HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

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My Teenager Hates Me

“My teenage son is so hateful. No matter how hard I try, all we do is argue. He is 17 and this has been going on for a couple of years. I really believe he hates me. Nothing I do is right. No matter how nice I am, he still snaps at me about everything. He used to say I ‘bitch’ too much, so I tried to stop that …still he is disrespectful. He won't come out of his bedroom. In order to see him, I have to go to him. But when I do that, he gets angry because I am 'in his business'. I am the only one he acts this way to. He is nice to his dad (we are divorced), girlfriend, and teachers – everyone but me. I have even considered leaving myself just to make him happy. Any ideas?!"

First of all, I believe you are trying too hard to save the relationship. Less is better! Also, know that you are definitely not alone in this predicament. To raise an adolescent, parents need to understand (a) what changes are going on in the child’s body and mind and (b) the importance of communicating the way teens do with one another – not the way adults do.

Being a single mother of an adolescent can be extremely challenging. You may have to deal with a stubborn, argumentative individual on a daily basis. You may find yourself asking questions like: “What did I do wrong?” … “Where did my sweet little boy go?” … “Where does all this hostility come from?” And as a divorced parent, you may even blame yourself for your child’s emotional problems.

So what on God’s green Earth can a parent do in this situation? Here are some thoughts to ponder:

1. All adolescents are in the process of transforming from kids who followed the parent’s lead and had everything done for them, to young adults ready to take on life. Your child is literally trying to separate from you. Don’t take it personally (although blatant disrespect does need a consequence).

2. All adolescents are working on creating their own personality with their individual opinions, ideas and experiences. They are in the process of taking baby-steps towards living an independent life. And sometimes this “healthy” transition comes out as disrespect.

3. Don’t ask a lot of questions to get a conversation started. Instead, take the time to listen to your adolescents and understand what they are going through (assuming they will talk at some point). It may be when they come in from school, or when you are dropping them off at soccer practice. Your mantra should be: “I’m all ears and little mouth.”

4.  During adolescence, moms and dads will find that they need to adjust their parenting style from one of “total authority” to a “supportive, coaching style.”

5. Family mealtimes are important opportunities for parent and child to communicate. Allow your adolescents to discuss important issues (when they are ready – not when you are prompting them), and really listen to their viewpoints.

6. If your adolescents don’t talk to you, or avoid coming to you with problems they are experiencing, you will need to start building a bridge that will connect you to them. You can start by asking short, simple “yes or no” questions (i.e., questions in which the teen does not have to elaborate, but can answer in one word – ‘yes’ or ‘no’). In this way, your questions are broken down into small segments. Teens are likely to communicate (albeit in one word responses) if they don’t have to reveal too much information. Full length questions like, “You seem to be angry about something. What’s going on?”…will likely be meet with, “Nothing, leave me alone.” So, start with the little questions first.

7. Know that a teenager shows his or her ugliest side (i.e., bad behavior) to the parent he or she feels the most comfortable with. For example, if the teenage son or daughter is “mean/rude” to the mother – but comparatively respectful to the father, this is due to the fact that the teen is not as comfortable being himself or herself in front of the father.

8. Know that answering back and always having the last word is just typical teen behavior. Adolescents are not very articulate, and what may appear to be “back-talk” may actually be their attempt to discuss an important issue. When you know you have adequately discussed the issue, and that your adolescents had a chance to state their side of the story, then ignore their need to have the last word (or simply state that your done talking about it).

9. Look for nonverbal cues to your adolescent's feelings (e.g., eye contact, posture, energy levels, etc.). In this way, you may be able to ascertain whether your child is in a good or bad mood. Knowing your child’s current mood-state can go a long way in avoiding conflict up front.

10. Patience and persistence will get your adolescent to talk with you, but you will have to apply a lot of self-control when building a successful relationship with him or her. In most cases, the older the child is (e.g., age 19 or 20), the better the relationship is between parent and child.

11. Power struggles are very common in the teenage years. Adolescents get angry because they feel their mom and dad don't respect them, and mom and dad get angry because they aren't used to not being in control.

12. Remember that every adolescent is a unique person. So, avoid comparing him or her to the “better-behaved” sibling.

13. Understand that having a friendly relationship with your adolescent does not make you his or her “pal.” When it comes down to it, mom and dad still make the final decisions – pals don't.

14. Understand that in their teenage years, most adolescents begin to reject a lot of things that relate to their childhood. They no longer want mom or dad to do or decide things for them. They stop following advice from grown-ups, because in their minds that would be the same as still being a little kid. The real dilemma is that they don't know how to act in order to be treated like the independent near-adult they want to be.

15. When problems arise that warrant discussion, don’t lecture. State the facts, listen to your teenager’s opinion, and talk about your concerns for his or her welfare.

16. When you are going through the daily drama of parenting your teenage son or daughter, it may be hard to separate what appears to be “argumentative” from “giving an opinion.” In many cases, your adolescents don’t intend to argue with you. Instead, they are learning conversational skills to communicate in the adult world – but unfortunately, they often express themselves in a very self-conscious and ill-mannered way. Their lack of communication skills can easily be perceived as disrespect by moms and dads who then get defensive. Most adolescents have not learned that it is o.k. to simply ask a question without having an opinion about it.

Living with adolescents is often exasperating and agonizing – but more often than not, they are entertaining and creative, keeping parents on their toes and providing them with an insight into everything from digital devices to modern culture.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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