Is your child rude, difficult to talk to, or sad? We all recognize the most noticeable face of anger; those behavioral problems that manifest as blowups. But, anger can translate not only as an overtly aggressive child, but also as one who withdraws and refuses to communicate. If you feel like there is more going on with your kid than meets the eye, you may be right to be concerned.
Though kids may not appreciate parents’ interference in their affairs, it’s better to confront these cries for help before they escalate. As always, the litmus test for making any decision in your child’s welfare is evaluating if that child will appreciate you for it when he or she is an adult. No teenager will thank you for limiting his or her freedoms now, because that is counter to their developmental level. But no 25-year-old I have ever met inside my therapy room or out has been thankful to parents for allowing them to experience things (drugs, sex, autonomy) they later realize they were not ready to handle. So, with that in mind, here are a few tips for helping your angry teen.
1) Limit the number of violent things they watch/listen to/play: Experts estimate that the average teen has seen thousands of violent deaths depicted in tv, movies, and video games by the time he or she turns 18. We would be foolish to think that this does not desensitize our children to glamorized shows of anger. Think carefully not just about what you are allowing your teen to absorb through his or her media choices, but also about what they can be exposed to when they are at their friends’ houses as well. Keep tabs on who they hang out with, where, and talk to them about how to make good choices when they are not with you.
2) Be a good role model: Kids will do as you do, not as you say. If you routinely lose your temper, become angry and aggressive in traffic, yell at or hit your partner/spouse (or allow him or her to do this to you), and are rude and dismissive towards service people, your child will always model that behavior. They learn how to manage conflict and mediate stressful emotions from you. Consider yourself the architect of the blueprint for how your kids will treat their future employees, spouses, and children. If you need to get help to manage your own levels of stress and acting out, tell your kids that you are doing so, and then really do it. Parents are not to blame for all of their children’s problems. Certainly, some kids come into the world with tendencies that will be expressed in their behaviors. But, parents often have more influence over their children then they realize. Use it wisely.
3) Help your kids feel empowered: Resolving anger isn’t just about decreasing negative behaviors. It’s about increasing self-esteem so that kids feel positive about themselves and have more options in lieu of the bad behaviors. If your child is being bullied at school, be proactive about making it stop. If your child is the bully at school, help him or her get into counseling immediately. Some kids have a more difficult time fitting in at school than others. If your child is one of those kids, help him or her find another outlet like art, dance, sports, or youth groups at your place of worship.
4) Help your kids unplug and be part of the family: In the old days, when kids left school, all further communication with their friends had to go through the family phone. Now, teens are connecting around the clock via private cell phones with texting and social networking sites. The high drama of being a teen with any sort of social life needs to be mediated by the unconditional love and positive regard of being part of a family. Though they don’t know it, kids benefit from time to decompress from constant social interaction with their peers. If you’re not the one talking to your kid about his or her day, putting it all into perspective, and giving advice, someone else (much younger and less wise) will be doing it.
If you have any questions about how you can help your kid get off to a good start this school year and keep the momentum going, please feel free to drop me an email or give me a ring.
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