How I Respond to My Teen Daughter’s Meltdowns Helps Us Both

Teenage girls don’t have tantrums. They have cosmic explosions. I’m pretty sure a 15-year old girl caused the Big Bang. Teens in the throes of a meltdown will put a two-year old to shame. This is when you’ll hear the dreaded “You’re ruining my life!” or “Why am I part of this family?” and the old-standby “I hate you!”

Yep, teenage tantrums are all-around feel good times. A simple conversation with your teenage girl can suddenly turn into a full-fledged confrontation.

Later, after an angry confrontation with my teenage daughter, I can reason with her in a grown-up manner. (Twenty20 @Terralyx)

A simple conversation with your teen can quickly turn into a full blown tantrum

Consider this scenario: One minute you are discussing a school bake sale. You mindlessly make a little joke about how it would be easier to donate the money rather than bake something. The child-woman’s eyes turn dark, her chin juts out, her lips tighten, and her body tenses, “Okay, fine! Fine! If you don’t want to help out, then don’t. The bake sale is about COMMUNITY. You just don’t understand. You never take me seriously. Everything I do is a joke to you. You’re ruining my life!” 

She’s now caught in an uncontrollable downward spiral that’s creating a vortex of angst in your peaceful home. As she storms away screaming at you, every bone in your body wants to yell right back, “You’re ruining MY life and I hate you, too, you little *@$&!” 

But you can’t, because you’re the adult. Sucks for you.

May the universe help you when you’re treading on more dangerous territory, like the “post-prom party” discussion. “We’re going over to Anna’s afterwards and spending the night,” she informs me. 

“Okay, but I don’t know Anna’s mother. I’d like to call and introduce myself and see if she needs anything for you guys,” I respond. 

A deer in the headlights stares back at me, not a scared deer, a very angry and horrified one. “Do NOT embarrass me by calling Anna’s Mom. Promise me you won’t do that. Oh my GOD! You are ridiculous. You’re ruining my life! Etc, etc, etc. Spiral, spiral, spiral.

She used to be cute when angry. As a two-year old, she’d stomp her foot and shout, “I AM She-rious!” when she felt that, well, we weren’t taking her seriously. In elementary school, when she felt some grave injustice had been doled upon her (or got mad at her sister), she’d work herself into an adorable frenzy of indignity. She’d flap her arms around and get all red in the face as she relayed said wrong to me in grave detail, pissing herself off even more in the process. 

I taught my daughter some anger management strategies

Some sort of anger management strategy seemed in order, so I taught her a couple of yoga moves believed to relieve stress: the lion pose and the wood chopper pose. For the lion pose, you squat down with your elbows on thighs or knees and your hands cradling your face. You then roar as loudly and as liony as possible.

The wood chopper starts out with arms above the head, pretending to hold an ax. You then bend over at the waist forcefully, as if chopping wood, breathing out a loud “HA” in the process. Repeat as necessary.

When I taught my daughter the poses, she couldn’t help but dissolve into a ball of giggles. The next time she got upset, she surprised me by saying, “Mommy, I’m SO MAD, I’m going to roar like a lion.” So she did. And, sure enough, she started laughing at herself.

I then told her to do the wood chopper pose and again she ended up giggling like a fool, all anger dissipated. When I’d get upset, she’d tell me to do the poses. And, I would! Ah, those were the days.

Mom needs to become completely Zen

Yoga moves no longer apply when it comes to anger management in my household. Experience has taught me there’s only one safe and effective reaction to her tantrums: none. In the face of a meltdown, I become a Buddhist monk. Completely Zen, I control all impulses to react or speak.

I don’t look at her, don’t follow her, don’t knock on her door. I know anything I say or do can and will be used against me. I remind myself of the time she heard me laugh as I whispered, “She’s crazy” to my husband. It was not pretty. So instead, I am a stone. I am a stone who leaves the house if she has to. 

What’s truly amazing is how this irrational being eventually becomes your wonderful daughter once again. There might be a period of “attitude” following the outburst, but I’ve found that soon enough you are able to discuss whatever the issue is in a calm and grown-up manner.

You’ll feel obligated to remind her the behavior was inappropriate and that she needs to treat Mom and Dad respectfully. She will agree, of course, because she knows better. For the time being, your teen is a young adult again.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

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What I Hope My 18 Year Old Daughter Carries With Her Into Adulthood

About Margarita Barresi

Margarita Barresi is originally from Puerto Rico. She attended Boston University because she wanted to experience snow. After a 20-year marketing communications career, she now writes parenting and memoir essays and has penned her first novel, A Delicate Marriage, currently under agent representation. She is the mother of two teen daughters. More information here

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