Children are Combative… How To Begin Disciplining Teenagers
– Cool Down.
First things first, Slow Down.
Just last night my partner looked sad. It was obvious something was going on.
I asked her what was going on, and when our daughter saw her she said “oooo she’s mad!”
Did you catch that? My partner’s sad face looked to our daughter like anger…
What do you think happens every time my partner feels disappointed, rejected or sad?
When she is down and our daughter does something that needs discipline?
It can’t be good thinking you are giving one message, only to be heard the exact opposite.
Whenever something bothers me I will take the time to validate my own emotions.
Whether that means thinking for 2 seconds, taking 3 minutes and 54 seconds to listen to a song (yeah, I have an ‘angry song’…and it works!) or taking some time to just gather myself. Whatever you need to do, cool down.
You will make better choices,
Your children will feel the difference,
And your children will learn self control and appropriate problem resolution from your modelling.
– Child to Process
Another massive advantage is that your child will have time to process.
Children assess situations in their own ways.
They don’t have all of the data we do.
With less life experiences to draw on they need to make some assumptions and leaps in their minds,
This takes time.
We can also use time to allow our children to calm down.
Modern life moves quickly, and it is easy to just get going dragging everyone along behind you.
I’ve heard it said before that leading people with no followers is just going for a walk.
We need to be leading our families, not letting our children wander through life along.
Wait up for them, give them time, and explain as much as you can, deeply.
What does this word mean to you?
Does it give you images of a noble king?
Are you picturing a rude business man talking down to the waitress?
What about a sweet old man explaining physics to a child?
These days condescending is seen as a bad thing, but technically the word began with a positive meaning!
That king let’s say, could condescend (leave his high and mighty position), making himself the equal to whomever he was relating to. Leaving behind all rank, superiority and obligation.
The businessman could drop the pretence and treat the server as a human.
That old man was condescending in the old fashioned way, making his knowledge accessible to the child.
While parenting we can run into these same issues!
Technology and communication is changing at lightning speed.
Take the time to communicate carefully.
Allow the space for your children to explain things back to you.
Dive in and question things that don’t exactly add up.
Remember the things you are suspect of, and ask about them again another time!
When it comes to bringing up bad behaviours, choose your battles.
Obviously address massive issues on the spot, but when it comes to consequences and boundaries keep it slow and specific. Calm down and decide on the best place and time to have the discussions, but also plot out which attitude or character trait you want to teach first.
At times we’ve skipped over attitude to work on routine and consistency.
Leaving tv habits while changing tech boundaries.
Not directly confronting lies when emotional and personal things pop up.
By prioritising we can avoid overwhelming ourselves and our children, tackling the most important (or annoying) things first.
– Best time for You
In a similar way, our delivery matters.
Earlier I mentioned my partner feeling sad, but our daughter seeing that as angry. In deciding when to have these tougher conversations be sure to pick the best time for you.
Plan to address things when everyone is calm, you have had some good interactions, and when you have space for emotions and re-connection straight after.
On the weekend we have a movie night. If there is something to address near the end of the week we will usually bring it up on the day of the movie. That way, even if it goes poorly, we have time planned out to all relax and connect. This forces us all to live with our emotions, and removes the opportunities for anyone to run away from their emotions.
Family dynamics are an interesting thing.
We can have our careless words cutting in ways we never imagined,
Looks and attitudes misinterpreted,
Situations forgotten and misconstrued.
At the end of the day we are living our lives as parents, and teaching another human how to live their life. With this comes some push back, especially if we are training this child to be a strong willed, self reliant, resilient and opinionated individual. We create a person that can (and will!) respectfully put us in our place from earlier stages. Having an emotionally open home helps us to support the child more holistically. Everyone is used to having raw, open, honest and difficult conversations. There is no doubt, no fear, no wondering what is okay to say.
By practising this in small ways we can ease everyone into these type of emotional conversations.
I started in the schools allowing swearing in my room. As it wasn’t a classroom the theory was that these children would get a break from the normal school pressures, and could actually begin truly expressing themselves. Interestingly, by allowing all types of language (as long as it wasn’t aimed at anybody) the children were able to speak more from the heart, as if filtering their thoughts was making them not even bother.
In the home I have had a slip here and there, but for the most part allowing some light cuss words in context our daughter has been able to control what she says a lot better (and even adds little warnings or says “I really want to swear”). If you’re not comfortable with that (or your child is younger) normalise quoting what other people say with no consequence, complete impunity.
Over time I’ve seen people with aspergers begin to express their emotions. It all started with this, raw open honest communication. This individual would lie, manipulate, could not control themselves, got angry at the drop of a hat. In the beginning I would get furious and need to calm myself down, then I could return and be extremely clear with what I had done wrong.
