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How To Not Murder Your Teenager
Pls note; I refer to ‘him’ as the teenager. It’s just shorter then him/her, but does apply to both sex’s.
Yes, its true, he is a little animal!
MOUTHY, OMG, YES – sharp tongue, twisted responses, challenge absolutely anything at anytime, makes a point of refusing, disputing or pushing buttons, Right? Well, maybe some, not all and not all the time, but enough to heat a parents blood. You’ll be glad to know there is really an escape. In fact, using this approach will in fact, make your kid a piece of cake to work with, I’m not kidding. But first, mom and dad, you need a some training and prepare for some self discipline of yourself as you too are the product of antiquated approaches to child rearing to some degree or another. However, just focus on the fact that you will have no more hassling, arguing, challenging etc, if your willing to put some real conscious effort out in the beginning. In just a matter of days or weeks, you will bask in heavenly silence and yet tasks will be done and behavior will improve considerably.
Now first, just to clarify my qualifications so you don’t think I’m just a ‘talker’ theorizing. My background consists of foster mom to over 15 troubled teens. I have four Excel spreadsheets of training’s required by both DHS and the Juvenile Authority. I majored in psychology in college and all toll probably have the equivalent to at least a Masters if not a PHD on the topic. Frankly, that’s not important to me, but just so you know. More important and frankly, I believe, the more realistic qualifier is the many years of hands-on dealing with varied teen personalities.
In this article I will share with you the ‘Magic Solution’, which I learned from the kids after years of trial and error utilizing just basic parental type trainings, including psych approaches. Over the years I came to a point of understanding that simple logic or psychology alone were not sufficient. I learned from the kids that it was the combining of psychology and anthropology that the technique just assembled itself, unconsciously. I can’t tell you the shock I experienced when I first began using it as a technique and kept getting the same results, i.e. success with each kid! I never had kids who would willingly go to their room by choice instead of arguing during those tense moments, or got tasks done with out instructions, but of the many foster kids I had after implementing this technique, each did this except one (who had mental health issues). I was shocked to see how frequently they made the right decisions all on their own. It was unreal. Worked nearly every time. Then more and more positive behaviors occurred. I was convinced this was the “magic formula” and stunned.
My hope is to help reduce both you and your child’s tortured moments!! I’m not about exploiting this info or making money off it, I’m about helping to relieve the pain and suffering. There’s nothing worse in a home then a child and parent challenging each other to the point of loathing. And its a death sentence to kids.
Now before presenting the technique, I’d like to present an intro consisting of my belief on where we’re at with parenting that may help to ready you for your tasks at hand. I believe the real problem in the US is we come from a cowboy mentality, one that is based on insecurity and has taught us to parent in a controlling manner, i.e., requires one to project as “THE BOSS” over an approach that, in fact, actually creates the sense of respect in a youth causing him to listen to the parent. The cowboy approach demands youth to recognize you call the shots, ie. “you do what I say” (not what I do) or” I’m the boss of you and you take orders from me”. The irony is; this approach is often the source of creating a challenging teen or intensify his/her rebellion and can work to weaken the real and healthy control a parent has over a youth. Additionally, and not easily visible is that it can diminish a youths sense of self-esteem and/or ability to function well independently now and in the future.
So now, to move into the more realistic and positive parenting mode a few things to know.
1. Know that he knows you call the shots, deep down. For him, since toddler days he has learned you are the dominate one. You’ve been his protector, his shield guarding him from harm with whom he has intense bonds, created by the care and love he has received from you. So don’t let his mouth or behavior convince you otherwise. And of course, there is just the bottom line unconditional love that actually exists in there for you. It always amazed me how kids who had been abused, just so longed for their parent. The animal is committed forever, unconditionally, regardless of events. So as a side note, if you think your teen doesn’t truly care about you deeply, you are soooo wrong. The love is real and unconditional, he just doesn’t flaunt it!!
2. The kid is an animal (like us adults)!. Who, flat out, has normal animal inclinations. At teen level, i.e. pre-adult, the youth is being pushed by animal instincts for survival and reproduction. He is being swamped by hormones shooting off ragged impulses even to his malcontent. Bottom line; mental development is complicated by these impulses (as well as, psychological factors). Just recall what you learned in school about how an animal survives in nature? They do it by being on top of challenges, being dominate, that is how it keeps breathing, eating and catching a mate, etc. Hence the mouth, contrariness and challenging you see. These impulses are natural and you need to see them in a different light, i.e. natural development.
