Sunday, 30 May 2010

...Survives Teenagers!

Ok so...teenagers. This is a very touchy subject, and all you parents of teenagers out there know what I'm talking about here. The band My Chemical Romance sing of teenagers who "scare the living sh*t out of me". 

I have got two of them. You may have only one or you may have 6. At the time of writing, mine are 14 and 16. All full of hormones and letting the whole world know about it.  They've got an opinion on everything and they're always right. 

Sound familiar? At this point may I say that you have my sympathies. 

First a few pertinent questions: have you searched for this article because your teenagers are driving you crazy? Have you just lost your voice in the latest bout of yelling? Truth be told is all the energy you've got left going to your fingers while you type on your keyboard? Is the keyboard taking the brunt of it right now? Bashing those keys are we? YES? Then read on! This may help.

1. TAKE A DEEP BREATH: In fact take as many breaths as you think you need. This will give you some distance from the scenario and will defuse the intensity of the situation. It benefits both you and your beloved teenager, and gives you a chance to consider if this is really how you wish to engage with each other. This may be the end of it and you might not need to read any more. Congratulations, and have a great day. However, if after doing this you still feel the need to re-engage then please continue reading.

2. SAY YOUR PIECE: The operative word here being "say". Please try not to yell. When you have perfected this method, please email me and share how you did it without yelling. I was raised in a household where yelling was the norm, and even though as an adult I now understand the negative impact on the children when we yell, I still do it on occasions. It's rare but it does still happen. Try to remember your words are the same whether you yell or speak them. Say what you have to say, get your point across calmly and the chances are you will be heard. If you yell and stomp (I'm not a stomper by the way) then the message gets lost and they just won't hear you. Take as long as you need to, write it down if you have to, but get it out there. 

3.STICK TO THE FACTS and don't use accusatory blaming language. Say "When you did that, it made me feel_____", rather than "You're always acting up and you're so stupid and useless." Keep focused on the matter at hand, and avoid using this latest incident to personify your child. Consider pointing out the "...stupid thing you did.." rather than "'re so stupid.." Stay respectful and maintain your dignity at all times.

4. GIVE AND ASK FOR AN APOLOGY: It may or may not be appropriate for you to apologise, but this is for you to assess. If you think that your actions may have caused the argument in the first place then just apologise. Remember you're the adult, and you want to teach your teenager how an adult would behave. If they witness you engaging with them in a destructive way they will learn that this is how adults respond, and they will repeat the behaviour in their own adult life. If you think you deserve an apology then ask for one. It may not be forthcoming, but that is up to them. You only need to ask. Remember they are hormonal teenagers, and the last thing they want to do is accept they are wrong. Your job as the parent is to show them that sometimes you have to hold your hands up and take responsibility for your actions. Bear in mind that the apology may come many years down the line, when they are facing the same situation with their own teenagers.

5. TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM: Why? Because you do. The bond between parent and child is not broken because of a temporary hormonal imbalance your child is enduring. Sometimes they need the reassurance of hearing that you love them. Be the adult and just say it.

6. WALK AWAY: This is such an important stage in an argument with your teenager. Leave the room and let what you have said sink in. It may or may not have an immediate impact but it will get through at some level, and walking away is a very powerful way of exercising self-control.

7. LET IT GO: Remember you want them to go out in to the big wide world fully kitted out with the toolbox of social skills. You're the parent. They won't learn these lessons at school. Also you have the benefit of experience. Your intensely hormonal teenager may think they know it all, but you really do know it all. This won't be the first time you have a disagreement, and the chances are it will happen again. Why exhaust yourself every time? Life really is too short, so give yourself a break and let it go. Rest assured they will remember and one day they will thank you for your calm, collected approach. 

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