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Living With Grumpy Tweens and Teens: 10 Clever, Common Sense Ways to Lift the Mood



It’s not overly harmful, just difficult to live with. That’s why every parent needs to be armed with a few tricks to break the cycle before it becomes a hurricane of tension. These ten tips are so effective that I am sure you will come back to them time and time again.

Tip No. 1: Try Using “Hit and Run” Praise

First up it helps to remember that they are probably feeling pretty down about themselves. They could be latching onto some fairly hefty negative thoughts which are weighing them down. Teenager brains have a tendency to search for extreme, negative thoughts. Deliberately (but strategically) affirming them can only be helpful. Try hit and run praise…

Give your teen a compliment and then keep walking. The idea is to keep moving. Don’t stay around and wait for a response. Don’t wait for the eye roll. Don’t wait for them to return the compliment. Be like a magpie…. swoop and then retreat. 🦅

“Hey I think you are awesome…”
“Hey, great choice in makeup…”
“Hey, I’m so proud of you… “
“Hey, thanks for spending time with your little brother…” (exit quickly).

Tip No. 2: Let them overhear you bragging about them.

Firstly, you will have to get your microscope out and find some gold (dust) 😂😂Then you will have to find a friend, grandparent or partner to share it with. A good “brag” involves slight exaggeration. Dramatically describe the details.

What did they do?
How did it make you feel?
Who else noticed it?
When have they done something similar?

You might be concerned they will think you are crazy, but chances are they already do!

Tip No. 3: Share stories about your teenager’s childhood.

Who doesn’t like to hear about themselves? NOBODY… ever! However, your teenager might roll their eyes if you spontaneously get lost in a reminiscing moment. So instead have a “clean up” of their old things and leave an box full of their childhood memorabilia on the kitchen bench. If they rummage through it by themselves, great. If you need to encourage them in that direction, fine too.

When they start to ask questions about the items in it, take it as a cue to break out in a reminiscing moment. 👉👉💃💃 Have some great stories prepared!! Preferably ones they haven’t heard before. Think of some funny ones, cheeky ones, mushy ones….

Telling your teenager stories about themselves grounds them in their own history. Their own story is so affirming. It reinforces who they are and whose they are.

Tip No 4: Just add water 

“Just add water” is the most underrated parenting hack ever. There are some really clever and creative ways to use water – drinking iced water is an all-time classic, but there is also making a cup of tea, having a swim, running a bath, taking a shower, watering the garden, playing with a sprinkler, washing the dog, or even just walking on the beach. There is something about water that refreshes us.

Tip No 5: Try the Unpredictable

Adult size problems take up more of our time and attention than we may realise. Between work pressures, mortgages, and running a household it is easy to lose our happy parent vibe. If you can feel yourself becoming overly predictable, try a little random magic. You might want to pop a little creativity into the schedule. Try things like “breakfast night” or “no bed making Monday.” Why not put a note in their room that says: “I hid $100 in your room. Clean it and you will find it.”?

Tip No 6: Let’s start over 

“Let’s start over” recognises grumpiness or rudeness without correcting it. It offers an opportunity to change without lecturing. You might suggest that you both “start over” in an hour, that night or the next day. Continuing a conversation that isn’t going anywhere productive isn’t going to do anyone any good. Yet, trying again when a teenager is in a better state of mind may lead to a totally different outcome.

Tip No 7: I need a hug

When things are getting tense between my own children and myself I usually stop and say, “I need a hug.” It might sound weird but it is my way of expressing what I need in that moment – for us to remain connected. Even if they respond with an eye roll, that small statement diffuses unnecessary tension and helps focus us on what matters. Surprisingly, I often DO get a hug… maybe because they unknowingly want to connect too! When words aren’t working, actions are more likely to.

Tip No 8: Text instead of talk

Maybe it’s time we used technology to our advantage. When you have a grumpy teenager on your hands, you may be able to get a better conversation out of them over text. I know one mum who deliberately says goodnight to her son over text when he is grumpy. She tells me that conversations are more likely to emerge when he is behind a screen.

Tip No. 9: Find their tickle spot

Teens often don’t like being ‘touched’ and recoil away when parents try to hug them. That’s a clear message that says, “I’m not a baby anymore! I need space”. I get that. But my theory is, if you change it up a bit, they might realize what they have are been missing.

Try offering a back scratch, hair brush or braid. If you avoid the word “hug” or “massage” you might get a more positive response. You might try play wrestling, crazy handshakes, playing slap or high five-ing. These counts as physical touch too. At the very least, share time in the same room together.

Physical contact is so important for our kids, and it brings calm to their brains in a way which nothing else can. It’s the perfect backdrop for communication, so take full advantage of it! You might even find that your son’s ‘grunts’ and your daughter’s ‘whatever’s’ start to melt away.

Tip No 10: Food

Not just any food – protein. Protein is wonderful for growing bodies and it also works a treat for irregular moods. Protein enables the slower release of energy and helps that energy stay consistent for longer. Beef jerky, no bake energy bites, protein smoothies, trail mix, peanut butter and celery sticks, hard boiled eggs, chicken roll ups, almonds, cheese and home-made granola all make for quick pick-me-up snacks for our growing family. Protein has no known negative impact on moods, while refined sugars are more likely to give us hassles!

RECOMMENDED READING: You can find more on this topic in Michelle’s book ‘Parenting Teenage Girls in the Age of a New Normal

book for parents

parenting teenage girls 


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