3. From the psych point of view, during pre-teen on into teen (and early 20’s “foresight” hasn’t fully developed), the brain has not actually developed into full reasoning ability yet, though he (and you may) think so. He can reflect positive elements of his development on most occasions, but it will not always be present, it is ‘becoming’. Though he appears to be aware of things and expectations, in fact, he may not be there all the time. Don’t presume he has it all down yet. Also, please note; teens are unable often to clearly read and understand emotions in the faces of others. Adults use the prefrontal cortex to read emotional cues, but teenagers rely on the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for emotional reactions. In research, teens often misread facial expressions; when shown pictures of adult faces expressing different emotions, teens most often interpreted them as being angry. Interesting huh???
4. This method will program your teen to come to right conclusions on his own. Bottom line is your going to be in control by way of reprogramming him/her. Thus teaching him the skill of taking on responsibilities, increasing positive decisions and actions without being told to. You are not the boss of him anymore, you are his ‘cohort’ in his struggle to reach adulthood, i.e., survive, procreate and have a normal life (not time in jail!!). Now compared to our cultures training, this technique seems a little flakey and too cute, but I’m telling you, many of the kids I had were coming out of jail, came from bad families or groomed to be challenging, others just poorly parented, but if those ornery little squirts could comply, so can yours. I guarantee you that in a matter of days you will be rejoicing (and shocked).
5. Remember now, this isn’t a flat out psychological approach, this is ‘brain training’ of an animal like your pet. Pretty easy training the dog to sit, right??? It’s all about reward and consequences, simple as that. When he sits, he gets a biscuit!!, If he doesn’t; no biscuit. So to implement, just keep seeing it that way, IE. your helping your little, lovable puppy make right decisions, it will make it easier. Try to remain “light” and/or casual at all times. (I’ll later show examples). Generally speaking, and here’s the real kicker, avoid using your mouth for anything, aside from encouragement and support once the game plan is in motion and positive results have occurred. Don’t reflect parent face like; I’m the boss of you or disregard what he’s saying/doing. Staying detached and for the most part SILENT never broadcasting your the boss is hard for those who have developed that repertoire with their kid. This is where parents most often sabotage their own efforts and its due to their own training from their parents,( which they have thought was the right way to parent). Just be neutral and/or light. Remember, the animal element that’s pushing your kid only knows a few things and is unfailing in pushing him; I HAVE TO BE IN CONTROL, I HAVE TO MAKE MY OWN DECISIONS, I HAVE TO BE THE BOSS OF ME. This is how the animal survives and life continues.
OK, so now ready to go???
Here’s how to really be in control. In the beginning it seems a little laborious, but I can assure you after a couple of weeks it will be a simple routine. This is how it plays out.
INITIATING YOUR NEW PROGRAM
Create 2 logs to hang in the kitchen (where teen most frequently goes, or other similar place). Most helpful is Excel spreadsheets. One sheet lists the daily/weekly chores, required duties/behaviors and across from that list columns for the days of the week where points earned are entered for completion and quality of performance. The 2nd log has rewards, and points required i.e. full week points equals desired rewards, less points gets some but not all rewards, etc. Make an additional list of possible reward items, including new things that come up that the kid wants or wants to do. Bottom line message here (without you ranting about it), “You want something??? You got it… just do what you need to do”)
The youth checks off his tasks when completed. You silently and invisibly monitor this, ie. check to see if task is done and correctly, there is no wavering on whether its done right or not, because if you waiver, its guaranteed to get worse. Then, at some point, you enter the performance points, when he’s not around, unless for those special ‘credit’ times,try to be sure he watches you put in the extra points!!. You also, in the same way, enter points for behaviors.
Now at first this may seem a bit of a pain, i.e. having to police, but when you compare it to arguing, pleading, being frustrated or feel your blood boiling, its actually a piece of cake. Besides, this only goes on for some weeks, then you won’t have to do much, not even monitor as they will be getting into the habits. I found that usually after about 2 months I rarely had to review things and would just enter full points. When it came time for rewards (and this was always such a trippy thing I LOVED), if they failed to perform as required, either from having a bad day or forgetting etc, now they would try to bribe me, I.e ” if I go and mow the lawn right now, could I get my reward, etc. I MEAN THEY ACTUALLY VOLUNTEERED TO DO WORK. YIKERS!
PRESENTING THIS NEW APPROACH TO THE KIDS;
STEP ONE; Call a meeting with the kids. Have them sit down. Keep it light and positive and inform them there are going to be some changes. At this point you will likely hear deep sighs/moans, or other. So start by telling them that you have come up with a way to make things easier, less stressful and not only that, but you are going to get a grip on yourself and change some of your behaviors that you know the kids don’t like. Tell them you love them and you want things to go smooth for you and them both. Then tell them in an announcement fashion ‘ ANNNND with this new plan they can have almost ANYTHING THEY WANT IN THE WORLD, (pause a moment, look at the surprised faces) AND WITH NO HASSLES, then laugh a little. This will relieve the pressure and promote optimism about the meeting. Maybe even get some giggles. Course in a minute they’ll have their guard up full of suspicion, so let them know that the only pain is gonna be that they have to record stuff on a log, but say “hey no biggy, right?” Tell them that it may not look like it in the beginning but once everyone gets used to it, it will be way easy, ie. no hassles anymore.
