I have a parenting question regarding the challenges I have with a strong willed child. The challenge we have is with our 12 year old. When corrected she will argue her point of view until the bitter end. Our point is never taken into account and it usually ends in a long drawn out yelling match. If you don’t agree with her point of view, she doesn’t feel heard nor understood and then becomes defensive and does not even listen to our side. We say black, she says white. My parenting question is how can we prevent family yelling matches and resolve issues with control and authority?
Penny – One Tired Step Mom
Positive Parenting Advice from Family Counselor Kelly Nault on Dealing with an Angry Kid
Dear Tired Step Mom,
Being a step mom offers a host of challenges and I applaud you for taking the time to find a solution to your family stress. The key to solving conflict with an angry kid like your daughter is to understand what she really wants and give it to her. And what an angry child really wants may just surprise you. Transforming an Angry Kid with R.E.S.P.E.C.T.
An angry kid either wants greater control in their life or respect from their parents (and often times both!). The more respect you give your child (especially children approaching the teenage years), the more respect they will give you.
Here I have used the word >R.E.S.P.E.C.T as an acronym to give you some commonsense parenting tips that can solve the conflict in your home quickly.
R Respect Your Child – Always treat your child, as you want to be treated. This is sometimes easier said than done but essential to your success. Children model what they see. Even if your child has provoked you, falling into parenting traps such as yelling or using harsh punishment only teaches your child to lash out and disrespect you more.
The simplest way to determine if you are being respectful is to ask yourself: “Would I use this tone and say what I am saying to a friend or acquaintance?” If the answer is “no” (and you’re pretty sure that they would recycle you for a new friend), it’s time to change your tone.
E Expect Respect in Return – We always treat children how to treat us. When children are disrespectful it is important to respond in a respectful but firm way that let’s them know you will not be walked over. Say something like, “I can see you are angry right now. I am happy to listen to you once you use a respectful tone with me. When you change your tone come and get me as I really want to hear what you have to say.” If they continue being disrespectful, keep your mouth shut, walk away and wait for them to come to you in a respectful manner before discussing any further.
S Support Your Child – Support your child by having enough faith in their ability to learn from their mistakes. Refrain from “I told you so” comments and don’t spend a lot of time (if any) pointing out what they did wrong. Once things have calmed down ask them “How did that work for you?” “What did you really want?” and “How could you make it better next time?”
P Positive Attitude – Remaining positive helps more than we often know to keep the atmosphere in our home supportive. Do what you need to do to keep yourself positive by getting enough sleep (sleep deprivation can turn us into a raving Godzilla), do things you love to do and spend quality fun time with each of your children.
E Encourage a cooling off period in the heat of the moment – Continuing a fight while you are angry will never solve a fight. When feeling angry always take a short cooling off period so you don’t escalate the fight and say something you will regret later on.
C Create Family Rules for Fighting – When things are calm, create family rules for fighting and post them in special places around the house (even put one in your wallet and in the car). Include the following: what each family member will do during their cool down period to make themselves feel better, an inspirational oath or prayer that you agree to read out loud after every one has cooled down (before discussing the issue) and specific ways each of you will listen to one another. To get best results create this document as a family.
T Train Your Child – Good parenting means taking the time to show your kids how to do things on their own. Give them more responsibility over time. With a hectic schedule, it can be easier and quicker to do the task for your kids rather than taking the time to teach them how to do it for themselves. Training is what gives our children a chance to develop essential life skills, gain self-confidence, and ultimately feel respected.
How to Ask for an Apology from an Angry Child
When we do another wrong, apologies are the path to healing. Apologies are precious commodities that are not to be thrown around lightly in conversation, and not to be wasted during a heated discussion. In times of conflict, we may say something like, “I expect an apology young lady!” in a tone that means “NOW!” But in reality this is only a verbal punishment. The time for apologies is when all parties are calmed down enough to give, hear and feel them.
You can absolutely ask for an apology from you child but for any apology to be effective it needs to have flexible terms. A request for an apology should sound like this: “I would like an apology when you are ready to give it.” This simple statement is honest, clear and respectful. Parents aren’t the only ones deserving of an apology. It is important for moms and dads to apologize when they have messed up too.
Your family is fortunate to have you as their step-mom. By remembering that your angry child is simply crying out for more understanding and more respect you can solve the conflict that has you so frustrated. Give them respect, expect respect in return and watch your child’s behavior change for the better.