Our 12-year-old son flies into rages at the slightest thing, being disrespectful and slamming doors. When he is angry, we can’t reason with him and it’s making our family life very challenging. Can you help?
Being an effective parent isn’t easy. It takes stamina, consistency and a degree of honesty about your own child. There’s a tendency for some parents to blame disrespectful behaviour on outside triggers; the teacher winding them up, their friends leading them on, the fact that they don’t get along with their brother or sister. The list of excuses can be inexhaustible, but we are doing our children no favours if we don’t expect them to take responsibility for their own behaviour. There will always be triggers that can cause irritation or anger and if we don’t teach our kids how to cope with them in a reasonable manner, the road ahead could be pretty rocky.
He’s 12 and on the edge of that transition into teenagehood – a time when kids can have difficulty coping with the physical and mental changes involved. You have to teach him a way through. It requires you to set clear boundaries for the type of behaviour you expect to see and stick to them. If no doesn’t mean no in your household, then kids will see that there is a weakness on your part and exploit it.
First, decide on what these rules are (don’t make the list too long, but focus on three or four key areas) and explain this to your son. Not at a time when conflict is high, but when he’s had a good day and you can initiate the conversation with some element of praise. Be clear about what the consequences are for breaking the rules so he is fully aware of what will happen. Be very matter of fact and keep the emotion out of it. If he responds by kicking up a fuss, reiterate, but don’t engage.
For instance, if you tell him that one of the rules is that he is not allowed to speak in a disrespectful manner when things don’t go his way, also tell him what the consequences will be when he does. Make those consequences timely and relevant too. They shouldn’t last too long, perhaps half a day without something he really values. The consequence should only end when he has shown that he can repair what he has done, so if he has been rude, he needs to show you that they can behave in a polite and courteous manner.
One of the key roles you have as a parent is to teach your child that there are other ways to respond – a kind of problem solving if you like.
Life will always throw up problems and having the ability to work out the best way to overcome them will help grow his resilience, which is something he might be lacking at the moment. This is where the talking comes in. Get him to come up with behaviour strategies. Ask him what it feels like when he starts to feel angry, so that he can recognise the signs, then see if he can suggest an alternative behaviour such as taking a time out from the situation. If he can’t suggest anything guide him with suggestions. Problem solving like this is skill building. He will make mistakes – that’s part of the learning process – but if you stay consistent and stick with it, you will turn this situation around.
Russell Hemmings is a Life Coach and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on +971 55286 7275 or www.russellhemmings.co.uk.