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Turning A Kind Eye To Teenage Tantrums

We can't expect our teenagers to be empathic if we are not being empathic ourselves

“As I roved out on Monday morning …” 

Is maybe how I should start my blog every week.

It’s the way most of them spring into life: as a shoot of a thought on that early ramble with Bella and Lily that buds into a theme as I walk.

A loose association of ideas I will then nurture, nick and train to full bloom on my computer screen after the breakfast dishes are cleared away and the kids despatched to school.

And then I hit ‘publish’.

My mind is clearest on these early morning tours of duty, yesterday’s irks and bothers decompressed and contextualised as I fall in with the rhythm of these two creatures of the now.

Who greet every walk as a new beginning, or the continuation of a great adventure. The same well-trodden path is for them full of fresh tangents and old scents.

A bit like blogging.

Tidy terrier Bella is so light the tug on her leash is more of a twitch, but effervescent Lily fizzes along, left and right and centre, her taut leash tugging me along, erratically jerking me to sudden halts and standing starts as she explores a patch of grass with fervid intent, and just as suddenly abandons it to yank us back on track.

Normally, at some point the two will stop for leisurely poos beside the path.

Lily drops her haunches and arches her lower back and I love that sweetly gormless look that suggests vulnerability and trust as she gazes up at me while releasing a short trail of frog-green droppings.

She ends the performance with that cute little feet-wiping quick-step she does, and she’s off immediately, as I endeavour to collect her deposit while she strains and pulls.

This morning I was thinking of stuff I had been reading on dealing with what I considered the empathy deficit in young teenagers.

Unlike last night’s cantankerous fulminations, my thoughts were now ones of curiosity and rumination.

The previous evening I had typed “young teenagers” and “empathy” into the Google bar, resisting the urge to make that “lack of empathy”.

To their siblings and their parents anyway.

Soon I was reading stuff like, in psychologytoday.com: “Teenagers typically become self absorbed during their adolescent years, but it is not due to having no empathy — it is because they are going through a process of self discovery and what may seem like an unwillingness to engage may actually be a sign of having little to no confidence to engage on an emotional level”.

Okay, I get that, and I can stretch to seeing what Sam Ross, aka the Teenage Whisperer, is getting at when she writes: “Put simply, teens in general often do not reflect on how their actions affect them, let alone others. It’s not a thought process that comes particularly naturally.”

Hmmm, interesting …

She goes on: “Teens live very much in the moment, in the rush of their emotions, be it a buzz or a rage. They are so caught up with how they feel now that how others feel, then and later, does not often enter their heads”.

I really see this in action with my 15-year-old daughter, and less frequently, my 13-year-old son. How their prevailing emotion shapes their thoughts and attitude towards us, the parents.

When it’s a negative emotion, look out Mom and Dad!

I confess to not always dealing with the bellow and bluster of these tirade winds as well as I might.

Too often I have found myself, buttons pressed, responding in something of the same kind. Irked and blown off maturity and responding testily.

In other words, right inside that volatile emotion with them, not outside the tempest, as I should be, calmly guiding them back to calmer shores. Even if through gritted teeth.

And, lo and behold, I give them the perfect out clause that teenagers love, the ammunition to move away from them assuming any kind responsibility for their bad behaviour and provocation, to their focusing on my negative response.

AAARRGGGHHH!

And then the Whisperer said something that might as well have been a roar, because it stopped me in my self-justifying, blaming tracks:

“What I’m basically saying is that we need to ensure we are not operating with an empathy deficit when dealing with theirs”.

Jeepers, that’s me in the spotlight: going on about their lack of empathy, as I see it, and not seeing the log in my own eye.

So quick to take offence at their lack of empathy that my own can go missing.

So I found myself the other evening along with my wife, defusing a teenage tirade — not immediately, but eventually — by really listening and getting behind the bluster to see why one of our teenagers was upset, not caught up in the howl of the way they were expressing it.

For, as Sam Ross puts it:

“There is a whole myriad of reasons why teens find it hard to consider the needs of others in addition to their own. Understanding that it often does not come particularly easily helps us, as workers or parents, to be more patient and understanding in addressing this issue ….

