Meltdowns, Moodiness, and Mediation

Excerpt from Parenting Beyond the Rules

My son, Jon, and I went through a rough season when he was in high school. He felt like
everything he did was wrong. Honestly, I felt like everything he did was wrong, too. Truth! He
was hard to parent. Which did not a make me a happy mom! I wanted all my kids to behave,
have good attitudes, get along, and not get into trouble. That’s not too much to ask, is it? I didn’t
think so. Unfortunately, I made some colossal blunders during that time. It seemed like I found
myself saying “I’m sorry” every single day! No joke. He knew exactly how to push my hot
button. And boy, did he use it!

I’ll never forget the night. We had been hosting weekly Bible studies at our home for
high school and college kids. Dozens of kids would show up for food, fun, and some learning.
Everything went okay at first. But I asked John to do something, and it didn’t get done. Later that
night when I thought everyone had gone home, I stormed into his room (which was pitch black)
and proceeded to lecture him about the importance of being faithful and doing what you’re told.
On and on I went. John kept trying to interrupt me, which only made me more upset. Finally, he
yelled, “MOM!” I stopped, turned on the light switch and saw six eyes staring at me. I’m sure
John’s two friends were afraid for their lives. Or my son’s. I turned around in total humiliation
and dashed out of the room.

Back in the privacy—and safety—of my bedroom, I broke down, choking out the biggest
ugly tears I’ve ever cried. After the cathartic waterworks, I pulled it together and trudged back to
his room. I’m sure those boys thought I was coming back for the knockout punch. Only the
second time, they witnessed a different mom. I wasn’t the mean monster. I was a broken sinner
who was worse than the silly offense I thought my son had committed. I stood there and asked
each of them to forgive me. Then I turned to my son and apologized for my behavior. I
acknowledged in front of all them how wrong I was. At that moment I was reminded of the
wisdom that comes from being slow to speak and the importance of getting all the facts before
making assumptions. And to always—always—turn on the light switch first.

You see, we can gather information, form an opinion, hold a trial, and find our kids guilty
without ever knowing what actually happened. On that night, I did something I swore I’d never
do—rebuke my kids in front of their friends. And I did it without knowing all the facts. See
moms, we will mess up sometimes. I mean, really say or do hurtful things. And so will our kids.
But when you consistently work on keeping the heart of your child, grace can be freely given.
Restoration takes place. And horrendous episodes become stories your kids tell your
grandchildren one day. As for me, they become memories of how God’s love covers our wrongs.

The masterpiece you’re painting isn’t going to be perfect. In fact, I’ve never talked about
my meltdown before. I took a paintbrush and added to the canvas some brush strokes I hadn’t
planned. God knew I’d do that. He knew my hand would slip. He also knows we don’t cause
every meltdown mood swing. More often they come from our adolescents. It could simply be a
look, a word, and act.
“Mom! Why does he get to go out, but I can’t?”

“Because you didn’t finish your school work.”

“Can I go when I finish?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because it will be too late by then!”

Sigh. “That’s so unfair!”
Life isn’t fair. But you won’t utter a word because you don’t want to get into another go
around.

It’s true, life isn’t fair; it can be unjustly unfair sometimes. We know that. Our teens
don’t. They are still learning.

Perhaps you thought the toddler days of temper tantrums and meltdowns were long
behind you—only to have them resurface during the teen years. The bickering, sarcastic
comments, emotional outbursts, meanness, disrespect—they’re all back. And the list has gotten
even longer.

Meltdowns and moodiness are emotionally draining for any parent. Things can be going
fine one moment, then out of nowhere, bam! Someone does something that someone doesn’t
like, and they forget everything you’ve taught them about resolving conflicts.

Meltdowns

One lovely spring evening, the kids were playing in the front yard with a group of friends when
we heard some yelling down the road. Several people got up to see if one of the kids was in
trouble. After all, when you get a bunch of teenagers together you never know what will happen
or what pranks they will play on each other.

