A friend dealing with teen drama recently texted me: “My teenager just told me he doesn’t know how much longer he can put up with his mother. Any advice?” Parents of teens undoubtedly all have experienced some version of this. Teen drama is so common it’s cliché—the eye roll, the breakdown, the door slam.
We all know it’s coming but dealing with teen drama still pushes us to the brink. While nothing excuses a teen’s disrespectful behavior, it’s helpful to consider why dramatic teens do what they do and adjust our own behavior accordingly. Here are 5 dramatic teen behaviors, what they really mean—and how to fight them.
1. The Eye Roll
Generally, when a teenager rolls her eyes, it’s because she feels like she’s heard this all before. That’s actually a good sign because repetition is the key to learning! However, it can still be infuriating when you’re trying to communicate something important and she’s dismissing it as stupid.
Try this: The next time your teen rolls her eyes at you, don’t respond with anger. Instead, sit down and ask her, “So what are you trying to tell me when you roll your eyes? Help me understand what you’re thinking.” Responding with a question forces her to articulate what she’s thinking as opposed to just dismissing the conversation.
2. Stomping and Slamming Doors
Clearly he’s angry if he’s doing this. But there’s an important aspect to notice here. If your teenager is stomping and slamming, it’s because he wants you to know he is angry. It’s how he expresses an emotion when he doesn’t know what else to do with it.
Try this: Give him a few minutes to cool down. When he’s able to talk, ask what it is that made him so angry and if there is a different way he can communicate that to you in the future. He may not be able to give you an answer yet. You also could ask him if there are ways you could have responded differently that would’ve helped him stay engaged.Just because you’re uncomfortable with your teen’s emotion doesn’t mean you get to tap out.
3. Sobbing About Something Minor
In many ways, this is another version of slamming a door. It’s an expression of an emotion your teen may not know how to handle. And let’s face it—a lot of us dads are way more comfortable dealing with anger than with sadness. But just because you’re uncomfortable with your teen’s emotion doesn’t mean you get to tap out.
Try this: When dealing with teen drama, don’t tell teens to stop crying. Let them cry. Give him or her a hug and say, “It’s OK to be sad.” If you don’t know why your teen is crying, ask. Consider inviting him or her to go on a walk with you. You may have some advice, but you may not. It’s much more important that he or she learns that sadness isn’t something to fear.
4. Saying “I hate you!”
Few things cut so deep as hearing your child say (or scream) these words. It’s so hurtful, in fact, that we often thunder back in anger. Needless to say, that’s pretty unhelpful—not to mention it’s also a misunderstanding of what’s happening. In all likelihood, he doesn’t actually hate you. He’s simply furious and doesn’t know how to deal with that. You’re a safe person to take his emotions out on.
Try this: Don’t react. Your knee-jerk reaction is probably not the right response. Tell your teen you want to take a 15-minute break. Take a walk, pray, talk to your wife—whatever you have to do to bring your anger down. Remind yourself that this isn’t about you; it’s about him. Then sit down with your teen and share honestly how hurtful it is to hear those words, reassure him of your love, and ask if you can start the conversation over.
5. Saying “I’m so stressed!”
If you’re like me, you’re tempted to respond by dismissing this and saying something like, “Just wait until you get out into the real world!” Don’t do that. If your teen is expressing stress, the stress is real to him or her, even if it’s unreasonable in your mind. He or she might feel pressure from you, a teacher, a coach, or friends that you are completely unaware of.
Try this: Ask your teen to share the source of his or her stress. Maybe her expectations of herself are unreasonable. Discuss that, helping her identify what is reasonable. Or maybe he has too much on his plate talk. If so, talk to him about saying no. All teens need to learn that they can’t do all the things. Learning to say no is an invaluable lesson.
Sound off: What else do teens do when they’re being dramatic? How would you respond to it?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do you do when you feel angry?”