“Tackling the issue from a place of understanding will help teens to engage with you on the issue and to bring about the necessary change”.

Something to reflect on of a morning walk with Bella and Lily, the bounding hounds of love and distraction.

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46 comments on “Turning A Kind Eye To Teenage Tantrums

  1. Yes, a “kind eye” is certainly needed, and I just have to keep telling myself, “They will be so much more pleasant when that pre-frontal cortex is done developing!”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Enda, this too shall pass! 🙂 I was a teacher (of teenagers) for over 30 years. Sometimes when I had parent conferences, I did not recognize the spoiled brat described by the parents of certain teenagers. The ones I saw were typically polite, curious, and hard-working, in other words, a delight! I would bet that’s how your kids’ teachers would describe them to you. Of course, my OWN children (all boys) were another story. They really got under my skin.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was thinking about Lily the other day and wondering if she’s getting it right now, and not making puddles indoors? Funny how the mind wonders sometimes.
    Back to teenagers, I can’t believe I have to go through it all again, In my defence My older kids were but young teenagers when I decided to have more children so I guess they hadn’t actually put me off.
    Treating their outbursts with a caring, non-judgemental and calm attitude is all very well, but watch out because there is something in the teenage brain that tells them that parents being nice means even more trouble.
    The only thing to do is take longer and longer walks with those dogs of yours, try and avoid the kids altogether!! (only joking, it does get better, honestly)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Anne. She is better, much better, but I have to walk her very regularly to avoid these (not so) little pools!! You are right about being too straight-forward nice … they can take advantage of that too and play you for a sap. I only tend to represent the negative, however obliquely, but there are good moments too!! And our dogs are brill

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lucky we have pups to help us figure out the kids, eh? I know my Gatsby understands everything We talk about together. The kids, while too young for teen angst, not so much! #globalblogging xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Gosh my daugher is only 10 and she’s had teenage tantrums since she was about 4! I find it so damn hard to not lose my temper, but you’re right, the lack of empathy is also mine. Maybe I should get a dog…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am looking for any and all ways to grow my relationship with my teen. Thanks for these thoughts. visiting you from the global blogging link up. laurensparks.net

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading Lauren and taking the trouble to comment. Keep the lines of comminication open no matter what!

      Like

  7. I think you have to realise it’s not about you and just keep ‘resetting’ to neutral, no matter what’s happened. It is, however, exhausting. #GlobalBlogging

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been dealing with mood swings from my 12 year old. He will be 13 at the end of this year but he has already started puberty and one day I was completely caught off guard by his anger at me over simple disagreement having to do with a YouTube video. Of all things, he got so angry with me that he called his dad and told his dad he wanted to leave my house. I didn’t even realize what was happening until after I lost my own temper and started yelling at him. Reading this though, it really puts it into perspective. I somehow lost my empathy in the moment and didn’t even know it. I will have to read more about this as my older teenager is a breeze compared to my younger one. I know I’m in for a rough ride with my baby. #GlobalBlogging

    Like

    • It is amazing how angry they can be in the moment … can only be reached when they calm down … as I am still learning!!! Thanks, Michelle

      Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s easy to forget that sometimes we act or react the same way as they do. I always have to remind myself to be kind. #MixItUp

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tracey Carr

    Oh I totally get you on this one Enda. My girls are only 4 and 2 but my 4 year old is already dishing out the attitude at times. Especially in the last few weeks. She has thrown a few wobblys that are worthy of an oscar. If I’m tired, like you I get sucked into the argument and only end up adding fuel to the fire instead of diffusing the whole thing. But if I can muster up the energy to stay calm while she is roaring at us I have noticed that this normally happens when she is over-tired. She turns into a complete rat! Then she eventually starts sobbing and starts looking for hugs. It’s great understanding all of this child and teenage behaviour but it is another thing having the energy to deal with it! #dreamteam

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are right, Tracey, especially with smallies, tiredness lies behind a lot of attitude stuff. Again, I so agree, it’s one thing to understand, and quite another to actually stay calm and deal with it all effectively. That’s why they invented wine, I think, to get over it all!!

