Temperamental Teenagers: Causes and How to Help Them

Temperamental teenagers are going through a series of complicated changes and challenges. Find out how to accompany and help them at this stage.
Temperamental Teenagers: Causes and How to Help Them
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 19 July, 2022

Adolescence is one of the most feared stages by parents, as it is often accompanied by rebelliousness, emotional changes, and family conflicts. Some children experience these changes to a greater extent than others; however, they all need the love and support of their parents to get through these years. That’s why we want to offer you some keys to dealing with temperamental teenagers.

First of all, it’s necessary to remember that this is a difficult period for everyone. It’s true that it’s often difficult for adults to accept that their child – that cheerful, sweet, and affectionate child – is becoming a complicated and moody youngster.

But for the adolescent, it’s not easy to assume this transition either. For this reason, let’s put judgements aside and try to understand and accompany them in the best possible way.

Temperamental teenagers: Why are they like this?

A fundamental first step is to understand why these changes are taking place. Your child doesn’t suddenly hate you, has not stopped loving you, and has not changed his or her personality.

She’s not trying to annoy you, either. She’s just undergoing a series of transformations at all levels:

  • Your child’s body is changing and reaching sexual maturity. Coping with these differences in physical appearance can be complicated. This is particularly difficult when it comes to the comparison with peers, the appearance of complexes, or the dreaded teenage acne.
  • Hormones play a fundamental role in the emotional state of young people. They lead them to experience sudden mood swings that are inexplicable even for them. Everything is experienced with greater intensity and drama, which can lead to sadness, irritability, apathy, or even anxiety.
  • The brain has not yet finished developing. Specifically, it’s known that the prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for planning, impulse control, and reasoning, does not complete its maturation until after the age of 20. As a result, young people are often impulsive and tend to take more risks.
  • At the social level, changes and challenges are also experienced. Academic demands and interpersonal pressure increase. Adolescents need to fit in with their peers, forge their identities, and become relatively detached from their parents. This can be overwhelming at times.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: Emotional Boundaries and Their Importance for Your Teenager

How to help temperamental teenagers

There are many open fronts, and young people’s personal resources may still be insufficient. They lack maturity, experience, and perspective.

Many of them have not sufficiently developed self-esteem, social skills, or the ability to manage and regulate their emotions. Therefore, parental support and guidance are key.

To help your teenager through this stage, you can follow these guidelines.

Adolescente preocupada por sus cambios.
Adolescence is not only a problem for parents. Young people also feel confused and anxious.

Be empathetic and understanding

At all times, remember that it’s not easy for your child either and that he or she has no bad intentions. Keep in mind what they’re going through and reminisce about your own adolescence if it helps you put yourself in their shoes.

Don’t take their behavior personally. Don’t look at it as a power struggle. Be aware of the changes they are going through and the challenges they face.

Stay calm

Teens need parents who are able to stay calm and to be an anchor in the face of their own emotional storm. It’s very easy to respond to their children’s bad moods with the same antipathy, to react to their yelling with more yelling, and to respond to their offenses with more hurtful words. However, this is harmful and counterproductive.

Don’t put yourself on their level. You are the adult and the one who must remain calm and set an example.

Apply self-control and try not to raise your voice, don’t let your emotions get the better of you, and respond calmly and calmly to your children. This will prevent conflicts from escalating and give them the peace of mind they need and can’t find for themselves.

Continue to set boundaries for temperamental teenagers

Teenagers may think they are adults and even demand to be treated as such, but they’re not. They still need guidance and security. This is achieved through boundaries. Having a schedule for coming home, and parental supervision of their Internet activity or responsibilities at home is essential.

Demanding your child to do their homework, to collaborate and be respectful at home, and to keep you aware of where they are and who they are with is not excessive: on the contrary, it’s necessary.

These boundaries help them feel safe and secure and guide them to some extent in this time of change. So, even if they resist and challenge them, don’t stop enforcing them.

Like this article? You may also like to read: Most Frequent Reasons Why Teenagers Visit a Doctor

Be flexible

While boundaries are still necessary, it’s also important to be flexible. As a child grows, he/she needs to gain autonomy, and these rules must be adapted to the moment.

It’s possible and necessary to negotiate and reach agreements to allow the adolescent to acquire privileges as he/she shows responsibility. And above all, make him/her participate in the decisions.

The “because I said so” is not useful. This can only unleash more rebellion, bad moods, and conflict.

Explain the reason for the rules and make sure they’re consensual. They can be adapted based on behavior.

Listen to your child

Temperamental teens often behave defiantly because they don’t feel heard, understood, or respected. Their attitude is a reaction to a home or parents they perceive as hostile.

It’s essential to spend time building healthy, fluid communication with your teen. You can have regular conversations and spend quality time together.

Talking to your child doesn’t mean interrogating them and then judging them for their behaviors. That would rub any of us the wrong way. It’s about taking a genuine interest in their life, listening without criticizing, and guiding without judging.

Also, try to be two-way: talk to your child about your day-to-day life, ask for their opinion, and share your feelings. In this way, they will feel that you take them into account, that you enjoy their company and value them. This will reduce their defensiveness.

Talk with temperamental teenagers
Talking to your teenager creates a space of trust to share important elements of your lives without questioning or judgment.

Correct the behavior, but don’t attack the teen

It’s obvious that teenagers make mistakes, and there are certain behaviors and attitudes that need to be corrected. However, it’s important to do it in the right way. Thus, focus on the specific behavior and not on the person himself.

It’s not the same to ask him or her to pick up his or her room as it is to label him or her as lazy and messy. Pointing out that his or her words were hurtful and offensive is not the same as calling him or her a cruel and rude person.

Offer helpful tools and resources

Finally, the best thing we can do for temperamental teens is to offer them tools to help them deal with the challenges they face. For example, teach them how to use assertiveness to gain respect and cope with peer pressure.

Help them develop emotional intelligence to understand and manage their feelings. You can also show them how to apply relaxation techniques to reduce their activation in moments of high anxiety and lack of control. For this purpose, it may be beneficial to seek professional help.

Temperamental teenagers are the ones who need the most love

If there’s a single point to remember from this article, it’s that temperamental young people may be the most difficult to love and accompany, but they’re also the ones who need the most love and guidance. Adolescence can be complicated for them, but behind their bad moods, their rebelliousness, and their emotional outbursts, there’s a child learning to be an adult who needs patience and understanding from his or her environment.

Keep in mind that this stage will pass. It’s a great opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your child when he/she needs you the most.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Águila Calero, G., Díaz Quiñones, J., & Díaz Martínez, P. (2017). Adolescencia temprana y parentalidad. Fundamentos teóricos y metodológicos acerca de esta etapa y su manejo. MediSur15(5), 694-700.
  • Alvarado, R. Y. (2011). El cerebro adolescente. Cognición, neurociencia y aprendizaje, 135.
  • Triskier, F. J. (2006). Algunas especulaciones respecto a las modificaciones neurobiológicas durante la adolescencia. VERTEX, Revista Argentina de Psiquiatría, 17(70), 424.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.