An “Explosive Teen” often acts out their frustration by crying, screaming, swearing, hitting and destroying property. Parents are left feeling helpless, frustrated, scared, worried, and desperate. They try punishing, bribing, patiently explaining, and in some cases have resulted to therapy and/or medication, but nothing seems to work.
In his book "The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children," Dr. Ross Greene, explains how these kids aren't attention-seeking or manipulative, nor are their parents passive and overly permissive. Instead, it appears that explosive kids may be lacking some crucial skills like flexibility, adaptability, and frustration tolerance. The answer lies in a different approach to parenting.
Have you ever found yourself saying these things about your teen?
• He did it to me so I gave him a taste of his own medicine.
• If she wants to ignore me, then I’m going to ignore her.
• He behaves just like his father, who I couldn’t stand.
• Why is she doing this to me?
• He’s just trying to ruin my life.
It is not uncommon for parents to feel frustrated with their teen's behavior towards them. Yet, if you want your relationship with your teen to improve, you can't just bring them to a therapist. You need to do your part. You also need try to understand why your teen is behaving the way they are behaving. It takes two to tango, and if you change your steps in the dance, the dance itself will change.
How can you help your teen gain the life skills they lack? By involving them in the decision-making process in a collaborative way. Which skill do you feel is more important for real life: blind adherence to authority, or learning how to work things out with other people? "The Explosive Child: A New Approach for Understanding and Parenting Easily Frustrated, Chronically Inflexible Children" helps you to teach your teen to develop the skills of impulse control, negotiation, and mutual respect.
Sometimes parents need to act as their teen's surrogate frontal lobe by helping them name their feelings, explore options, and figure out if solutions agreed upon take both party's needs into consideration. For your teen to be able to participate successfully in conflict-resolution discussions with you, they must first:
- Be able to identify and articulate their concerns.
- Be able to consider a range of possible solutions.
- Be able to reflect on the likely outcome of those solutions, as well as the degree to which they are mutually satisfactory.
One way you can assist your teen is in inviting them to reflect on their day. You can give them the opportunity to expand their emotional vocabulary and practice emotional intelligence by asking them these 3 questions at bedtime:
- What happened today that made you happy?
- Did anything happen today that made you sad?
- Was there anything that caused you to feel frustrated?
As your teen is in the process of learning how to tolerate and digest their uncomfortable feelings, be sure to give them the space to do this. While a younger child needs you to teach them the basics about life, a teenager already has some measure of life experience to draw upon.
There is a saying "Give a man to fish, you feed him for the day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for life." It is not your job as a parent to do your teen's emotional work for them. Doing that creates a situation where your teen is likely to feel inadequate next to your adult efforts. Instead, stand on the sidelines and encourage them while they run the race. Step in to help when it is clear that they are really struggling.
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