      Like

  11. I really struggle not to lose my temper when faced with tantrums and we’re nowhere near the teenage years yet. They already know exactly how to push their parents buttons. I’m dreading the escalation!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Oh lordy lordy Enda another poignant post about the hassles of parenting teens and so eloquently written too. A mere hint of what is really happening and evoking an empathetic response among us all. The wise words of those that claim to know (the experts) always make me smile. The reality is of course much tougher and another walk with or without dogs is always a welcome respite and in my case at least a promise to myself to do things differently – until the next time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not as eloquently written as your response, Jo! And you got me: a promise to do things differently – until the next time!

      Like

  13. I agree with you, Enda — great post! Our teens do need kindness (often when it’s most difficult for us to provide it – is when they most require it) – As frivolous as their lives may sometimes seem to us, we have to think back and remember our own teen years . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right: what seems frivolous to us, is vital to them … as it was to us when we were teens!. Thank you, Tanya

      Like

  14. Ugh, Enda, I can’t even deal with a three year old’s tantrum without getting wound up, let alone a teenager’s! I’ve got all this to come! Thanks for linking up #ItsOK

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Didn’t mean to wreck your buzz, Helen .. loads of good stuff too!!! Hehe

    Like

  16. I can totally relate to this post. When my 12 year old twins are rude or sulking I think back to when I was their age and just thank god they aren’t as bad as I was!….yet xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right, we do forget what we were like!!! Gosh, just been your website and see you have six!!! Thanks, Kate

      Like

      • Ha ha yes, i don’t know what will be worse, 6 under twelve or six between 8 – 18! Wish me luck! X

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sounds like you’re smashing it already, laying the foundations. We have wondered if just having a boy and girl has been a disadvantage, as neither has a sibling ally. I am one of six and my wife one of eight, and there was that for us.

        Like

  17. Karen Dennis

    Can totally relate to this, for a while we had 3 teenage boys living at home #thatfridaylinky@_karendenniz

    Liked by 1 person

  18. I found myself nodding along through this Enda. No teens here. But actually, after coming through the four-nado stage a while ago, I see a similar pattern. They lose control and get completely lost in the feeling of the (so declared) wrong doing. But the action that’s caused the chaos fizzles out as quickly as declared. But all hell breaks loose anyway because of how wound up they’ve got. I’m so glad we’ve got ages until the teen version of this! Haha. Thanks for joining us for the #dreamteam 🙂

    Like

  19. The stories I hear about the teenage years makes me appreciate the tantrums and attitude my 5 year old has! At least now I can still claim to be ‘boss’! Thanks for sharing with #itsok.

    Like

  20. mackenzieglanville

    This makes so much sense, just last evening my 14 year old was saying she feels unloved, I was so annoyed as it came off the back of a greta day of being out with her sister, her fav cousin, her Aunt and I, where we had brought her things, where I shared stories with her aunt about being proud of her, where we sat and drank warm drinks and chatted away as a group laughing and sharing stories. It was like WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?! But I have to remember that these mood swings and teen insecurities are not about me or my parenting, I know she feels loved, other than when she has a down mood swing, she is a great person and very wise most of the time, and so this makes a lot of sense to me. A good friend of mine has an 18 year old daughter who she often says is selfish and can not ever think of others, so I sent her your post as I think it will help her and she loves reading things like this. Thank you for linking up with #ABloggingGoodTime

    Liked by 1 person

  21. loopyloulaura

    I was a ngihtmare teenager so am dreading my own kids reaching that stage! At least with toddler tantrums the kids are less articulate and not taller than me! Thanks for linking up with #globalblogging

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Something tells me I should bookmark this to return to read in about seven years time! Thank you for sharing with #TriumphantTales.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I think this can be applied to almost anyone who seems to be lacking in empathy… The more hostile they seem, the more understanding and empathy is often needed, in responding to them x #TriumphantTales

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Back at ya, from #dreamteam, long overdue xo

    Liked by 1 person

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