As soon as we determined no one was hurt, we continued with our conversations. We
tried not to notice the noise was getting louder and louder. Only now we could hear more voices, in louder tones.
Everyone tried to ignore it because we collectively believed the kids needed to
work out whatever was going on between them. After several minutes passed, we realized the
adults had quit talking. Picture the scene: A group of adults gathered together, standing in
silence. The dads knew it wasn’t an appropriate time to make a snarky comment, although we
feared one of them might slip which would make us laugh. The moms glanced around at one
another with looks that communicated more than words ever could. A few times, a couple of the
parents lowered their heads down and quietly chuckled. I’m sure a few others felt as I did—
secretly glad the commotion wasn’t their kid. We all knew it could be any of our kids. I can tell
you one young lady’s mom and dad were not happy at that moment! We were neighbors, and it
was our job to keep any comments, thoughts, eye rolls, or reactions to ourselves. At least until
the storm cleared.

As this teen passed our street, no one uttered a peep or made any eye contact. She
marched to her house and slammed the door, not to be heard from until morning. We had just
witnessed a full-blown teen meltdown. She hadn’t cared who heard or saw. Manners went out
the window. Her emotions had completely taken over.

Sometimes our teens don’t know how to handle their intense feelings. If they could fall
on the floor and kick and scream, they would. Most of the time a slammed door or a thoughtless
remark just happens in the moment.

To this day, our family still chuckles about that situation. Not because the teen was a
terrible person. There was a lot to the story, and it was more than this young lady could process
internally.
Before you run into a room or jump up and start correcting, may I implore you to pray
first? Think about that child. Consider the possibility that there may be more to the story. Allow
some room for compassion before you rush to judgment. Remind yourself to be calm and tender
in your approach.

Meltdowns don’t have to happen over big things. They can occur at the smallest
infractions—using their stuff, eating all the ice cream, not letting them go first, telling them no,
getting a text, not getting a text, not being invited to a party.
I know we hope our teens never have a meltdown. We don’t like them. They embarrass
us. Besides, our kids know better. But, how you handle them and how you model your triggers
will go a long way in helping your son or daughter process frustrating or disappointing events.
Life isn’t easy. Not for you. Not for your teen.

This young lady learned more about unconditional love that weekend by the way her
parents and those involved in her life handled the situation. Life moved on. She became an adult,
and thanks to the parents who didn’t overreact or overcorrect, their relationship grew stronger.

All of us get overwhelmed with life. When things don’t go like we want, we might want
to yell and scream, too. The truth is, we can overcome such moments when we remember that
the goal is to keep the heart of our children as they transition into godly men and women. By our
actions, we also honor the Lord.

Helping them navigate meltdowns can happen by talking with them once they calm down
and are away from peers. Invite them to talk to you. Ask them what happened. After they’ve
settled down, they might say that it was no big deal or that they just didn’t know how to handle
being hurt in that situation. Either way, listen. Put away your phone, close the door for privacy, and just listen.
Fully invest in them by pausing to hear what they say. There is time to teach them
how to work through these issues. It starts by waiting for a receptive heart. Then the real learning
begins. Most teens don’t like making a scene. So the earlier they can learn how to handle stress
and frustration, the better.

Take what they share, and keep it in the family. Don’t tell your friends or post it on
Facebook. Always seek to show respect to your teen. You will earn their trust in return.

Mood Swings

Teens and mood swings can go hand in hand. I remember asking one of my daughters why she
was so upset, and she burst into tears and shouted, “I don’t know why I’m upset. I just am.” Fair
enough. Sometimes, depending on the time of the month, we can get upset for no apparent
reason, too. Hormones will do that to you. So we shouldn’t be surprised when our sweet angel
goes to bed all happy and wakes up the grumpiest person you’ve ever seen. In moments like
that, they have a choice. We always have a choice—to react or to wait. Again, pause before you
open your mouth. Don’t snap back. The one thing you don’t want to do is overreact. Okay, I
know what you’re thinking, “Connie, you never overreacted when your children were rude or
disrespectful or mean!” No, I’m not saying that. Hey, you read my story at the beginning of this
chapter. You could ask any of my kids, and I’m sure they could compile a nice long list of my
overreactions. That’s why I’m telling you not to do it. Maybe I can save you some humiliation or
embarrassing moments.

