One of the questions I’m asked is, “Samantha, how do I turn around pre-teen anger and defiance?”
While any good behavior specialist looks at what is happening beneath the behavior, my take often differs from standard advice.
One family I worked with came to me because their 12-year-old, Peter, wasn’t just angry and defiant. He had rages that impacted the entire family. Peter’s younger siblings hid and parents felt held hostage during these outbursts.
They’d enrolled him in individual therapy, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
As a certified parent coach, I listened. I asked questions. And I noticed they needed some new tools that I know work for families of intense kids.
We started with a plan that reduced screen time to help Peter’s over-stimulated, easily-triggered brain and nervous system relax. Parents learned how to be brave when it came to setting boundaries with him rather than being afraid.
Parents shared that their son often said, “I hate myself.” So we brainstormed scripts and parenting strategies they could use to gently help him feel good in his own skin.
Their home started feeling less like a war zone as they intentionally carved out quality time to “chill” with Peter. They praised him for the tiniest demonstrations of self-control. And they remained calm through the initial two-month period it took for Peter’s brain to shift out of a constant “fight or flight” pattern.
What’s beautiful about parent coaching is that it’s a space designed for parents – to learn, to grow, to feel empowered. And the positive changes at home are a direct result of how parents personally shift.
The result? Kids like Peter make a positive shift, too.
But sometimes, as with this family, behavior can begin to escalate again. (If you’ve ever read a parenting book and tried a new technique that works at first but suddenly stops working, you know how frustrating this can be!)
For Peter’s family, it took more than a few new parenting tools to create long-lasting change. We had to go deeper.
Stay tuned for part two of this story where we’ll explore what else was happening beneath the behavior -- it’s not what you’d expect.
P.S. The Transform Challenging Behavior Online Conference is happening now. Geared towards early childhood educators. Get access to all talks (and CE credits) through May 11 here: https://bit.ly/2x0VKL
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