Hate and Love
We’ve worked our way through the major steps of my system for confronting a teenager about problem behaviors.
But what if things don’t go as smoothly as I’ve made it all seem?
Teenagers are often very skilled at becoming indignant, raising their voices, making hurtful comments, and otherwise turning seemingly simple conversations into arguments.
• “You looked through my stuff?”
• “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.”
• “How could you do that?”
• “This is ridiculous. I don’t want to talk about it.”
How should you respond when these types of comments occur?
First, Don’t Engage
You need to just expect that this kind of thing is going to happen. Remember, the teenage brain has strong emotional responses to situations that seem threatening. And the frontal cortex is not developed enough to put these emotions into perspective. So, yes, your teen might very well get angry and lash out at you at any stage during this process. It is imperative that you don’t let yourself get sucked in by your teen’s comments.
Nod. Be understanding. Allow your teen to be as emotional as they like. But don’t let yourself get emotional too. As soon as you feel your teen starting to get you riled up, let there be a little space in your head where you notice what is happening, take a step back, and choose not to engage.
Second, Respond with Love
If your teen is being combative, your natural reaction is probably to scream that they are an ungrateful little brat. And it is very difficult to simply suppress a natural reaction.
Instead, you need something to replace it with. I’ve found that the absolute best thing to replace this type of aggressive impulse with is love. Make a statement that shows your teen that you are enduring their hateful comments with poise because of your unconditional love.
• “Believe me, it is really hard to sit here and have you hate me. I would much rather just pretend everything is fine. But I’m doing the hard thing because I love you so much.”
• “Being the bad cop is the worst part of my job. This isn’t fun for me. I do it out of love.”
• “I’m willing to sit here and listen to the worst insults you can throw at me until we are able to work out a plan. It’s not easy, but that is how much I love you.”
My mom used to tell me that when people are mean to you, kill them with kindness. And the science proves that she was right.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach me out at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love getting emails from parents and will respond promptly.
Thanks for reading and good luck speaking with your teen!
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