Teens, Tantrums and Threats

May 09, 2020

Teens, Tantrums and Threats.  These are three “T’s” that can cause a lot of stress, frustration and sadness for parents, especially when everyone is home together all the time.  Have you had situations where you feel like your teenager bursts into a fit of rage or tears without warning while you are left trying to figure out what provoked such a strong emotional reaction?  You are not alone. 

As I often discuss, teens have a lot going on internally at any given moment.  Raging hormones, insecurity, wanting independence but being terrified of it at the same time, academic pressure, peer pressure and general confusion about where they fit into the world are probably just the tip of the iceberg. All of this “stuff” sits inside them brewing and brewing until one thing, however small, causes them to boil over.

This can result in tantrums and threats.  Tantrums can involve crying, screaming, yelling, door slamming, stomping around and many other unpleasant behaviors.  Threats can be direct threats or just very unpleasant words thrown at you and can involve things like, you better let me go out or I will just leave, I wish you weren’t my mother / father, as soon as I turn 18 I am leaving, you MAKE me act this way, I hate you, I wish you were dead, you’ll be sorry you did this, etc.  These behaviors and comments can be very triggering for parents (and rightfully so), however, reacting out of emotion to them will likely make the situation worse. 

When teens are in this state of mind, they are not rational, they are not going to hear what you have to say and they are not going to apologize to you.  In fact, they will likely continue to engage you if you are engaging with them because it may help them feel in control.  If they see they are upsetting you, they feel in control of the external situation, which may be exactly what they want due to feeling such a lack of control inside.

Below are a few tips on how to respond when you are faced with threats and tantrums from your teenager:

  1. Give them space but don’t let them off the hook. You won’t accomplish anything when your teen is in a highly emotional state, so giving them space / time to cool off is important.  However, once they have calmed down, you should discuss the situation with them, let them know how their behaviors and actions made you feel and try to help them see what they can do differently next time if getting that upset.  Issue appropriate and consistent consequences as is needed.


  1. Don’t feed into it. This is not always easy, especially if your teenager is making hurtful, inappropriate or untrue statements about you.  If they say, You better let me go out or I will just leave, say calmly,  You know that you do not have permission to go out and that there will be consequences if you choose to make that decision.  Keep it short and sweet and don’t let them reel you into a situation where you are debating or going back and forth.  Engaging with them and debating with them will only perpetuate their emotional state.


  1. Validate. You don’t ever want to say something like, I can’t believe you are so upset about this.  This kind of a statement is like putting gasoline on a fire. If your teen is acting out of control, it is because they feel out of control, so you don’t want to tell them they should not be feeling how they are feeling.  Instead you can say something like, I know you are really upset right now and I don’t like to see you this upset or I see that you are really upset, maybe we can take a break and talk about this in a little bit. 


  1. Don’t try to defend yourself. If they are saying things like, you are the worst parent, nobody else’s parents do this,, don’t try to defend yourself or give evidence to show them that you aren’t the worst parent in the world.  This will only cause them to want to provide more evidence for how you are the worst parent in the world.  When they are this upset, they are not in a rational state of mind so trying to rationalize with them will likely be pointless.  It is better to disengage, let them cool off and when they are calmer, discuss the situation and let them know how their words impact you.


  1. Be proactive. If your teenager is prone to situations like what I have described, work with them to come up with a plan to decrease or eliminate these behaviors.  When everyone is in a calm state, talk to them and develop a solid plan for what you will do and what they should do if situations escalate in the future (go outside for a short walk, go to their room for 10 - 20 minutes, have a certain word or phrase you will use to signal to one another that you think you need to take a break, etc.).  Having a plan in place ahead of time will increase the chances that they will follow it when things are escalated.

Teenage tantrums and threats are behaviors that can really take a toll on parents emotionally.  It can be exhausting having a teenager who is going through a complete meltdown and it can also be very hurtful to have a teenager who is telling you they hate you or that you are an awful parent. As the parent of a teenager, it is important for you to practice good self-care.  This will help you be better prepared for these stressful and emotional situations.  Good self-care will help you feel more relaxed overall and will also help you remain calm, even when in the middle of chaos.

Think about the questions below.  If you can’t identify any real consistency in your self-care routine, I would strongly suggest you use these questions to guide you to make a weekly plan and really try to stick with it.  You are worth it!

  1. What do you do for self-care?


  1. How often do you do these activities?


  1. What tends to get in the way of your plans for practicing self-care and how can you try to prevent this from happening ongoing?


  1. Does your family support your time for self-care? If not, how can you get them to do this?


If you are woman looking for additional support around your self-care and making sure that you don’t continue to put yourself on the back burner, go to Karen Vincent Solutions for free tips and strategies to help you live the life you truly desire. You can also join my private Facebook group for women HERE

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