Scared of your teen?

Kids hitting parents, parents afraid of their children? Something has gone horribly wrong in the relationship between parents and kids. Here are some examples from Parent24 users writing in to me for an expert opinion:

‘My teen is smoking, stealing, and being physically abusive. She claims I'm a bad mom -I don't know what to do to be better.’ - Cindy

‘My daughter is abusing my mother with verbal cruel words and as today she bumped my mother out of her way. Luckily my mother fell on the couch.’ - Annelize

‘My 16-year-old son has now dropped out of school -for good. He is very bright, brilliant at sports and very musical. He’s violent, beats me up and breaks things... I am at wit's end - nobody seems to have an answer - I am actually afraid of him.’ - Mack

What is striking about these examples is that parents feel responsible and guilty. They know it is their responsibility to make things better, but they feel they have no tools.

These parents are not alone. Studies show that aggressive behaviour amongst teens has increased remarkably. The number of juveniles in South Africa’s high security prisons is on the increase daily.

Boys are ones who have been blamed for bullying and fighting, yet research shows that almost as many girls are being aggressive although they may show it in different ways. Many of our schools are unsafe because of aggression and assaults and educators are often scared to teach teens. Parents blame the school and
teachers blame the parents.

Why are our teens so disruptive?

Aggressive behaviour is a result of neglectful or angry parents as well as the environment that the teens are involved in on a daily basis. Teenagers who experience or witness anger and violence become aggressors themselves. Watching violent movies, playing aggressive games, seeing crime in the community, listening to angry music alll contribute if done on a weekly basis.

When parents think that coersion, insults, hitting or shouting at a child is the way to make them listen they are shaping a bully . Parents who neglect their children or who feel helpless raise disruptive, disorganised teens. Teenagers cannot learn how to behave when the school and the parents do not teach values of respect and consideration, healthy problem solving skills and ways to control emotions,

How to restore communication
  • Try to forgive both yourself and your teen for what has gone before. Start today with a confident attitude. Be the adult as you are the one who wants to make changes.
  • Do not insult your child’s character, swear at them or shout at your teen. Always calm down first by breathing deeply or thinking things through before reacting .
  • If you want respect, consideration and kindness than as parents you have to be this yourself.
  • Demonstrate problem solving skills. Talk about how to think and talk through a problem acknowledging different sides. Show them how to resolve conflict and plan a strategy. Help your teen make personal goals.
  • Expose your teen to positive role models especially adult men you admire. Find books or movies about people who help and succeed.
  • A busy teen is a safe teen. Encourage sport, community volunteering, positive hobbies.
  • Not all serious family problems can be solved without outside help. Contact Famsa or Childline to get the details of someone in your area who can facilitate changes in your family dynamic.

For more information on creating and maintaining good communication with your teenager, read The trouble with boys, Mothers versus daughters and A teen's cry for help.

Do you think today’s teens are more angry and aggressive? Tell your story below.
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