Attitude changes and emotional outbursts. Should I be worried?

“Can you please clean the cat litter?”, I ask as I’m running out to get groceries. My daughter’s response: “No thank you!” I don’t know if she thought adding the “thank you” would soften her response and get her off the hook. Did I mention she’s a pre-teen? Yes that’s right, not a toddler. Remember those fun, strong-willed independent toddler days? Well somehow they crawl back into your life in a larger prepubescent body.


I take great comfort in knowing that pre-teen and teen attitude changes are a very normal part of adolescent development. Phew, my kids are normal. Check!

Understanding that this behaviour is a normal part of child development makes it easier for me to stay calm when I need to deal with it, but sometimes it is hard to wrap my head around the attitude changes; it just seems so out of place.  Many parents don’t imagine that their well-behaved child who normally does their chores and homework without a fuss will suddenly assert this strong-willed independence and begin to challenge requests. But they do!

During their adolescent years, children often have a changing attitude along with a stronger sense of independence. Not only is there often a noticeable change in attitude, but also ever-increasing emotional outbursts that can be as explosive as Canada Day fireworks!

But it’s ok! They are asserting that they have their own thoughts and opinions and it’s part of normal growth and development. teen girl_000033613414_XXXLarge

You may never really know ‘what child’ you are coming home to that day, but this has to do with brain development and the fact that at this age their emotional brain is developing rapidly, while the rational part is taking a backseat. The rational part may not fully develop until the end of their teen years when your child is navigating a complex world while trying to find themself and where they fit in.

So with changing attitudes and high emotions, what’s a parent to do?

Let’s go back to my earlier scenario: I took a deep breath, remained calm, and told her that the cat litter needed to be scooped and the dishwasher emptied, adding: “Between you and your brother, each pick a chore before I get back home.” I did not engage her in a debate. She ended up cleaning the litter box with no issues and both chores were done when I arrived home.

Some helpful tips:

  • As mentioned above, understand what is normal development.
  • Get perspective. Try to remain calm and use humour if and when you can.
  • Set boundaries. Include your child thoughts when negotiating rules and consequences.
  • Help them to cope with their feelings and behaviours. It is not okay to for them to call you names or mistreat you. There is a difference between finding that something is stupid versus calling you stupid.
  • Keep lines of communication open. Talk to them often about anything and everything, not just when you have concerns.
  • Know when their behaviour is something to be concerned about. The video link below will help you to understand the differences between ‘normal’ adolescent behaviour and when to be concerned and seek help.

Share your stories with us. We’d love to hear from you.

For parenting information or to speak with a Public Health Nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.


About Cynthia Lindsay RN

Hi everyone. My name is Cynthia Lindsay and I work as a public health nurse with the school years program. I've been a nurse for over 20 years (wow time flies!) with the last 13 years focused on what I've discovered to be my passion... Parenting. I now have many parenting accreditations and enjoy connecting with parents in the community through Triple P, parenting groups & social media. "Je parle aussi le français" and I love working, making connections, and raising my 2 teens with my hubby in Halton.
This entry was posted in Children & Tweens, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Child/Tween, Emotional Well-Being & Mental Health for Your Teen, Keeping Your Child/Tween Safe, Keeping Your Teen Safe, Parenting, Parenting Your Child/Tween, Parenting Your Teen, Teen Brain, Teens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Attitude changes and emotional outbursts. Should I be worried?

  1. Carolyn Wilkie, RN says:

    Great post Cynthia!
    I can relate.

  2. Pingback: Top 10 life skills for teens | HaltonParents

  3. Pingback: Are you parenting a teen? Here are 5 actions that will help. | HaltonParents

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s