Why are kids moody?

Some parents may think that major moodiness doesn’t surface in full force until the teenage years, but tweens can definitely push the patience when it comes to moody outbursts.

It’s often thought that teens have the market cornered when it comes to moodiness, but many parents of tweens would argue that their kids can give their older counterparts a run for their money.

What causes tweens to be moody and how can parents handle the dramatic ups and downs that can sometimes define the pre-teen years?

Already?

Ask a group of parents what age they find most challenging and most will say the teenage years… unless they have a moody tween. It turns out, the drama associated with teenagers can start much earlier than often expected. "Kids develop at different rates and developmental trends are showing that children today are beginning puberty at earlier ages than in the past," says Jerry Weichman, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist specializing in adolescents and author of the book How to Deal. "The beginning of puberty commonly marks an emotional time where tweens are also fighting to establish their own identity and gain a sense of independence from their parents." 

Read about the 5 signs your tween may be entering early puberty >>

Tweens can be mean

"Tweens today are enveloped by the unrealistic expectations of pop culture."

High school is typically considered an extremely difficult time in a child’s life but middle school kids can be particularly difficult. "My experience with tweens in my practice is that whether it’s dealing with friends, bullying or peer pressure, middle schoolers are harder on one another than high schoolers," says Dr. Weichman. "This is also when kids begin to rebel against things that are not enjoyable such as homework, chores, and family obligations for no other reason than it is not what they want to do. This typically does not bode well for the parent-child dynamic." On top of all of this, tweens today are enveloped by the unrealistic expectations of pop culture, and constantly influenced by social media trends (including cyber-bullying). No wonder they’re a moody bunch.

Find out how to protect kids from cyber-bullying >>

How to deal

Sometimes the tween moodiness can enter without warning, leaving many parents wondering what happened to the sweet kid they knew just yesterday. It can be difficult to not take this sudden change in demeanor personally, but parents need to remember that mood swings are just a part of adolescence. Dr. Weichman recommends that parents take the following steps when a moody tween becomes a part of your household:

Set boundaries

This age is the appropriate time to create concrete boundaries for your child, including tangible consequences for unacceptable behavior. I always recommend remaining calm when issuing a consequence or punishment and then moving on.

Just listen

When tweens are moody, it is often because they are upset about something else. Ask them what is going on and why they are acting the way they are and then prepare to listen without offering advice.

Take a break

If you or your tween is too worked up in the situation or argument, just stop and take a break. It is better to revisit the conversation later when you have gathered your thoughts and your tween has calmed down. Once the yelling begins, your tween is tuning you out. 

Unfortunately, you never know how long this moody phase will last. It could be short-lived or it could extend well into the teen years. Either way, it’s all a part of the joys of parenting.

Read more about parenting tweens

Too young for Facebook? Social sites for your tweens
Is your tween wearing more makeup than you?
How to handle tweens with attitude

 

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