Parenting A Difficult Child or Teen
Well, we have all been there at some time or another, stuck in the grocery store aisles or checkout counter observing children screaming at the top of their lungs because they are not getting their way. Perhaps you have heard rumors about the teen who lives four doors down who has been suspended again from school or picked up by the police for staying out past curfew. Whether we are that child’s parent, a neighbor, friend, or innocent bystander, we have all observed something similar taking place.
Being a parent will be the hardest commitment anyone will ever take on in life. Parenting is just that…a life-long commitment with no instruction manual included! There are no “How To” classes to take before hand or a teacher to stand over one’s shoulder to point out the right or wrong way of doing things.
Every child is different and develops their own unique set of needs and personality. Often parents begin to feel helpless or lost as to how to assist their son or daughter while going through life’s social and emotional challenge. That gap in communication can grow wider and wider with every passing month. During those sensitive times, working on the relationship and receiving some guidance can be just what is needed to re-establish open communication with your children.
Four key points when working with challenging children and teens:
1. Set firm limits and rules early and often. Everyone has the old expression, “if you give them an inch, they will take a mile!” Curfew is at 10:00 p.m., not 10:15. When teens prove that they are responsible and respectful of the rules set within the home, you can loosen the reins a little and allow for some more leeway once in a while … but not in the beginning.
2. Both parents need to be on the same page and be consistent with consequences. If you disagree with one another, don’t do it in front of the kids. Discuss a middle ground and agree to support one another during highly emotional times. Kids will pick up on the fact that you are not supporting one another and will try to “split” the two of you. Be consistent, be together.
3. Children and teens need and want structure. They feel safe when rules and limits are set in the home by both parents. Yes, they will test those limits, but they want to see if you can handle them, and their distress. It is one of the many tests of parenthood to deliver and follow through with consequences.
4. Do not minimize your child’s feelings. There is a direct connection between how a child feels and how they behave. Parents need to listen to their children without telling them how they should feel.
Parents should avoid minimizing phrases such as:
“Oh, you just had a bad day.”
“There is no reason for you to feel that way.”
“I think you are overreacting.”
When children cannot verbalize their thoughts and feelings in a safe and accepting environment, free from criticism or judgment, they often shut down and begin to show you how they feel through their behaviors.