No one in a mood wants to talk to anyone else. Plain and simple, leave them alone, let the grumpiness fade, and try again later. This is especially true for teenagers who don’t quite have the mental capacity to handle conversations when they’re in a foul mood.
I know how unhappy I am when I’m grumpy and my family attempts to speak to me (at me, around me, or near me…), and I’m a grown adult who absolutely recognizes my bad mood and knows how to handle it.
So…there’s that. Trying to carry on a conversation with a grumpy teenager is not a situation any parent wants to find themselves in, but there are times it cannot be avoided.
Like a ticking time bomb, you know it’s going to explode, but you still have to try and make it stop. Parenting spoiler alert – you cannot make it stop.
1. Do Not Give in To the Bad Mood
Everyone is grumpy sometimes, and teens are among the group of people who make sometimes seem so frequent. It’s difficult not to let your teen’s grumpy teen’s mood to get to you, but you cannot let it affect your own mood. Two wrongs does not make a right, or whatever that saying is.
2. Do Validate Their Feelings
When your teen doesn’t want to talk because they’re grumpy, refrain from invalidating their feelings. They might be grumpy for the world’s most ridiculous reason, but they cannot help how they feel. You know the feeling. I was there myself on Monday.
I was a total b**** for absolutely not reason other than I just felt blah, and I didn’t even know why. But I can assure you that nothing makes my grumpy mood worse than when I’m reminded that I have no reason to feel that way.
Validate my feelings, and the bad mood vanishes a lot faster.
3. Do Not Yell at Them
Yelling at a grumpy person who refuses to speak to you is not a winning situation. It’s the equivalent of yelling at the refs during a football game when you’re at home on your couch and they’re thousands of miles away on a field. They can’t hear you, and it doesn’t help.
4. Do Give Them Space
Call me an overgrown teen (because I am one), but when I’m grumpy, I just don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to talk to anyone. But I do like it when my family gives me my space, let’s me have my feelings, and then I move on from them. It’s lovely.
5. Do Ask Your Teen if They’d Like to Talk About it
They may not want to discuss it, and that’s all right. But asking them if they’d like to talk about it does open a door. Perhaps they’ll actually talk to you right then and there.
Perhaps they’ll say no, thank you, and move on. Simply asking does invite them to come to you when they are ready to discuss.
Now for the hard part. You invited your teen to have a conversation, they accepted your invitation, and now it’s time to talk about it. Your only job in this moment is to shut up and listen. Listen not to respond, but to hear, understand, and be there.
7. Be On Your Teen’s Side
You are your teenager’s partner in crime – well, not really in crime…that’s bad. My point is that you need to be there for your child when they come to you. Be on their side. Be there to listen, to tell them that it might not feel like it, but it will be all right.
8. Help Them Let You In
You cannot have a conversation with a teenager if you don’t make it clear you’d like to. Grumpy or not, you have to teach your teen to let you in. Doing this involves setting a good example.
It might take time for them to get it, but the more you are there for them with an open door and open communication (without judgment), the more likely they are to come to you for conversation when they’re in a bad mood in the future.
9. Know When to Walk Away
If you think getting your grumpy teen to open up to you at all when they’re in a mood is good, you are mistaken. There is such thing as an unproductive conversation. If you feel your own ears getting hot and red, it’s time to walk away.
If you’re arguing, talking in circles, and everyone is getting heated, walk away. Unproductive conversations make things even worse. You can try again when you’re both calm.
10. Know That You Might Not Succeed the First Time
You’ve offered your teen your listening ears and your open line of communication, and they don’t want it. Don’t worry. It’s all right. They’ll come to you…eventually. Your offer to talk may not work the first time around, but don’t give up. They’ll come around.
11. Avoid Lecturing
No one in a bad mood does well when they’re being lectured. It’s just the reality of the situations. You might have a lecture in mind when your teen does open up, but it is neither the time nor the place.
12. Never Tell Them It’s Not That Bad
Oh, okay, so here we go – it might not be that bad. They might even realize (eventually) it’s not that bad. But do not, ever, under any circumstances, tell your teenager that the situation that has them in a grumpy mood is not that bad. In this moment, it’s that bad.
13. Avoid Phrases Such as “I Know How You Feel”
You don’t know how they feel. You might think you do. Perhaps you went through a situation similar to your teen’s situation at one point, but you don’t know how they feel.