By apologising and owning where I was wrong they began to reciprocate, thinking through what they had been doing!
Being aware of everyone’s emotions makes choosing the best location for difficult conversations much easier.
During every interaction there is a power dynamic. Be it an animal, a person, a bus. One person is usually in a more advantageous position. This could rise from physicality, familiarity, distance, simply requesting to meet on their terms at their time.
With our children, and with anything in the home for that matter, picking the location for these tough talks is crucially important.
We can use the environment to either avoid lingering feelings, or to cement the idea by anchoring it to a certain area or piece of furniture. When a child is emotional about eating, sitting at the table might not be the best location for a talk about eating responsibly. However, if the same child has been lying about their eating habits and taking things they were told to leave alone sitting at the table, or standing near the fridge / cupboard, may help them to remember next time they are eating or preparing food.
By controlling the location we need to remember to use empathy. These tools are for helping other people make choices, not for controlling and manipulating. We want open honest communication, not robots. And that is the issue. Love isn’t about doing things for the sake of doing them, love is about about being up front, honest and with the best interests of the other person in mind. Use wise locations to help the other person be more comfortable and ultimately more open.
Concealing our intentions can help gather information, while also protecting the children from our annoyances.
Planning and strategy make things simpler. By Slowing down, Communicating well, and choosing the timing ourselves we can multiply our efforts. Saving time and pain in our parenting!
The plan is simple: Use self control and a poker-face, gather information, decide on the priorities, choose the location, and next we will enter and exit carefully, then reconnect. The best tool in our tool belt though is stealth. Concealing our thoughts, in part to protect the child, in part to get the most information and make the best decision.
By coming in hot we get everyone’s guard up.
Basically just make a mess.
When we make careful moves, more like a chess player, we can have greater impact with less effort.
This is why we need to be calculated, stealthy in our parenting.
– Plan Ahead.
Take lying for example.
If your child is constantly stealing sweets and bready foods then lying about it, there are a few ways to approach it.
Lying is a terrible issue in the home. It causes distrust and all kinds of attitudes in everyone. Address this straight away, and on the spot could be the highest priority.
Do we decide the stealing is the issue, and address that with some firm boundaries and consequences?
Perhaps the food is the key, the child could have a craving or an association with the food that drives them to it. Working on stealing may have no effect, the pull of the sugars could be much stronger.
Stealth and gathering information could show us that it is the food that is the real issue. So we could change the diet, changing the stomach bacteria and improve a number of things at once. From there we could use the new energy and focus our child has from a proper diet, and work on the lying. Multiplying our efforts we can then include stealing as an element of lying, as stealing is basically the physical act of lying.
Our child then only has to focus on eating well, and now being truthful in all ways.
Being stealthy can seem weird and dishonest. The way I approach this is simple, if I am ever asked something directly, I tell the truth in an appropriate way or explain why I can’t say whatever it is.
Using these two tools together helps to build trust, and also ensures that we are setting boundaries that don’t weigh down our children. Spending our time on our children keeps those conversations going, and we can decide together at any time to change the boundaries (larger or tighter). Sometimes there is still a need to hold information to your advantage though!
– Hold Information to Your advantage
Throwing back to the lying scenario in the last section, holding information is key.
When our daughter was stealing and lying constantly we would watch it, set up ways to test her, and then discuss what we noticed when it seemed best for everyone.
At one point, we were buying snacks for our movie night each week.
There could be honeycomb chunks, blocks of chocolate, sherbet packets, liquorice bullets, all the fun stuff. Then, through the week they would just be put in a draw in the bedroom.
One night while watching a movie, our daughter showed us her favourite art on the sherbet packets, and asked if she could have it. Intending to keep it for her the next week we both said no, and continued watching the movie.
The next week everyone sits down to watch another movie, and I remember that I have saved that packet. I rush to the draw, find the snacks… but the packet I’m looking for is gone!
I walk out to the lounge room and ask my partner if she had any. Then I ask our daughter and she says that she has no idea. So I leave it, we watch the movie, and the next day I do a little check and find the empty packet (and a few other missing things I had specifically mentioned)…
Again, I bide my time, asking a few times about the packet during the next day… still no truth.
That night we sat down and talked about what was happening, I explained that it was unacceptable to steal, to lie, and to go into her mother’s room without permission. We talked for a good while on the couch, and it turned out that she was scared of the punishments because there had been some pretty extreme ones in the past.
Holding the information, using stealth, and choosing the right way and times to bring this up unlocked a whole level of stories and information that could have taken much longer to surface. Because of the straight up craziness of the previous experiences our daughter was almost scared to tell the truth. Waiting and holding on to information helped her to break that.
