Attitude management for parents and teens.
Grace looked defiantly at her mom and said “Yes, I was doing drugs before but I’m not anymore.” Mom began shouting and screaming. “I’m going to do a drug test on you and if it comes back positive I’ll tell CPS and have you removed from my home. I can’t deal with this attitude anymore” I felt like I was in a war zone. Her child was only fourteen years old. I tried to calm them both down but mom kept screaming, “This is how she repays me for all I’ve done for her. I can’t take this anymore. I’m going to throw her out.”
Needless to say, it’s sometimes so difficult to deal with a teen’s attitude. What is the right answer to give? As I explained to mom, shouting and screaming is not the best option to take when emotions are so high. Below are a few simple suggestions on how to deal with this attitude.
1. Perception is everything
Unfortunately, your teen’s perception of what you’ve done for them may be very different from yours. Most parents feel like they’ve done so much for their children that the teens need to be eternally grateful to them. I totally agree that we have to teach our children to be appreciative and grateful for all they receive in life, but parents need to realize that it really was their choice to have children in the first place. We shouldn’t treat our children like they owe us anything. When all is said and done, we did for our children what is expected of us as parents. We chose to have them, and we are responsible for them.
Parents equate supplying material bells and whistles and sometimes even the basic necessities of life as showing love to their teens. This is true for some teens, but others just want to have their parent’s attention. They want to feel that you care. The way you express that love towards your child changes as your child grows up and you must be willing to invest the time to get to know your child and communicate your feelings and love in a way that is understood. Sometimes, finding something that you truly admire about your teen and saying it, gives them that warm glow inside. For some teens it’s the after school chat in the car, asking about his day, or making it to his games, or just looking at your teen and listening when they try to talk to you.
2. Harsh Words Stir Up Anger
I’ll be the first to admit that teens can sometimes be a little aggravating and a little hard to get along with, but you responding to your teen with anger and raising your voice really does no good. The message is “the battle is on”, and trust me your teen will rev up his anger and respond in like manner. I know a family that did all they could for their children, but in the teen years, their son decided that he knew what was best and was often rude and disrespectful. Even when his parents were paying his college tuition he would not talk to them. The few times I spoke to the parents they talked about how they were praying about the situation and trying to be patient with him. I couldn’t understand the patience and love they were showing but I observed their son gradually turn around and begin talking to them again. The son has apologized for his behavior and the family is intact. Often times, it pays to take the high road and let God and patience do the work. Another good thing to do is to find someone that your teen will listen to, like a trusted relative or a family friend or your pediatrician. If you need counseling as a family, get it. It’s much better to do that than to have shouting matches.
3. Use humor
Laughter truly is the best medicine. We must realize as parents that we are not necessarily right all the time. When our teens come to us about something we may have done wrong, we should be able to accept it and laugh with them if the situation calls for it. I’ve watched in dismay when teens tease their parents and their parent misread the whole situation and fire off at them. It’s okay to laugh at yourself sometimes. It breaks down tension and improves bonding between you and your teen. Life does not have to be serious all the time. Lighten up and learn to laugh at yourself. Your teen will realize you are human and draw closer to you and listen the next time you try to correct him.
4. Don’t hide your head in the sand
Then there are those parents who absolutely refuse to believe that their teens can have an attitude problem or do anything wrong. They lash out at everybody who talks to them about their teen’s behavior and believe “Nope that can’t be my child.” Don’t hide your head in the sand. I don’t know whether they have that attitude because they don’t want to deal with the situation or whether they truly believe that their teens are perfect. There are no perfect people. We are here as parents to guide our teens on their life journey, and refusing to acknowledge a problem does not make it go away. It only gets worse and ultimately comes back to bite you. Be brave, stand up and be the parent. Open your eyes and acknowledge if there is a problem and deal with it.
As we navigate the teen years with all the attitude that comes with it, learn how your teen perceives that you love them and show them that you care, always remembering that you are doing what is expected of you as a parent. Develop a sense of humor and use your words wisely. Don’t raise your voice if you don’t have to. Respect yourself and teach your teen’s to respect you too. Be honest, acknowledge the truth about your teens and seek help to effect change if you have to. As Dr. Phil always says, “You can’t change what you don’t acknowledge.” And always remember, “Your children need your presence more than your presents.”