Now to be fair, boys are changing as much as girls. Boys can believe their manhood is on
the line if their voice doesn’t drop when all their friends’ voices do, or if facial hair continues to be peach fuzz.
And they are acutely aware of what is happening—or not—to their pecs and
biceps. They examine and judge their bodies every day when they get dressed.

It reminds me of the bathroom scene from Home Alone when Kevin McCallister, played
by actor Macaulay Culkin, decides it time to be a man and fight the bad guys. He wakes up and
takes a shower using adult shampoo. Then, after drying off, Culkin combs hair gel through his
hair, sprays deodorant under his armpits, then takes a dab of men’s aftershave and slaps it on his
checks. A loud scream immediately follows. He had gathered learned behaviors from months of
watching his dad and older brother. Our kids learn much more by observing how we live than by
what we say. So make sure you pay attention to what your actions communicate. They speak
volumes.

Teens are highly aware when they don’t measure up. They don’t always confide in you
about specific situations because, again, they are trying to grow up. Running to mommy and
daddy with every little issue can start to get old. If you have been teaching them how to walk
with God, give them time to practice seeking him. Not only that, when teens always run to
someone to help them solve their problems, they don’t learn how to look up for answers. So we
can either spend our time fixing our teens’ behavior or show them how to open God’s Word and
discover for themselves.

In every moody outburst, show them how God wants them to handle the emotions. Point
them to the truth. Let them confide in you, and you rest in him to work it in their hearts.

Mediation

Learning to mediate a conflict between teens can be like walking through a minefield. One
wrong word and everything blows up again. However, letting conflict fester only makes matters worse.
As you can imagine with five kids, much of our family’s conflict happened during the
tween and teen years, which gave me plenty of practice mediating.

We don’t need to be professional mediators to mediate conflicts in our home. After 31
years of mediating conflict in our home, this is what I’ve learned. For a relationship to be
restored, everyone must desire the same things. Period. We can badger, lecture, shame, and
humiliate our kids in an effort to get them to right a wrong. But if their hearts aren’t in the right
place, it won’t be authentic. First, assess where their hearts are on the matter. Then talk privately
with those involved. The separate conversations allow each person to state why one person did
what he did and how the other person was hurt.

Consider purchasing a book about learning how to forgive and restore relationships. In
dealing with teens, I found these four principles helped me lead the children through the process
of dealing with conflict and moving toward restoration.

1.Tell the story.
2. Name the hurt.
3. Grant forgiveness.
4. Renew or release the relationship.

Telling the Story

You know there are usually two sides to every story. Therefore, your goal is to teach your
children how to tell the story accurately. This is vital to restoring relationships between siblings
and others. Sometimes this process is quick and easy; other times it can be more drawn out.
Teaching your children how to explain what happened teaches them the art of accurately
describing the situation through their lens. Asking a few questions can help them get started if
they don’t know how or where to begin. I’ve found some kids can rattle off details easier than others.
Some of it is personality driven. As they tell you the story, just listen. Let them finish.
Don’t interrupt to correct inaccuracies. You’ll have time for that later.

Note: There will be times when one sibling is just having a bad day, and he decides to
take it out on another family member, but I’m not talking about that type of offense.

Name the Hurt

Labeling the hurt with a name helps her learn how to resolve future conflicts. Taking time think
to about the real hurt helps her articulate the pain caused by someone’s actions or words. There is
power in being able to identify how something hurt and why it hurt. Remember, this can be a
very vulnerable time for some children. Don’t tell them their feelings don’t matter. Look for
another opportunity to discuss the reliability of emotions.

