his own behaviour do help in the long term.
- Acknowledge how they feel: Often, I end up getting upset and saying things to the child that may make him feel unloved or guilty of letting me down. I do wish to acknowledge to him that I understand that this is a difficult time for him and that we will help him get through this. It certainly does not make me love him any less. And yet, I am not sugar coating or saying that this behaviour is okay, just that we will get through this unpleasant stage together.
- Strategies: Help him do things that calm him down. Make him sit with us and stay quiet for a few minutes focussing on his thoughts or play with his Lego set, listen to music if he so desires, play with the dog which has a loving and calming effect on him and of course, breathe deeply or count till 10. When he is having a tantrum, I try to tell him to move away from the scene and perhaps go and sit in the room or in a quiet corner to calm down.
- Talk to the other child: The teen takes it very hard when the tween behaves badly and says unpleasant things. It is not about him is what he has to understand. When he blows up in response, it makes a bad situation worse. I understand what he feels, but I want him to help in correcting this situation instead of feeling like another victim. I’ve spoken to him and we’ve shared a few thoughts. Also I acknowledge his own hurt.
Phew! Parenting is a challenge at every step. I am hoping that the above pointers will help me and also any other parents who are struggling with the same issue of tween tantrums.
Do share any of your inputs for the same.
Linking to Tweens Teens and Beyond linky
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