To deal with a teenager who’s moody and surly, firstly, try to get them to talk about the problem while you just listen.
When things are calm…

  • Go to their room.
  • Ask if it’s a good time to talk.
  • Sit on their bed or floor.

And rather than asking what’s wrong – which teenagers often don’t know how to answer, try to guess why they’re moody – and check out your theory by saying something like:
‘You seem really down at the moment. I’m guessing it’s because

  • You’re feeling stressed about the exams, or
  • You’re still annoyed I won’t let you sleepover at Sam’s party, or
  • Something’s happened at school.’

Then give them time to answer. While they’re talking – just listen to nod, and make noises: ‘mmm, ok, ah, I see.’
Be especially careful not to criticise them, contradict them or give them ANY advice. Often, when you just listen, they’ll start to suggest their own solutions.

Secondly, explain what impact their behaviour is having on you.
Say: ‘Can I explain how this is affecting me?’
Use an ‘I feel message’ so six words:

‘I feel… when… and I’d like….’

‘I feel upset when you’re moody and snappy with me.

And I’d like you to try to stay civil and polite when you’re talking with me.

Or I feel offended when you ignore me and give me that look.

And I’d like you to treat me respectfully, and answer me, even if you’re having a hard time.

Or I know it’s difficult, but sometimes I have to make a decision that you don’t agree with.

However, I feel sad when you refuse to talk with me.

And I’d like you to accept that sometimes I have to be the parent. And do what I think is right. And be able to talk about it.

Finally, try not to allow your teenager’s moodiness to dictate your mood. I’m not saying it won’t have an impact- of course, it will. Having a moody teenager in the house can be really miserable. But your teenager’s mood shouldn’t decide your happiness levels.
Make sure you’re going out, doing things and having fun. Plan family activities and days out that you’ll all enjoy. And sometimes just go out with your partner or with friends and have a laugh.
Life with a teenager can sometimes be stressful, so be sure to plan what you can do to keep your mood up. You can still empathise with your teenager without being down with them.

So to deal with a teenager who is moody and surly, 3 things you can do are:

  1. Try to get them to talk about the problem while you just listen.
  2. Explain what impact their behaviour is having on you.
  3. Refuse to allow your teenager’s moodiness to dictate your mood.

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If you need more than three tips on this from a UK parenting expert – or you’d like to discover the secrets you need to have happy well-behaved, children – please contact me by clicking here. You can arrange a free 20-minute (no obligation) chat to find out if working with me personally (by phone, Skype or face-to-face) would help you and your family. Contact Elizabeth

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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