Got an angry, tired teenager at home? Don’t despair – there is hope! Here’s what we did to ensure our Mr Teenage-Rage got his beauty sleep and domestic harmony returned to our home.
It started when he was about 14. The grumpiness. The anger that came out of nowhere – and most problematic of all, the presumption that now he was ‘grown up’ he didn’t need to sleep. Bedtime kept being put back. Another 30 seconds on Call Of Duty, please. Teeth-cleaning became a long, drawn out affair. Anything to stay up. And when we eventually got him to bed, there soon followed endless tossing and turning and other assorted bangs and crashes from above. From the living room sofa directly below, we could hear that things weren’t as they should be. This was bad enough – but before things got better, they were bound to get worse. It was then, it happened.
Fatigue. Full-on, no holds-barred, puffy-eyed tiredness. The type that causes breakfast table wrestling matches, flying corn flakes and sibling squabbling. Now, as I’m sure you’re aware, tiredness at that age can lead to some bleak places – in our case, plummeting school grades and a sour home atmosphere. So what to do? We turned to the all-knowing, all-seeing Oracle that is Google, of course!
Search – “How To Deal With An Angry Tired Teenager”
Relief – 65 700 000 results showed we weren’t alone in seeking a solution! However, this relief was quickly followed by confusion. Articles by ‘experts’ contradicted each other and we read on in wide-eyed horror, transfixed by the unfolding parental horror stories and tales of domestic Armageddon. However, after browsing through what felt like a significant percentage of those 65 million results, a common theme began to appear. Apparently we needed to ‘talk’ – so talk we did.
“Why do you think you don’t need to sleep?”
“Why don’t you want to go to bed?”
“Do you understand why sleep is important?”
So, according to him, there wasn’t a problem. Back to the drawing board – and the other half and I devised a cunning plan. I’m not going to say it was the opposite of talking, because dialogue (and bribery) were involved, but clearly we needed to take the initiative. We called it Operation Rage Quell and with hopes high, we launched the following five-pronged assault –
- Keep his mind occupied in the evening – if there was no homework, simpler household tasks were assigned.
- Screen time after 8pm was a no-no. 8-9pm was to be calm and free from all digital plings, reminders and updates.
- Zero tolerance as regards to weekday bedtime – it was 9pm or bust, no exceptions.
- Remove all devices from bedroom. Mobile phones are to teenage sleep harmony what Kryptonite is to Superman – keep them apart at all costs.
- Forced feeding – an hour before bed a light, sugar-free supper was consumed.
Now, for an angry teenager, this simple set of rules was nothing less than an attack on his basic human rights. How dare we infringe on his personal life! Who did we think we were, removing his reason to exist (you and I know it as a mobile telephone) and condemning him to this miserable existence? Life sucked – but for every bit of stick, there was always a carrot.
“You know it’s the end of term soon – if you get good grades, we can maybe go to London?”
“Can I sleep at a friends on Saturday? Sure – if you aren’t too tired after the school week.”
The way we communicated our intentions changed too. Sometimes it was subtle. For example, at suppertime, “are you hungry” became “come down and eat now.” Sometimes it wasn’t so subtle – such as the creation of a separate WiFi network for the kids, timed to shut down at 8pm. What can I say? Desperate times require desperate measures.
And so it came to pass that with this simple routine established and suitable carrots dangled, balance slowly returned to The Force. My partner and I high-fived and told each other what fantastic parents we were – but what had we learned? Well…
If your little ones haven’t reached their teens yet, I recommend you enjoy the peace and quiet while you can. Right now, your kid is a tranquil, compliant angel yet to be possessed by the barbarian demons of puberty. However, there is apparently no such thing as bad experience and despite the tears, bust-ups and weaponised breakfast cereal, I wouldn’t change a thing – even in the knowledge that Mr Ex-Teenage Rage has a little brother who at this very moment, is shaping up to follow in his footsteps!