Grant Forgiveness

Forgiveness is oh-so-necessary in the mediation process. Forgiving keeps us from being held in
bondage to what others have done to us. If we hold on to hurts, they will fester. Harboring an
offense becomes like baggage we unnecessarily carry around; it hinders our ability to grow,
enjoy life, trust others, and have inner peace. Once your child has told her story and named how
it hurt her, then she needs to forgive the offender, even if the other child hasn’t asked for
forgiveness.

Renew or Release the Relationship

Now this is where your teens have a choice. Renew the relationship and move on (which is the
desired outcome), or release the relationship. When would they choose to release the relationship?
It could be when the other person isn’t interested in restoring the relationship with
her or when trust is broken and more time is needed for healing to take place.
Throughout this mediation process, a few things are essential in building trust between
you and your children:

 Make sure they know he can trust you.
 Insist on honesty.
 Listen carefully to what they say.
 Affirm their hurts.
 Remind them feelings don’t rule our lives.
 Teach them the importance of listening to the other person.
 Point out that there might be some things they are doing that contributes to the
action or reaction of the other person.

Once you’ve walked each child through this process, then bring together the two
opposing sides, face to face, if possible. Let them tell their story to each other—it will likely be a
condensed version by now. Encourage each one to ask and grant forgiveness. Then renew the
relationship.

It may feel frustrating dealing with meltdowns and moodiness and having to mediate
every argument, but listen to me, sweet momma. You will not always have to do this. Trust me!
In time, your teen will learn how to handle life, his emotions, other people’s actions, and
everything else.

I’m telling you this because I want to see your teens develop a deep, deep sense of God’s
love for them by how you mirror His response to us. He never tires of us running to him. Never.
David paints such a beautiful picture of just how loving God is toward us. He asks God to
investigate his life. He talks about how God knows what we are going to say before we say it. He
delights in going to his Heavenly Father. That is a lovely example of how our parent-child
relationship can look as we engage in life together.

The Next Step: Forgiveness

I have always lived by this motto: forgiveness requested, forgiveness granted. Period! Life is too
short to hold on to hurts. If Jesus could ask God to forgive those who did what they did to him by
verbally saying “forgive them, for they know not what they do,” then who am I, or you, to not
grant forgiveness? It doesn’t matter if the other person asks or even knows I’ve forgiven them.
However, we are trying to teach both the offender and the offended here. The offender needs to
understand what they do or say can genuinely crush others. The offended needs to realize when
she asked to forgive someone the other person needs to be forgiven, thereby being released from
the incident. Clear heart, clear conscience.

There may be times others cause hurt feelings or a wounded spirit. When this happens,
every effort should be made to restore the broken relationship.

Forgiveness is a vital skill we must teach our teens because holding a grudge is
unwillingness to live in the freedom God offers. We can get mad and stew and complain. Or we
can allow pain and hurt to help us become an emotionally mature adult. We simply must teach
our teen how this process works.

Helping them learn you can’t go back, you can’t stay where you are, and you must go
forward are great motivations for being intentional about restoring relationships.
We hope our teens will want us to help guide them on the road to adulthood. And part of the road
comes by way of meltdowns, moodiness, and meditation. Through these struggles, we get to help
forge that bond of trust and closeness that enables the child to feel safe being who he is, to
gain a greater sense of belonging, and become secure with his place within the family unit. Don’t
wish away these times. Don’t defer them to others, either. Oh, it’s fine to direct a child to
someone if there is a need to clear an offense or right a wrong. But the opportunity to hear what
your child is wrestling with is worth all the short-term drama. (I didn’t say it would easy, just
that it will be worth it.)

Mom, God has handpicked you and fully equipped you to manage the messy issues of
life. Teach your child he can overcome an obstacle when he pays attention to areas that fracture
relationships.

Purchase your copy of Parenting Beyond the Rules