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  Category: Articles » Home & Family » Article

Teenagers - Fighting their Fire with Water and Avoiding Abuse

By Neil Millar

When my son hit teens the rules changes. Suddenly the behaviour of my sweet loving boy changed. He challenged everything, refused to help, forgot habits we'd instilled years earlier and had more than the occasional rude moment.

Is his behaviour unique?

When I felt myself sinking, and felt a little lost as a parent the first thing I did was make some phone calls to other parents who'd survived teenagers. They all told similar stories. The problem I then faced was how to most effectively handle what appeared to be rudeness and lack of co-operation and deliberate forgetfulness.

So here is what I did…

As teenage behaviour is fairly typical, and not as we parents might perceive, a personal attack, I decided to learn about what they go through it and find out how I could most effectively combat it.

The Old Model

The old model of parenting is to issue discipline. In years gone by shouting and smacking, and in some cultures beating seemed to work. I assume it worked because the punishment eventually broke the child's spirit.

These days kids are more sensitive and more aware. Shouting or striking them will only lead to worse behaviour and rebellion. The other thing as I learned about this model of parenting is that it is abusive. This brings up a couple of things: First why would I want to abuse someone I love? Second, the chances are if I abuse him, he'll abuse me when he's big enough.

The Interim Measure

To avoid the abusive confrontation mentioned above, many parents slip into a passive mode, allowing their children to do and say what they please. They do this in the hope for a quiet life. The problem here is that, with no parental control the child can and probably will go out of control.

The dilemma is this then: How do you effectively raise a teenager - avoid abuse and retain control?

One of the things teenagers go through is a rewiring of their body. This causes a cotton wool effect in the brain - forgetfulness and the not hearing you. Puberty kicks in - confusion. They want to break the bonds of childhood - confusion as to who they are, causing frustration and fluctuations between passive and aggressive behaviour.

So what can you do with this info and how can you empower yourself?

I decided the answer was to be 'still'. What do I mean by 'still'. I decided to stop offering my opinion and not judge. This works for one reason: Any parent with teenagers knows the kids always believes they have all the answers and you can never be right. So don't offer solutions unless asked.

How else can we remain still?

Another way of remaining still is to stay in control. Here you give them something solid to get frustrated with. When testing the boundaries with swearing or inappropriate behaviour they might say they don't care or be rude. Stay still - take a deep breathe or count to ten - and then very calmly say 'I understand that right now you don't care, but I'm asking you nicely… would you please, stop doing that?'

Even if they refuse, don't get locked in. Say what you need to say, once or twice and then leave them to work it out for themselves. Here you have to trust that what you did in the pre-teenage years will come back to them and they will remember how to be.

If you feel aggressive towards your teenager there is no shame in calmly leaving the room. Sometimes a break from their raging emotions benefits everyone.

Remember, get teenage right and the job is all but over. This is your final test!

Best wishes with your teenager.

About the Author
Neil Millar spots things others don't. His weekly newsletter on creating a better life, will help you become more consciously aware - so you and your family can be all you can be. Find out more at

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  Some other articles by Neil Millar
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