STEP 2; Show them the charts, tell them there will probably be some slight changes as it gets kicked in but not a lot. Don’t present as the controller of this new program, just as the coach and indicate very lightly that you will review the work to see if its done in the manner that they know it should be done. Inform them that during the first week or two you will remind the kids to review the chart daily but after that it will be their responsibility to do it on their own. Make a point of not referring to the charts thereafter. Their brains will have it kicked in and if doubt exists the animal brain will take the kid to the chart… why??? FOR THE REWARD. If they do neglect to check then no points, i.e. reward
When a kid does really great at something. You stop everything, and I mean everything, ignore your priorities for ONE MINUTE, go get the kid and give him a big hug or if that is not possible, or t wait till the evening at some point randomly when he doesn’t expect it,. Make a big deal of it when he meets a challenge that you know he soooo didn’t want to do or do right. You can offer him some ice cream or a run to the store for a pop or some other thing. Now conversely, if he doesn’t do well, or is negligent, DO NOT SAY ANYTHING. Just enter low points or zero. This is where you see the magic. Even though you said nothing, the kids brain just learned, he knows he’s not going to be able to go to the school dance with the low scores, etc and he’s not going to be happy, i.e. his punishment. So now you have the dynamics at work in the animal, he knows if he’s gonna go to Fridays school dance and see Sandy, he’s gotta get his points up, i.e. its all up to him to make the decision.
The reward for you, is there is no better feeling then surprising your child with reward points for good behavior/actions, where you don’t even tell him, just leave it on the sheet and at some point they will come running in to hug you all excited! At this point you give praise and you both bask in the positive.
LOG SHEETS / IMPLEMENTING
Here’s an example of how it frequently played out in my house.
“OK, guys, let’s get to the chores and then we’ll have some dinner”. Say this in a normal non commanding way, be cool and stroll away. You will soon hear ” Ah, I don’t want to do no chores, I had a hard day, its been a really bad day, blaaa blaaa blaaa”. You stay cool and detached, let him rant a bit, wait a few seconds and then very casually (and kind of melodically, not harsh or commanding) say, ‘oh, mmm, I thought there was a dance this month, mmm, maybe not’ and casually return to your paper or stroll gently away. You will then hear, “YA,and I’m going, I’ve done all my work this week, I just had a bad day today, and blaaa blaaa,blaaa, etc. You let him rant a bit, return, kinda look away like your deep in thought and say; “oh, I’m sure there will be a dance next month”. Once again the ranting will begin, but within a few minutes, I can guarantee you, you will hear, “I’m going to my room’. This is the animal speaking, it’s doing two things, first, it allows the kid animal to project that he is in control, I.e, he doesn’t go off to do chores which presents him as being in control and gives the animal voice time and space to talk to the kid. What happens in that conversation goes like this, “ah, man, you can’t miss the dance, Sandy’s gonna be there, you been waiting for this all month, gawwd, man you gotta go.” Then anywhere from 5 -15 min generally, you will hear the kid rustling around doing the chores. Don’t say anything, just wait. Don’t pat him on the back yet. If you do it now, it somehow implies that you made him do it. So later that evening after dinner or such, you commend the positive decision and effort, be sure to give a hug, the animal loves it, the kid may balk, but not the animal and if it was a particularly hard day for him to make the good choice, offer up a goodie he loves, like extra scoop of ice cream and another big hug.
Now when you look back, ask yourself; did I have to go through the mouth challenge, did I get flustered, frustrated or just pissed? Did I stress and say something I probably shouldn’t have. NO. You now have a tool for being free of the mouth challenges at least in relation to tasks and behaviors. So 2 down!
Again, I must really emphasize, “Be Cool, Keep Your Mouth Closed or very neutral. Be Calm”. Now your really in control, not just demanding he recognize your in control. Get it?
So the question’s been answered about whose really in control. Just remember though, on his tough days, for sure, when chores are done, go up to him later in the evening and give him a big kiss and hug and tell him how proud you are of him showing he can make good decisions all on his own, especially on tough days, maybe tell him to sit on your lap (this will be an affection joke). This helps to foster bonding and communications, as well as, he will recognize that the rewards may not always be goodies, but just plain ole wonderful love and affection, which the animal and human both so need.
HAPPY REBIRTH DAY TO YOU.
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