How Parents Can Learn To Tame A Testy Teenager : Shots - Health News Whether fighting about texting or curfew, the key to resolving parent-child disputes is by helping them understand why they're angry in the first place. It usually turns out to be another stress like trouble at school or fear of embarrassment.
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How Parents Can Learn To Tame A Testy Teenager

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How Parents Can Learn To Tame A Testy Teenager

How Parents Can Learn To Tame A Testy Teenager

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Parents of teenagers will have heard something like this: Leave me alone or I told you, we didn't do anything at school. Maybe they've had a door or two slammed on them. And maybe they feel that all of their interactions are arguments.

NPR's Patti Neighmond looks at some of the causes of teenage anger and some ways parents can cope.

KIM ABRAHAM: The first thing to remember is that for teenagers, everything is different than it was in childhood. Academics are tough, friends behave differently, expectations are high and hormones are raging.

And oftentimes, when we're stressed and we're anxious, it comes out in a variety of ways. One is anger.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: Kim Abraham is a social worker who specializes in teenage anger.

ABRAHAM: There's always another emotion that precedes anger, and it's going to be hurt, disappointment, embarrassment.

NEIGHMOND: Stress, anxiety. Teenagers deal with these emotions on a daily basis.

ABRAHAM: So if you can help your kids learn how to uncover what that trigger feeling is, then help them learn how to move through that feeling and then move into resolution.

NEIGHMOND: Take late-night texting, the root of many arguments. Here's Brad McDonald and his 14-year-old daughter, Madalyn.

MADALYN MCDONALD: He said, well, it's time to take your phone away. And I said, no, no. I got to wait for my friend to text back or I have another friend that I need to say goodnight to. And he said no, I need to take it. And then we got into a very heated argument until he got the phone.

NEIGHMOND: Wrestling over the phone wasn't at all the way Brad had hoped to resolve the problem, but at the time he felt he had no choice.

BRAD MCDONALD: On one level I don't want it to become an addiction. Another level, she does need her sleep. Another level, I want her to actually learn to communicate without texting. I think that's important.

NEIGHMOND: Abraham says parents should avoid getting physical with their teenagers. Grabbing the phone or unplugging the Xbox, for example. And yelling back isn't going to help either.

ABRAHAM: If you're getting in your child's face, that's a confrontation, and anger plus anger equals what? Bigger anger. I mean, that's just like throwing fuel on the flame. So you don't want to do that.

NEIGHMOND: What you should do, take a breath. Walk away. And let your child know there will be consequences later. And stick to them. And always remember there's a reason for the anger. In this case, Madalyn didn't want to disappoint her friends.

M. MCDONALD: I don't want them to feel like I'm ignoring them or I'm not listening to them. And I definitely want them to feel like I want to talk to them. So when my parents take away my phone like at night and I don't get a chance to say goodbye, I usually do get pretty mad.

NEIGHMOND: Another typical argument: music and movies. Madalyn and her friends wanted to watch "Little Miss Sunshine." It's rated R and Dad said no. Madalyn was embarrassed.

M. MCDONALD: I was planning on watching it with my friend or something and then I feel kind of like embarrassed that my dad doesn't let me watch and my friends' parents, like, let them watch those kind of movies or listen to that type of music.

ABRAHAM: As a parent, Brad can say, OK, I understand you get embarrassed. How can you move through that? You're still not going to watch it. And where can you find some resolution here? And then, she can problem-solve.

NEIGHMOND: One solution could be not asking to watch movies when her friends come over because the answer might be no.

ABRAHAM: Or, ask ahead of time: Dad, what are 10 movies that you're going to be OK with if we decide to watch movies, so I don't embarrass myself in front of my friends when asked to watch a movie?

NEIGHMOND: As for texting, the resolution was this: a 15-minute warning. Brad.

B. MCDONALD: There's no more excuses. There's no more I don't know what time it is or hang on, hang on, wait, wait, wait, wait. There's none of that. There is, you know, 9:30 is the time and she's much better at it now.

NEIGHMOND: The key, says Kim Abraham, is not to argue with your teen about being angry. Help them understand why they're angry. That way you help them build skills they can rely on for a lifetime.

ABRAHAM: So, something parents can remind themselves when they see their children struggling with these things. They're building problem solving and they're building coping skills, they're becoming a stronger person.

NEIGHMOND: And a more compassionate one. Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

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