Flickr Image At: Tammy McGary

Sometimes it can seem like that no matter how nicely we ask them to empty the dishwasher, set the table, tidy their rooms, or even come downstairs for dinner the response can be, well, not good. Due to hormonal changes taking place, both physical and mental, it can often feel like your good natured, peaceful and quiet child has been replaced by a stroppy, shouty being from another planet.

Remember Their Brains Are Still Developing

As a fully grown adult you’ll have all your cognitive reasoning skills, be able to see something from someone else’s view and have a firm grip on your emotional responses. Unfortunately, teenagers, not matter how much make-up they wear or how loudly they play their music, are still children and their brains are still very much developing. Puberty may also play a part in their emotions, don’t forget they’re dealing with some fairly stressful situations and will be fairly sensitive about their looks, emotions or even their ability to straddle the child / adult barrier i.e. they might want to curl up and watch TV with you, but their brains will tell them ‘that’s not the adult thing to do’.

Teenagers these days are quite obsessed with documenting every aspect of their lives on social media, so the last thing they want is for someone to snap them reading, doing homework or worse actually talking to their family. The good news is that this phase won’t last and gradually they will settle down and possibly end up confiding in you even more than they did beforehand. Surprisingly, even though it’s very hard to deal with the constant disagreements, arguments and back chat it does have a purpose as they are testing the boundaries and flexing their independence.

They may even develop some strange, out the box ideas or become introspective overnight. However this sudden pattern of deep thinking is important for their developmental response to complex emotional or philosophical questions. Eventually, if behaviour doesn’t improve it may be worth speaking to a psychologist or getting conflict resolution tips. For example, BHP Law have experience as family run solicitors and deal with dispute resolution and family law cases.

Use Your Communication Skills

First of all try to keep calm because most of the time they’re looking for a strong reaction, once they realise they can’t wind you up as much the chances are the behaviour will improve. You can even try using humour to diffuse a situation. Once they’re laughing they won’t feel quite as angry so it’ll take the heat out of the argument, lighten the tone of a difficult conversation or get siblings to back down from each other if they’re locked in a lengthy standoff. The chances are they’ll look at one another, ask ‘why’s mom or dad being so weird?’ and laugh together at your attempt to crack jokes.

Remember, humour is a great leveller but make sure they don’t perceive your diffusion tactic as an insult, think you’re mocking them or being sarcastic as that’ll make things much worse. Not every teenager knows that their being rude, mean, or stupid and we’ve all said things we shouldn’t have when our brain’s asleep. Gently, respectfully ask them if they meant what they said or say ‘that was offensive do you realise you’re being rude’, as chances are they had no idea or just weren’t thinking. Tell your child you value, and respect their opinions even when they aren’t respecting yours, as this way they’ll know that you are treating them like an adult, which sometimes is all they want so they might adjust their attitude accordingly. 

Let Them Know The Behaviour Is Unacceptable

Set clear guidelines about what’s acceptable conduct in your household and what it isn’t. if your child mentions that ‘ Amy’s mom let’s her eat sweets before dinner’ simply tell them that Amy’s mom is not theirs and ‘we do things differently here as you well know’. You may get a stroppy comment wishing Amy’s mother was, in fact theirs, but they don’t mean it, very few children actually want their parents to be replaced by someone else. Tell them why they have done something wrong but avoid focusing on them, don’t mention anything linked to their personality or character and instead use strong statements that show what you’re feeling.

Decide what the appropriate consequences for bad behaviour are in advance. For example, calling their sibling a swear word could involve a handwritten letter of apology, stealing money from your purse would mean equal amounts docked from their allowance for three weeks and being rude to relatives loses them their smartphone for the evening.