Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

What Child is This?

When you and your teen are in a constant battle of the wills.

Tis the season for Christmas Carols, tunes of “Peace on Earth” and “Silent Night” fill the air.  Each carol vividly paints a picture of calmness, peace and serenity; that is unless you live in a house where your teen drives the sleigh.  If that’s your situation, then “all may not be calm” and you may find yourself asking “What Child is This?” as you drink eggnog hoping that St. Nick would change your teen back into the child of yesteryear.  Somewhere between “tis the season to be jolly” your teen hopped into the driver’s seat of that sleigh and is dashing away as you struggle to gain control of the reins. 

Challenging teens can demand attention and fight to be in control which will leave you worn out and mentally exhausted.  The good news is you are not alone.  Thousands of other parents face the same dilemma, where their teen demands power and control.  He or she sees you as an equal not as the parent.  

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You may be asking yourself where on earth you went wrong or what you did to deserve this, but that doesn’t really matter.  Just focus on the situation you’re in and what you need to do to get out of it. Here are some tips to help:

1.  First remember that all behavior is purposeful.  Your teen is acting this way for some reason.  As you scratch your head trying to figure it out, ask yourself this question – What is she getting out of this?  For example, is she trying to wear you down so you’ll give in and let her go to the party?  Maybe, she’s tired of you not listening so she’s constantly interrupting you and not letting you finish your thoughts.  Regardless, there’s something that she is getting and once you figure it out you’ll be one step ahead of her game. 

2. Don’t let your teen run over top of you.  You are not an equal.  You’re the parent.  It’s important that you stand your ground and don’t give in or negotiate on things that matter to you yet at the same time don’t be overbearing.  If you listen you may find that he does have a valid point to make.  Listening and respect are complete opposites of demanding and control. Believe it or not there is a right and a wrong way to argue.

3. Provide direction.  Your teen will respect you more if he knows what to expect from you.  Teens need and want direction, motivation and encouragement.  They value what you think and want to feel needed. With a little reverse psychology, you can have him working hard to please while improving your relationship… sounds like a win/win. 

4. Ask, Tell & Negotiate --- Find out what really irks her about your relationship and be ready for the response.  She may say things like: “You yell too much” and you may disagree.  But remember perception is reality to the beholder.  So, it doesn’t matter what you think only what your teen believes to be true.  In fairness, speak with her about what irks you like “You don’t clean up after yourself” but she may think “She’s so unappreciative, I made my bed yesterday and she never even noticed!”  (Yes, I know the dishes were piled a mile high in the sink but did you notice the small step?)  If you don’t think you have the patience to discuss this in a calm manner then write it out and give it to each another.  Wait a couple of days and make time to discuss what you’ve written. 

5.Patience is a virtue.  Change comes in small doses.  Odds are you didn’t get in this predicament overnight so it’s not going to be fixed overnight either.  Notice the small steps and celebrate them.  In fact, she may be telling her friends the same thing you’re telling yours only they’ve flipped the story to reflect their own personal perspective.  

6.  Make sure it's not a "you" thing.  Are you the one fighting for control?  Sure, when he was younger you picked out his clothes, the cereal he was going to eat for breakfast and may have even made his bed.  You could remind him of his manners and he would mock you like a parrot in good company, but those days are over.  He is growing up, but are you letting him?  Do you micro manage his every move or suffocate him for fear he’ll hang with the wrong crowd?  Do you dictate what he can or can't do? Could you be keeping him from growing up?  If so, is this leading to the disharmony in your home? Do you need to take a look into the mirror and take a step back? It’s okay to loosen the reins and let your teen soar.  If he falls, pick him back up and encourage him to try again. 

7.  Little life lessons can be learned from a good argument.  Did you know that your teen can learn a lot from you when you’re arguing? Fair fights help her stand her ground all while learning how to manage her emotions. Fighting allows an opportunity her to express her thoughts and feelings, even if they aren’t in line with yours. And in the end, when it’s all said and done, it’s a great way to show that you still love her regardless of your differences. 

8. Take a break from each another.  Time can actually be your friend in a tense situation.  If you find yourself saying “don’t you walk away, while I’m talking” then ask yourself what’s the harm?  If walking away is his way of taking a break, let him do it.  You can always go back once the dust settles and revisit the issue.  You’ll get a lot more accomplished if you just take a break.

9. Avoid these instigating yet infuriating (Bah-Humbug) expressions; they will push buttons:

  • "My mother would have_________  if I'd treated to her that way."
  • "End of discussion."
  • "I've had it with you."
  • "When I was your age..."
  • "Because I said so…”
  • "I can’t believe you said that."
  • “You’re sister would never have spoken to me like that.”

10.  Most importantly, parenting hands down is one of the most difficult jobs on earth.  Don't forget to take a breather and recharge your battery.  You’re going to need it. 

Are you still searching for your “Silent Night?”  No one ever said that raising a teen was going to be easy.  It’s a challenging and rewarding experience all at the same time.  It’s also a time to rally the troops, lean on your friends for support, and find respite in quite moments.  It’s going to take some work to get back into the driver’s seat, especially if you’ve given it up.  But when you do, you may be singing “Gloria” or “Hallelujah” with a choir of angels backing you up.  Until then, may your days be “merry and bright” and may your night not end in a fight.

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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