I’ll lead the motorcade~All That Remains, No Knock.
I’ll take the heat and I’ll blaze the way
Remember our article on the art of war? Humour me and let’s treat our consequence discussions the same way.
First things first, we need the leader. Who will take charge on this one?
We can flip back and forwards on who’s doing the talking, but one person should be watching the entire situation with everyone else in mind, ready to call the shots if need be.
Once that is decided, everything has been discussed and a plan is decided on it’s time to kick some doors in. As this isn’t a hostile enemy combatant, but our children, we can’t just be rushing in shooting everywhere. Again, slow down, remember what is important to say, and be prepared to strategically back out if things get too hot.
It’s time to play follow the leader!
– Be Smooth.
Number one is be smooth.
When soldiers are clearing a room one tool that they use is a flash bang. This blinds and disorientates the enemy, making the coming moves simpler.
In parenting our flash bang is our relationship and connection.
Setting the location and the emotional landscape of each family member plays a huge roll in how everything will be received.
Taking that to the next level, we can blind side in a good way. Having some fun, or just sitting around watching the tv. Then, when it is calm and everyone is neutral we can bring up the topic and start the discussion, allowing a LOT of space for our children to process.
Doing this shows that we are happy and willing to talk about anything, at anytime. As long as we are listening as well, and keeping ourselves calm, our child will learn that they can come to us with complaints and disagreements. This is so important I would recommend talking about it with your child, allowing them to know the proper place and time to call you out (then we can start the discussion, or work on our blind spots).
Engage this way, it makes eeeeverything soo much easier!
– Be Slow
“Fast is Smooth, Smooth is Slow, Slow is Fast.”
If you’re learning a martial art, or any kind of body movement, being able to control yourself is key. Moving slowly highlights some of the issues in us as we learn.
Even learning to ride a motorcycle, in Australia they make you ride slowly as part of the test.
Moving slowly and smoothly ensures that at a higher pace you can move quickly and decisively, it’s about safety!
In parenting this looks like not rushing in.
It looks like taking five minutes to calm down,
It looks like practising patience,
It looks like taking the time to think.
It frees our mind.
It buys us time.
Moving slowly makes us more confident and comfortable in faster and heavier conversations.
Slowing down buys us space to calm down when needed.
There is no rush.
There is time.
If there isn’t, what’s more important… The thing we are rushing to, or Family?…
– Be Listening
And by figuring out what is important to everyone in the family, we can address their hopes and fears easily. I believe this would be impossible without listening closely to each member of the family. This is vitally important during the harder conversations, or handing out consequences.
We cannot be in a space where we can’t take in new information.
We can’t be distracted. This is focused time, much like when we connect with someone. This is why we chose the time and location, to make it easier to connect with our child and put them at ease!
Whatever is going on, sit and be focused, be confident…
Unless it is too much and you have to pull a quick exit.
Planning an exit, and an activity to connect with your child after the tough talks, means that you can pull that emergency parachute at any time!
It is best to finish the talks, but if anyone gets too heated, you can pull the plan out and come back to the tough discussion.
– End Strong.
In a nice, but firm tone clearly outline what you felt about the situation. Go over everything just discussed (including your child’s points!) and any consequences spoken about.
Be bold and brave. Take a breathe and launch in slowly and surely, with full confidence.
Firm but fair, and a solid boundary.
– End Decisive
End on a recap of the behaviour and consequences. Explain clearly, and have your child repeat back in their own words what is happening because of their behaviour. Ensure you are clear that each time this behaviour repeats, for the time being, this will be the outcome. A consistent consequence.
– End Calmly
As everything wraps up and the child has settled and had some more time you can transition back to normal. Ask your child if they need time to just be alone and think, and allow that. Let them have privacy in their room, let them calm themselves. Tell them what you had intended to do when they are ready, and move into something fun or relaxing again.
– Have Fun
At times there may be some resistance and attitude, even when moving into something fun for everyone. If this happens just roll with it. Either address it straight away, casually asking about what you’ve seen and how they are feeling. And if that’s too much, or they don’t have an explanation right now, then you can just act as if it isn’t happening. Caring on with life, being sure to still include them a lot. Then go digging and open them back up, speak to their heart or head!
– Talk It Out.
Whatever is going on, with the child or anyone else in the family, talk it out.
Make sure everyone has calmed and moved on from the situation.
Remember, someone has to lead this family!
There it is,
Our strategy for combating teenage discipline:
Let us all know how you have dealt with teenage attitudes in the comments below!
If you try this system out be sure to let us know how it went,
We might even call you and trouble shoot some other issues