It’s absolutely fine to tell your teen that you’ve been through similar situations, but make sure you tell them how you felt going through that situation and not that you know the feeling.
You don’t know the feeling, and no teenager wants to hear that you do. Get it? They do not want to hear you tell them that you know how they feel when you don’t.
14. Respect Your Teenager’s Privacy
The thing about being a parent is that even when you’re the best, most amazing, most spectacular parent who has the best relationship with your child is that they will never tell you one hundred percent of everything.
And you cannot change that. The best you can do is respect that your teen does not want to tell you every single thing that they are feeling or thinking or dealing with. The respect you give them will go a long way toward making everyone closer.
15. Let it Go
It’s time to make like Elsa and let it go. There are going to be situations in life when your grump a** teenager does not want to talk to you, speak with you, or hear it from you.
There are times when they will not come around. In fact, there will be times when they’ll be raging nightmares in a terrible mood, and then they won’t be. It happens, and you have to let it go. Pick. Your. Battles.
16. Go Do Something Fun
When my teenager doesn’t want to talk to me, the fastest way to get her talking is to suggest a fun outing. Maybe a trip to Lululemon or Cheesecake Factory. Target and Starbucks.
An ice cream date. She loves to bake, so she might bake with me. Sometimes, a walk is all it takes to get her to open up and relax. She’s good about it then.
17. Bring Them A Snack
Who doesn’t love a snack? I know from personal experience that those who feed me are more likely to make me happy than those who do not. It’s never a bad idea to feed me, and teens are always looking for a snack.
Feed your children, and they might be less grumpy and more likely to open up to you.
18. Carefully Word Your Questions
When a teen is in a grumpy mood, sometimes the way you ask a question is more important than the questions you ask. When you take the time to ask questions with patience and understanding, they’re more likely to answer you.
For example, asking your teen “What has you in a mood today?” is less effective than asking, “Did you have a frustrating day? I know I did, and I’m certainly glad it’s almost over.” You’re asking indirectly why they’re in a bad mood, but you’re also not placing any blame on them or accusing them of behavior you don’t care for.
You are also opening the door for them to talk to you by relating to them in a manner that works for everyone. It’s always going to be a winning combination. Try asking your kids what you want without asking them outright – or with an accusatory tone – and you may find it’s a better result.
19. Remind Your Teen You Love Them
The single most important thing you do for your teenager when they’re grumpy – and when they are not grumpy – is share your love. Your teens are less likely to let a bad mood affect them on a regular basis when they are loved and it’s obvious.
A teen who wonders where he or she stands with you is more likely to clam up and not get over things as quickly. Share your love. Even when you don’t like them, you do love them.
20. Absolutely, Unequivocally Do NOT Say Anything About PMS
Unless you have a death wish, of course.
The Best Advice for Getting a Grumpy Teen to Open Up
If I’ve learned anything in almost 15 years of parenting, it’s that no two children are alike. No two of our four kids are alike, and it takes a significant amount of patience to focus on learning what works for one versus what works for another.
Our eldest daughter, for example, is easy to talk to when she’s grumpy. She wants us to know why she’s upset, who upset her, what injustice she feels is going on in her life, and everything in between. On the flip side, our middle daughter is not talking until she’s ready.
She’s not talking to us about what has her in a mood right away. She’s going to clam up, keep it to herself, and she’s going to internalize it all until she is good and ready.
However, when she is ready to talk to us, she’s letting it all out. All of it. It just has to be on her time. When she’s in a bad mood after school, we know as soon as she gets in the car.
We also know that asking her about it is not going to work. What we do know, however, is that we can tell her that we see she’s unhappy, and we are ready to listen when she’s ready to talk.
Now, our youngest daughter and her twin brother are both a mixture of their big sisters. They want to tell us all that happened right this second, but they don’t want to tell us in front of their siblings.
They will patiently wait until we can speak to them alone, and then they’ll tell us. Our son doesn’t like his big sisters to mock him when he’s upset – and they will – and our daughter doesn’t want her brother to hear her because she doesn’t want him to be upset because she’s upset.
Additional Parenting Resources
- What is parenting from the inside out?
- What do I do if my teen is lying?
- What are some fun activities for the entire family?
- 20 Things Parents Should Never Say to Their Teenager
- 20 Things to Do on a Car Trip With a Teenager