Why de­ligh­ful chil­dren turn into de­fi­ant teens.

An ex­cerpt from: She­fali Ts­abary PhD. “The Con­scious Par­ent”

Healthy Mama - - Contents - Dr. She­fali Ts­abary

Though we have al­ready ad­dressed de­fi­ance in our teens to some de­gree, be­cause it’s such an is­sue to­day, I want to re­turn to the topic and add fur­ther in­sights. Dys­func­tional teenagers don’t emerge overnight. They are the re­sult of years of sub­ju­gated au­then­tic­ity and false prom­ises. They have been dy­ing a slow death and now have to fight a daily bat­tle just to feel alive. No teen wants to be “bad.” They sim­ply don’t know any other way to be.

The child who grows up to be a de­fi­ant teen does so be­cause of a lack of au­then­tic­ity, a lack of con­tain­ment, or a lack of con­nec­tion to the par­ents—or a com­bi­na­tion of th­ese. For in­stance, chil­dren who didn’t en­joy suf­fi­cient real con­nec­tion with their par­ents may grow into teens who feel the need to act out in a flam­boy­ant way in or­der to be no­ticed. When­ever your chil­dren act out in a de­fi­ant man­ner, there’s al­ways an un­der­ly­ing mo­ti­va­tion. This could ei­ther be be­cause they are re­warded with neg­a­tive at­ten­tion from you or be­cause they haven’t learned to be re­spect­ful of an­other’s wishes. They have been per­mit­ted to vi­o­late bound­aries with­out con­se­quences. When you face dif­fi­cult mo­ments with your chil­dren, in­stead of be­com­ing re­ac­tive, ask your­self the fol­low­ing ques­tions:

Is my child be­hav­ing in this man­ner be­cause I’m un­able to be firm and con­sis­tent?

Am I be­ing clear that my child’s be­hav­ior is ab­so­lutely not okay with me? Or am I be­ing wishy-washy and send­ing mixed mes­sages?

Do I need to re­ex­am­ine my ex­pec­ta­tions and re­cal­i­brate my un­der­stand­ing of what my child’s emo­tional ca­pac­ity is right now?

Is my need for con­trol be­ing trig­gered, and am I re­act­ing to my child from a trig­gered state?

Am I hav­ing dif­fi­culty en­gag­ing my child with mu­tu­al­ity, pre­fer­ring “my way or the high­way?”

Is my child evok­ing a sense of help­less­ness and dis­em­pow­er­ment in me be­cause of my past con­di­tion­ing?

Does my child sense I’m un­com­fort­able with con­flict and there­fore push my but­tons even harder?

Could it be that I don’t be­lieve in my­self and there­fore don’t be­lieve I can garner re­spect from my child?

Is my child thirsty for my at­ten­tion be­cause I have been pre­oc­cu­pied, so that I only pay at­ten­tion when they are be­hav­ing in a neg­a­tive way?

Is my tol­er­ance for frus­tra­tion so low that I can’t ne­go­ti­ate with my child through di­a­logue be­cause it evokes too much anx­i­ety in me?

Am I so stretched and wired that I flip out at the slight­est per­cep­tion of loss of con­trol? Af­ter giv­ing to my fam­ily all day, do I feel re­sent­ful and un­leash my emo­tions at the least provo­ca­tion?

Am I run­ning on empty right now, so that I can’t in­voke the pres­ence my child de­serves?

Is it pos­si­ble I don’t know how to re­spond to my child’s tem­per­a­men­tal na­ture, and that this en­gen­ders anx­i­ety in me?

Do I pres­sure my­self and my child to be­have in the “right” way, to the point that when things don’t go ac­cord­ing to plan, I lose my sense of per­spec­tive?

When we aren’t con­scious of our own feel­ings, we blame our chil­dren for “mak­ing us” feel a par­tic­u­lar way, which trig­gers in them the feel­ings we are car­ry­ing within us. To the de­gree we un­leash our anx­i­ety on them, they will carry our un­pro­cessed emo­tions within their body, which means they too will act from an un­cen­tered state. Their state then cat­a­pults us into an es­ca­lated re­ac­tion—and so the cy­cle of pain con­tin­ues down through the gen­er­a­tions.

The de­gree to which we be­come emo­tion­ally ag­i­tated by our chil­dren re­flects the de­gree to which we are al­ready ag­i­tated within our­selves.

Though each party’s emo­tional en­ergy arouses emo­tional states in the other, we have to be clear, as pointed out ear­lier, that no one can cause us to feel a par­tic­u­lar way. No mat­ter how it may ap­pear on the sur­face, at a more el­e­men­tal level no one has this power. If the seeds of ir­ri­ta­tion, help­less­ness, frus­tra­tion, or ten­sion weren’t al­ready within us, they couldn’t bloom. But as long as we feel help­less and some­what out of con­trol, the slight­est sug­ges­tion we aren’t be­ing lis­tened to will cause us ei­ther to feel dis­em­pow­ered, and hence in­ef­fec­tive in han­dling our chil­dren, or lead us to un­leash our frus­tra­tion on them. The de­gree to which we be­come emo­tion­ally ag­i­tated by our chil­dren re­flects the de­gree to which we are al­ready ag­i­tated within our­selves. Once we un­der­stand that no one has the power to cause us un­hap­pi­ness, we can let go of our heavy in­vest­ment in our life scripts and emo­tional im­prints. This en­ables us to al­ter the en­er­getic space we in­habit dur­ing our in­ter­ac­tions with oth­ers, which is the end of all drama. See­ing our­selves as nei­ther vic­tims nor vic­tors, mar­tyrs nor mere sur­vivors, we find we no longer need drama in or­der to feel alive. If on oc­ca­sion we are still trig­gered, we are able to reel our re­ac­tion in be­fore we cause hurt and trauma for oth­ers.

Con­versely, we are only able to feel pos­i­tive re­gard for our chil­dren when we al­ready have such re­gard for our­selves. Only to the de­gree we are con­fi­dent within our­selves can we en­gage our chil­dren from a place of con­fi­dence. This is be­cause what­ever we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­ter­nally is ul­ti­mately man­i­fested ex­ter­nally. That which is man­i­fested ex­ter­nally af­fects our chil­dren, which in turn af­fects us— and so the cy­cle con­tin­ues. Be­cause at this deep level there is no sep­a­ra­tion and we are one with our chil­dren, they be­come re­flec­tions of our in­te­rior be­ing, which is what makes them suited to be our spir­i­tual guides.

we are only able to feel pos­i­tive re­gard for our chil­dren when we al­ready have such re­gard for our­selves.

Dr. She­fali Ts­abary is a in­ter­na­tional speaker, clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist and ac­claimed au­thor of the award-win­ning book “The Con­scious Par­ent”. She blends east­ern mind­ful­ness with western psy­chol­ogy in­te­grat­ing wis­dom from both tra­di­tions. It is this blend of East and West that al­lows her to reach a global au­di­ence, and es­tab­lishes her as one of a kind in the field of mind­ful­ness psy­chol­ogy.

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