Adolescence can drive parents to do things they've never done before - like engaging in shouting matches with their children.
I recall a colleague totally taken aback by a comment made by his teenage son: "If you love me like you say you do, why do you shout at me so much?"
There had been an argument. The son kicked off the shouting; Dad ended up shouting back; and Mum ended up shouting at both of them to shut up, as she was sick of all the shouting.
It's hard. You know you shouldn't get drawn into responding like that, but there sometimes comes a point when you've had enough and the dam bursts.
How best to handle these situations? Ideally, you recognise what's happening in time to stop things in their track by walking away; perhaps saying something like "we'll deal with this later when we're both calmer" or "I think we both need time out here".
A useful strategy is for parents to have an agreement for the other to call for time out without getting their head bitten off.
Once you and, hopefully, teen have cooled down sufficiently, the dispute needs to be resolved, or you at least, in a calmer frame of mind, need to make clear the things that you have to.
If you said things that would have been better not said, don't be afraid to apologise. You don't need to grovel. Be quite specific about what you're apologising for before leading on to what you need to say.
Don't expect an apology back and don't demand one. The apology or refusal to give one can easily become another battlefield. Apologies will come in time from parental modelling and when they're genuinely felt and freely given.
This doesn't mean that you shouldn't indicate that an apology to the other parent or to a brother or sister is warranted. The other parent, on the quiet, could also suggest that an apology to you would be appropriate.
If you find walking away difficult, try restricting what you say to a few simple, quietly spoken words. "Is that right?", "I don't think so", "I'd prefer to talk about it later when we aren't so worked up", "I heard what you said but the answer is still no for the reasons I gave you before".
This will help you keep your emotions under control and provides less fuel for the teen's fire.
Be prepared to lose a few arguments when nothing much is at stake but the teen's pride ("I don't agree, but have it your own way") and save your energy for things that matter. Try and leave your pride out of it. Remember, you're the adult.
© Ian Munro 2014. All rights reserved.
- South Canterbury