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How to respond when your child or teen is being "difficult"

Family Argument

Jon Carlson and Judith Lewis state, "The real problem in parent-teen relationships - as with all human relationships - is the failure to talk, listen, and understand another's point of view" (430). We are all humans. We all make mistakes, and just because we make mistakes, doesn't mean we're bad. Parents, teens, and children all make mistakes. Sometimes we don't always act the way we wish we could have when we were mad. The most important thing to remember when your child/teen is being "difficult" is to stay calm. If you are trying to discipline your child/teen when you are angry, you will be thinking with your emotions rather than your brain. It is okay to tell your child/teen you need a "time out". Take a break, calm down. Chances are, your child/teen needs a break too. Once you feel more calm, finish the conversation. Sometimes changing our perspective also helps. For example, if your child/teen is not respecting the boundary you put up about only having an hour of screen time a day, instead of getting angry and thinking they aren't listening to you on purpose, get curious. Why aren't they listening? It it possible that they had a hard day and playing that game is helping them feel better? Or could it be that they really just want your attention? Once you figure it out, deciding how to move forward will be much easier. If they were having a difficult day and you punished them for trying to feel better, that may make the situation worse. You also just missed a great opportunity for connecting with your child/teen. If you are able to ask and understand where they are coming from, they may feel more like coming to you next time they're having a difficult day, thus increasing your connection. Believe it or not, one of the most common concerns I hear from children/teens is that they don't know how to communicate with their parents as well as they would like to. So remember - don't get mad, get curious.

Works Cited:

Jon Carlson and Judith Lewis. Counseling the Adolescent: Individual, Family, and School Interventions. Denver: Colorado, 2007.

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