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MY TWEEN IS BE­COM­ING AG­GRES­SIVE

Q My son is 12 and I’m quite fed up, not know­ing what to do about his be­hav­iour. It’s hard as a par­ent to ad­mit this, but I ac­tu­ally feel in­tim­i­dated by him. He has al­ways been a quiet and well-be­haved child, but re­cently he has started to be­come ver­bally ag­gres­sive and dis­re­spect­ful to­wards us. Try­ing to get him to do chores or study has be­come a night­mare. We now find it hard to shout at him or pun­ish him. He even phys­i­cally lashed out at me re­cently. We worry we are los­ing con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion, can you help? A I’ve spo­ken a lot about par­ents be­ing too heavy-handed when it comes to dis­ci­plin­ing their chil­dren – but of­ten we for­get it could eas­ily work the other way around.

We of­ten think of chil­dren as not hav­ing the abil­ity to in­tim­i­date their par­ents, whether this be in a ver­bal or even phys­i­cal man­ner. But it can hap­pen. Our in­flu­ence over our chil­dren’s be­hav­iour is key – it un­locks their fu­ture and pre­pares them for adult­hood. We also know most kids won’t get far in life lack­ing ba­sic re­spect and de­fined bound­aries.

In your cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, you are at a cross­roads. Your re­la­tion­ship with your son needs clar­ity and a de­fined hi­er­ar­chy. This be­comes in­creas­ingly vi­tal as he pro­gresses into his teens.

How you ap­proach his be­hav­iour now will out­line how he acts in the years to come – th­ese are im­por­tant times, so bear this in mind as you pre­pare to mod­ify your parenting and put your­self back in con­trol.

So why has your boy be­come so an­gry? Ag­gres­sion in chil­dren head­ing into their teenage years can be caused by a feel­ing of frus­tra­tion. They of­ten see them­selves as fully formed grown-ups – phys­i­cally they may be on the way, but emo­tion­ally they still have plenty of de­vel­op­ing to do. This is con­fus­ing and frus­trat­ing.

In­evitably, young­sters try to find cracks in their par­ents’ rules, look­ing for ways to as­sert them­selves. And if they de­tect a soft spot, they can use this to their ad­van­tage to avoid study, chores and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties al­to­gether.

Re­mem­ber how you used to do ev­ery­thing for him when he was small, how he ‘needed’ you? Now he’s find­ing and test­ing your parental bound­aries – this is nor­mal be­hav­iour. Your son be­com­ing ag­gres­sive in the process is not ac­cept­able and this should not be tol­er­ated. I sug­gest both par­ents (a united front is crit­i­cal) sit him down and ex­plain what your con­cerns are and how things are go­ing to be from now on. If this cre­ates a flash­point, then it’s your first op­por­tu­nity to im­ple­ment the new regime.

Start with my two golden words: ‘bound­aries’ and ‘re­spect’. Ex­plain in sim­ple terms what you ex­pect from him and why. How you ex­pect him to be­have within clearly de­fined bound­aries and how you de­mand re­spect. After all, he can­not ex­pect it if he doesn’t give it.

Next, al­ways try to use the mantra that ‘I am the adult here – I am in con­trol’. I know it’s hard, but try to main­tain a calm per­sona at all times, if he raises his voice, try low­er­ing yours, if a sit­u­a­tion be­comes un­com­fort­able, calmly re­move your­self from it.

Once the sit­u­a­tion has cooled, this is where you must calmly speak to him and re­it­er­ate what your ex­pec­ta­tions of him are.

Ul­ti­mately he is still a child and he needs you more than ever. Deep down he doesn’t want to hurt or up­set you.

By you set­ting parental ex­pec­ta­tions in a calm, tough, yet fair way, you un­der­pin your own au­thor­ity and this will help you all through this dif­fi­cult phase.

Our IN­FLU­ENCE over our chil­dren’s be­hav­iour is KEY – it un­locks their fu­ture and PRE­PARES them for adult­hood. We know most kids won’t get far in life lack­ing ba­sic RE­SPECT and de­fined bound­aries

RUS­SELL HEMMINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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