What do you do when your 9-year-old starts getting moody?
I’ve always said, as loudly and clearly as I can, that the hardest years for us parenting our two daughters were 8-12. Rebecca had hit puberty and Katie hadn’t, and Rebecca was moody. Then she got bossy. And Katie just wanted her big sister to keep playing with her! Add Katie’s eventual hormones and moodiness to the mix, and life was difficult.
This week we’ve been talking about The Whole Story: Not So Scary Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up, our video based online course that helps moms have those conversations with their daughters about the facts of life. Then the older version helps them navigate peer pressure, boys, social media, and more.
As we’ve been talking in the comments and on Facebook all week about puberty, moodiness and hormones keep coming up! So I asked Rebecca to join us today and write about what it’s like.
Hormones make the adolescent years really fun. Well, they make them a roller coaster at least and those are fun, right?
I was especially moody during my growing up years. My angst didn’t start at puberty, either–I wrote my first poem when I was just 6 years old. But when we got to Jr. High, my sister and I got sucker punched by hormones. And my parents, of course, took the brunt of the force.
As we were creating The Whole Story and as I was reading over the interviews I did for my book (Why I Didn’t Rebel: A Twenty-Year Old Explains Why She Stayed on the Straight and Narrow–and How Your Kids Can Too), I realized that there are some things about teenage and preteen moodiness that people just don’t often think about. There are three things in particular that I think preteens and teenagers wish their parents knew about their mood swings that would help the kids feel heard and understood by their parents.
So without further ado, let’s get into the post!
1. Punishing moodiness doesn’t accomplish anything
When dealing with a moody preteen or teenager, it can seem that the easiest way to deal with the problem is to punish moodiness. They get grumpy and non-communicative, and we send them to their rooms.
But what does that actually accomplish? See, the problem isn’t actually the moodiness–being sad is sometimes an appropriate reaction, just like anger and fear are appropriate reactions to injustice or danger. Punishing moodiness just punishes kids for expressing how they are feeling, and teaches kids that they’ll be punished if they tell mom or dad how they’re feeling isn’t a very helpful way to start the teenage years.
Instead of punishing moodiness, my parents focused on helping us learn ways to cope with our emotions when we were dealing with mood swings. Now, having kids make up for harmful things said or done during an emotional outburst is different than simply punishing the hormone swings. If I shouted at Katie when I was angry, I had to apologize and make things right. But I wasn’t grounded for getting angry.
In Jr. High and High School I was much worse than my sister was when it came to mood swings, and even today I still experience major emotional highs and lows. If my parents had punished my outbursts instead of using them as teaching opportunities, I would not be where I am now in terms of emotional stability. But their willingness to put up with my annoying angst and talk me through how to gain perspective and do things to help calm myself down gave me valuable life skills that allowed me to be level-headed enough to make good decisions in high school, helped guide me through bouts of depression during the end of my teenage years, and prepared me to be in a healthy marriage when the time was right.
2. Being moody doesn’t mean your teenager is rebelling
Moody teenagers are annoying. They’re hard to deal with, make mountains out of molehills, and they can get set off by almost anything.
But being moody is not a sin.
Experiencing hormones for the first time is not inherently wrong. It doesn’t mean your child is falling away from God, it doesn’t mean that he is actively choosing to do wrong.
But still, so many parents seem to believe that if their kid is moody it’s a sign of rebellion. I touched on this in my book, Why I Didn’t Rebel:
It is not rebellion to be a moody teenager. A thirteen-year-old girl going through all the horrors of PMS for the first time is not going to be docile, sweet, and selfless. She’s just not. She’s going to resemble something along the lines of an anaconda mixed with a tiger that has a thorn in its foot and is hunting for blood. How parents handle a child’s natural transition from kid to teenager has a lot of power. Are you the kind of parent who hugs her daughter while she cries and tells her, “I know; everything is horrible when your uterus tries to eat its way out of you,” or do you tell your cramping, PMS-ing daughter,“Honey, the Bible says, ‘In everything give thanks,’ so you really need to work on being gracious and thankful right now”? God created the female reproductive system. I’m pretty sure He has sympathy for cramps.
We need to change how we see moodiness. Instead of seeing it as bad behavior, let’s choose to see it as an opportunity for your child to lean emotional discipline. Instead of punishing harshly, work on talking about the core issue. It’s not wrong to be a teenager–it may be annoying, but it’s not wrong.
3. This emotional turmoil is really scary for your kid
There’s a reason so many kids latch onto the emo trend in high school–when you’re experiencing all these existential questions and deep emotions for the first time you feel the weight of it crushing you at times. The problems that are overwhelming your little teen may seem silly or small to you, but for someone dealing with this for the first time it’s really terrifying.
Emotional strength is similar to physical strength. A 25 pound plate may seem like a breeze to someone who’s been lifting weights for 10 years, but for someone who only started a week ago it may be too much for them to handle and leave them sore for days. The friend drama or emotions that your child is experiencing may seem easy to handle for you, since you’ve been dealing with this for years. But they just started–it may take them some time to gain emotional strength.
Your kids needs to know that you empathize with their struggles. They need that more than they need you to say the right thing or be the cool mom–they simply need to know that you see their pain and that you care. That doesn’t mean you allow them to wallow, but it does mean that you acknowledge their inner turmoil.
Dealing with mood swings is tough. I’m not gonna lie, it’s not always a fun time. But this is the time that your child is forming the building blocks of emotional discipline. So when your kid is getting hormonal, just take a deep breath and remember: this too shall pass!
What is one way you deal with mood swings with your kids? Did you get really moody during adolescence? Let’s talk about it in the comments!
And remember: One of the ways to help girls deal with moodiness is to help them understand why it’s happening in the first place! That’s what The Whole Story is for. The younger version helps explain to 10-12 year old girls the facts of life and what’s happening with their bodies. The older version provides guidance to help girls make good decisions about social media, boys, sex, and so much more. And you can get both together, plus tons of parenting freebies, for just $69 for lifetime access!
- Retraining Your Brain to Fantasize about HIM--And No One Else!
- Should it be a Struggle to Not Have Sex Before You’re Married?
- 10 of the Best Decisions You Can Make in Your First Year of Marriage
- How To Not Be a Legalistic Parent
- Why I Didn't Rebel (my most viral post ever)
- Why I Didn't Rebel. Ever wondered why some kids rebel and some don't? Or do you believe rebellion is inevitable? Rebecca interviewed 25 young adults and dove into psychology research to find out: what makes some kids rebel, and some stay on the straight-and-narrow?
- The Whole Story: Not-So-Scary Talks about Sex, Puberty, and Growing Up. Scared to talk to your daughter about puberty? Rebecca and her sister Katie want to do the hard part for you. This course is designed to start conversations to bring you closer together and strengthen your mother-daughter bond while giving your daughter all the information she needs as she becomes a woman.