Let's say your teen stayed up all night on his phone when he should have been completing homework and sleeping. Your teen is upset because you are threatening to take away the cell phone. So what does he do? Melts down.
"I hate you."
"No other parents do this."
"What if there's an emergency? You don't want me to be safe!"
"Everybody I know has a cell phone."
When a teen is having a meltdown, they are often not in full control of themselves. In some ways, they are asking you to help them to calm down. Unfortunately, what we do often adds to the meltdown instead of decreases it.
To some extent, teen tantrums are normal, meaning they are common and not necessarily cause for alarm. But that does not give your teen license to scream or make hurtful statements when they want to.
What should you do?
I recommend you Starve The Fire. When a fire is burning you can either add fuel to keep it going, or you can deprive it of elements it needs (like oxygen) and it will die out on its own. What do you think will add to the fuel?
Here's a list of common things that add to the fuel of a meltdown:
So what should you do instead? Ask yourself: "Does this add fuel to the fire, or does it starve the fire?"
Let's consider a few things that will decrease the fuel of your teen's meltdown.
So let's put it all together. Your teen begins to yell because you are threatening to take away his cell phone. Here's how an informed parent might react. After taking a deep breath, she calmly says, "Bryan, I can see you are angry. I don't respond well to yelling. Why don't you take 5 minutes, go up to your room, listen to some music, think about what you'd like me to know, and let's meet back. But I'm letting you know now that if you start yelling again, I'm going to stop the conversation because I don't like to be yelled at." Then Bryan rolls his eyes and goes up to his room. When your teen is having a meltdown, your only goal should be to Starve the Fire. Clearly this doesn't work perfectly every time. But you should notice a reduction in the intensity and frequency of the meltdowns.
It's not the time to enforce punishment. It's not the time to discuss the consequences. Only do these things when your teen is showing you they can be calm.
Note: Some teens are not safe during a meltdown. They become overwhelmed and make threats. If this is your teen, seek help, as safety concerns should always be taken seriously.
Copyright © 2023 Jeannie Colvin, MFT - All Rights Reserved.
Newport Beach, CA 949-241-0042