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How to Handle a Tween's Tantrums

By Ashley Miller ; Updated April 18, 2017
Tweens don't always have the necessary tools to express their feelings.

The tween years, usually occurring between the ages of 9 and 12, are a time of transition from childhood to adolescence. Dealing with budding physical changes, increasing social and academic pressure and family concerns can be stressful and frustrating for tweens -- and their parents. Temper tantrums might be one way your child expresses her anger and stress, especially if she hasn't developed effective coping mechanisms or has difficulties with self-regulation. While temper tantrums should gradually decrease as your child gets older, you can manage this difficult in-between period and help your child learn the art of self-control.

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Stand your ground. Don't be afraid of your child's behavior. If you act intimidated or back down, your child will realize that he holds all the cards. And if your tween senses that he can push your buttons, his behavior may increase, instead of decrease, in intensity. Respond as you would to a toddler having a meltdown. Stay cool, advises the KidsHealth website.

Recognize and accept your tween's emotions, explains Denise Rennekamp, a parenting education coordinator and outreach coordinator at Oregon State University in a 2013 interview published on The Oregonian. Realize that your tween is acting out as a way of expressing emotions that she feels are overwhelming or unmanageable. Accepting her emotions provides validation that you understand, but it doesn't mean that you condone her behavior.

Let your tween's temper tantrum run its course, advises certified school counselor Sara A. Bean in an article for Empowering Parents. Don't attempt to reason with him or talk about his feelings in the heat of the moment. If your tween isn't engaging in destructive or dangerous behavior, step back and become an observer. Avoid interfering with your tween's outbursts. Keep in mind that the tantrum will eventually run out of steam on its own.

Figure out the cause of your tween's tantrum. Determining the underlying reason why your tween is acting out might help you find out what your tween really needs. For example, if your tween is frustrated by a fight with a friend, she might act out because she feels unable to express her feelings of anger or sadness. Once she begins to calm, encourage her to take a deep breath. Once she is in a calm state, offer comfort and support by asking her if she wants to talk about it.

Provide an outlet for your tween's emotions. Suggest productive, safe and healthy ways of releasing pent-up feelings of frustration, anger and stress. For example, some children find it helpful to beat up a pillow, exercise or engage in creative activities, notes Sara A. Bean.

Manage your own stress and frustration. When your tween experiences a temper tantrum, you'll inevitably feel stressed and worn out. Taking care of yourself by practicing deep breathing, talking to a friend or engaging in another stress-relieving activity can help you calm down and reduce the effects of your tween's tantrum on your well-being.

Tip

During calm moments, discuss your tween's behavior in a supportive, caring manner. Ask him what actions he can take to calm down if he feels frustrated or angry. Providing him the chance to solve his own problem can help him feel empowered and more in control of his emotions.

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About the Author

Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.

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