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

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

When Adolescent Anger Becomes Aggression Toward Parents

Disagreements are to be expected as part of family life, and these can start to happen more frequently as your youngster enters his adolescent years. Sometimes disagreements will turn into blazing rows, with your adolescent insulting you or cussing. This can be hurtful and disappointing, leaving you asking yourself how things ended up this way, or what you could have done differently.

A certain level of moodiness and irritability is to be expected from adolescents, but it’s important for parents to maintain disciplinary boundaries. It’s NEVER acceptable for an adolescent to become aggressive and physically hurt the parent. If violence against parents goes unchecked, it sends the message to the adolescent that violence is a way to get what you want in life. If violent behavior gets rewarded (due to the fact the there was no significant consequence for it), the adolescent will likely be violent toward others down the road. But unfortunately, other people will not be as accepting of such behavior and will either retaliate with violence of their own, or call the cops and have the aggressor arrested for battery.

If you have experienced aggression from your adolescent, then you need to face the issues behind all the rage. It may be hard to admit that there is a problem, but if your adolescent is pushing or smacking you, then this is domestic battery and needs to be dealt with severely. You deserve to feel safe in your own home.

Tips on coping with disagreements:

1. When possible, try to resolve arguments with a compromise, or at least show that you have understood where your adolescent’s emotions are coming from. If the situation becomes too heated and you are finding it difficult to stay calm, walk away. Avoid blame, and let your adolescent know that you will be able to talk to him again when you have calmed down.

2. Listen to your adolescent and try to see his point of view. Even if you only see it slightly, let him know instead of just disagreeing with everything. When your adolescent trusts that you can hear his views, he may be more likely to talk calmly instead of yelling and swearing.

3. If you find disagreements are getting out of hand regularly, strongly consider counseling. Your adolescent may find it helpful to talk to someone new and unbiased, someone who in not in his family and won’t judge him. Also, you can even attend family counseling sessions together.

4. Accept that disagreements do happen. Sometimes your adolescent will say really troubling things, but remember that he is still learning to cope with new situations and new emotions. Difficult feelings like rage and anxiety can be frustrating for your adolescent, and the expression of these emotions may come out in ways that are difficult for you to hear. Try to stay calm and avoid saying anything you may later regret.

Tips on dealing with aggression:

1. Understand that all adolescents need opportunities to be independent, push boundaries – and even hurl some hormone-induced verbal abuse at parents from time to time. Teenagers are entering a new phase in their life. They are searching for a new identity and trying to reject the old one, while all the time wrestling with raging hormones they can’t control.

2. Avoid using aggression with your adolescent. For example, if you are smacking your adolescent as a form of discipline, or even because you are losing control of your temper in a disagreement, then you are giving him the message that it is OK to use aggression to solve disagreements. By avoiding using aggression, you are setting a positive example of what you find acceptable.

3. Don't become hysterical and lose all control if you discover something serious that your teen is up to that you don’t approve of (e.g., being part of a gang, having a weapon, abusing drugs, etc.). When a teen with aggressive tendencies is attacked, he will be more likely to retaliate with hostility and physical force. Instead, ask him calmly why he is involved with the risky behavior, and what you can do together to address the situation.

4. Give your teen space. Recognize that he is taking anger out on you and may not know how else to deal with troublesome emotions. Once he has calmed down, you may be able to talk to him about what has happened and suggest he let you find him some help.

5. Having an aggressive adolescent “rule the roost” in your home definitely needs to be dealt with – its effect on the family can be far-reaching. Not only does it make life miserable for everyone else in the house, but you could find the younger siblings copying the aggressive adolescent’s behavior. Some door-slamming and arguing is totally understandable – and even healthy on occasion. But, if your adolescent is becoming aggressive verbally and physically, then as a parent, you need to take control in a firm but non-aggressive way.

6. Hostility breeds hostility, so take a deep breath and attempt to get to the root of the problem calmly with your teenager to see where this is coming from. Admitting to him that you sometimes find parenting difficult – or that you are sorry for something you said or did – can also help.

7. If your teenager is unwilling to accept that she has a problem with violence, then try to arrange counseling for her. Speak to your doctor or your teen’s school about what kind of help is available.

8. If your adolescent admits he has a problem with violent, acting-out behavior – and is willing to get help, book an appointment with a counselor as soon as possible.  Show your teen that you will support him in getting through this stage. With your love and forgiveness, your adolescent stands a much better chance of identifying rage and learning to express his strong emotions differently.

9. The most important thing is to put your safety first. Any time your youngster lashes out violently, get out of the way and go somewhere safe. If you still feel threatened or scared and don't know how to protect yourself, then you have every right to contact the police. Be clear that you will stand by the boundaries that you have set and the values that you believe in – even if that involves having your teen arrested for domestic battery.

10. If your youngster is being aggressive in some situations only (e.g., at home, but not at school), then the good news is that she knows what she is doing. She has the capacity to control her behavior, and so can change.

11. The basis of a good relationship with your adolescent is good communication. So talk to him rather than shout at him. Be as non-judgmental as you can, and that way he should be more likely to open up to you.

12. The main thing to remember is that, unless your youngster has a mental health problem, or a disorder such as ADHD (which often goes undiagnosed), then there will be an underlying issue which is making her unhappy and act aggressively. And while “going in guns blazing” may feel like your only option to combat the behavior, it’s actually the worst thing you can do.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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