Milestone Storehouse Parent Resources

Home / Resources / MILESTONE STOREHOUSE PARENT RESOURCES / How Can I Better Respond to My Teenager’s Emotional Outbursts?
Emotional Health

How Can I Better Respond to My Teenager’s Emotional Outbursts?

Have you ever had an argument with your teenager?  I know, I know, is water wet right?  Disagreements between us and our children are inevitable. We are going to have disagreements because of the nature of parenting and because, let’s face it, a family is made up of sinners who are hopefully trying to walk in the grace of God. While it may not always be the case, we should recognize that some of these outbursts are being driven by underlying developmental reasons.

Sometimes we forget what it was like to be a teenager and we kind of lose a sense of empathy for where they are in their life.  Allow me to take a moment and help recreate that a little bit for you. Let’s talk about their physical development first. In early adolescence, the body undergoes more development than any other stage of life except for when they’re 0 to 2. Think about how much a 0 to 2-year-old changes. That’s the only stage that’s faster than what’s happening at 11 and 13. They are both going through stages of testing and exploring, it’s just that the 13-year-old has a whole other set of tools to do that with, right? I know you might even notice that younger teens are often clumsy and the reason why they’re clumsy is because their bones are often growing faster than their muscles.

They can often look awkward to you, but you know what? They feel even more awkward. There is an event happening I like to call the hormone party. The body, starting in the brain, initiates a flow of hormones to regulate growth. There’s a lot of hormones invited to the party bringing a lot of different things, so that the entire body is affected in one way or another during this time. These hormones are actually creating new grooves in their brain to help them think in different ways. I want you to think of your young teenager as under construction. This hormone party is completely revolutionizing their bodies and minds. This is not a perfect process. Sometimes a gland will put out too many hormones to their bodies or not enough. You may have seen what happens first hand when this takes place. In other words, we can recognize there could be a developmental reason behind their outbursts.

This is where we can help our teens when they battle against us or have emotional outbursts. We can have consistent consequences without overreacting emotionally ourselves. Respond, don’t react. They should know that your consequences are consistent and so is your love for them.  Resist the temptation to meet raw emotion with your own raw emotion. We receive emotion, and then we deal with that emotion in a healthy way. We meditate on scripture, we go work out, we go grab a pillow and scream into it where they can’t hear, whatever you need to do to avoid escalating conflict.

There will be times you look at them and think, “Where’s your brain? How could you do that? Have you lost your mind?” I wish they had the ability to say back to you, “No, mom, dad, my prefrontal cortex is not fully connected yet. I am going to, at times, be a hormonal mess because I am still developing physically and emotionally so please be patient with me as I gracefully embrace this new body and life that God is giving me.” I wish they would calmly say that, believe me, but let’s not hold our breath. So let’s help them out. One of the greatest gifts you can give your teenager in this awkward stage is to constantly communicate to them that what they are experiencing is normal.  Love them through these times and don’t fight emotional fire with emotional fire. Instead, calmly give consequences when they step out of bounds all the while reminding them of your love and God’s love. Get God’s word in your heart and mind and let it keep reminding you to keep focus on the bigger picture for their lives so that little fights don’t turn into things that could harm your relationship with them. Always be approachable and seek out healthy conversations to explore what is bothering them. You don’t have to explain all the science to them, just remind them you are in their corner.

Don’t react. Respond. Respond with love. Respond in prayer and hope. Seek to be consistent. God is parenting through you.