Friday, June 22, 2012

When Teens Get Verbally Abusive

Something I have been dealing with that only cropped up in the 14 years old year is something that I consider to be verbal abuse, teen to mother and teen to brother and father too. How and why that was happening left me confused at first but I think I have figured out why that son of mine is doing it.

A friend posted on Facebook that her sons are telling her she's a bad mother. Here is what I wrote to her with a bit more information added.

Welcome to the club. We have been accused of being the worst family on the planet and running away to be homeless would be an improvement. Teens say these things sometimes but they don't mean it. Their moods swing like pendulums. At the grocery store the other day suddenly my younger one (age 12) said, "I am so happy." I asked why (this was so random) and he said, "because I have a really good life". It all balances out.

They seem to be testing out using their words to hurt others which is something that I don't like being the guinea pig for. I tell them I will not let them verbally abuse me as it's sick and cruel so knock it off.

To communicate or to feel negative emotions is okay, but it has to be about what they really are feeling about the real issue. Since they were toddlers I have worked with them on identifying the real core thing that is affecting them. I tell them it's not alright to call me names and try to emotionally hurt me because they are mad about something like losing their earbuds. If they are feeling low about their own actions they should not start trying to bring everyone else down with them, in my opinion. I think that's what teens (and some adults) do. "If I can't be happy right now then no one will be happy" is how they think.

I tell my kids these things both when they are calm and happy and when they are ranting and raving and angry (but I try not to talk to them too much as dis-engaging or choosing not to engage them when they are irrationally angry seems to be the smartest thing to do.) I tell my kids that when they are mad about something they did to themselves, it is alright to feel that emotion. However, it's not alright to transfer the anger to other people or objects by throwing things damaging physical property or hitting people or using words to abuse people just to try to make them feel crappy like they do. I tell my kids that is what abusive people do and what bullies do. I say we (parents) don't abuse each other and didn't abuse them and we are not raising kids who abuse other people, so they need to learn to not channel their emotion in that way. Period.

When they are angry, I tell them to go run around the neighborhood, take a bike ride, do deep breathing, go sit alone and listen to music, go write a letter telling of your feelings, do whatever it takes to work it out but do not turn the negative emotions to hurt other people or to damage things.


LAURA L said...

This was very helpful to me this morning. 17 year old didn't want to go to school because his finger hurt. I made him go and he threw everything around in the house he could reach, put a ding in the dinner table and verbally abusing me. It's a learned behavior to some extent since he watched his father verbally/mentally abuse me for all his life. 20 year marriage is now ended. You gave me a bit of hope this morning.

ChristineMM said...

You're welcome!

It's a process.

I find teens frustrating because they seem to revert backwards in developmental stages. A psychologist told me that they are like a three year old again, the way their mind works reverts backwards, no impulse control, mood fluctuations, tantrumming but in a worse way because they are big and stronger!

We have rules and limits here. My husband and I are in agreement and we work hard to be a united front, because the other thing they do it pit one parent against the other That does not end if their parents are divorced.

We have made our son pay for physical damage he has done while angry. He still owes us and we are going to have him do spring season related chores when the time comes to work off more of the debt.

Hang in there.

ChristineMM said...

Also do not blame the situation entirely on having witnessed spousal abuse in the past. Kids who have had no model, like mine, still do this. If you talk to a counselor or other parents who will tell you the truth the same thing happens in nearly every home, with boys.

My brother broke his hand punching a wall in my parent's house when he was a teen.

The pediatrician, when older was 10, said to buy a punching bag & gloves & hand it in the basement or garage for them to work their anger out on. My son didn't want it. I think I am buying one soon, now that the younger is hitting puberty. I can't take two boys in their moods at the same time!