Living with an angry teenager

Question:

I have an 11-year-old. Her body is changing and so is her attitude. I often find myself stooping down to her level when she says “I am not going to do that!”

Once she starts her daily arguing, throwing tantrums, calling names and/or pushing my husband and I away, I find that my husband and I start to argue with each other over the way we discipline her.

I am so frustrated sometimes I do not want to go home. We have tried time out, taking pleasurable things away, spending more time with her and telling her repeatedly that we love her. I am at a loss of what we should do to turn her attitude around and to make my home a place of harmony.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Answer:

You and your husband should read the book “Parenting with Love and Logic” by Fay and Cline. In the meantime I’ll give you a few ideas on parenting teenagers.

Most teenage bad-behavior is motivated by one of three things. It is either:

  1. A request for love and validation,
  2. A request for attention or
  3. A request for more freedom

Step back from the situation and ask yourself what is motivating this behavior today?

Once you can clearly see why she is behaving the way she is, you can assess your options for a response.

If she is angry all the time, which is normal for teenagers, she may need a little more space and freedom. If she is asking for validation, she wants you to accept her as she is. If she is creating drama to get your attention, you may need to spend more time as a family.

No matter what you do, you must stay calm and in control when dealing with your teen. You must stay logical and loving. A never-fail approach, no matter the situation, is to have a validating conversation with her.

Ask questions about what she is feeling and what she thinks about this situation. Listen without responding. Validate her right to see the situation whatever messed up way she sees it.

Respecting her right to feel the way she feels — even if she is wrong — shows her she is important and valued. Then ask if she would be open to a little advice from mom or dad? Only give it with her permission. If she says ‘no’ wait for another day. Respecting her in this way earns respect back.

The best way to validate another human being is by listening to his or her feelings. Teenagers aren’t always in the mood to talk though. You may have to wait for the right moment.

If freedom is her issue, give her the freedom to make more choices. Explain the natural consequences of her choices and then leave it to her to decide.

Remember the desire for freedom is a natural trait in all human beings. It is a fact of life that the oppressed will always rebel. As parents of teenagers, we have to find a balance between loving guidance and lots of free agency.

Our children learn their greatest lessons from their mistakes. Don’t be afraid to let a headstrong child make more choices on their own. Stay out of their way as much as possible. Care but don’t control. If she is pushing for more responsibility, give it to her. then give her more and more freedom as she ages.

As for the fighting in your home, it takes two to fight.

If you refuse to play it’s not nearly as fun.

You and your husband need to stop blaming each other. You are both responsible for these two relationships but the only thing you have any control over is you.

Ask yourself…

How can I make each of these relationships better?

How can I step it up and behave more mature, calm and loving?

How can I stop getting defensive and give love instead?

You must get control over your own emotions, if you are going to teach your daughter how to handle disagreements calmly. You must teach by example.

This means recognizing everyone is inherently good but scared to death most all the time. Fear that they aren’t loved and respected drives most of their behavior. Have more compassion for your spouse and child. They are doing the best they can with what they know. They just don’t know everything.

Choose to be the love in these relationships.

Focus on how you can make each other feel safe and validated. Once they feel safe, you can have great conversations about making things better.

I hope this helps.

How come it takes so little time for a child who is afraid of the dark to become a teenager who wants to stay out all night?

Kimberly Giles is the founder and president of www.ldslifecoaching.com and www.claritypointcoaching.com. She and her husband are the parents of 7 children. She is a sought-after life coach and speaker.