Your child will survive puberty; this chapter will help the parent survive as well.
"Before reading this book our house was a war zone. My two children caused so much violence and chaos I was at the end of my rope. Now, after using Meredith Day's parenting methods, we all get along and I am so happy." Lonnie B.
First one must understand the evolution of puberty.
In the animal kingdom, when the young cub is old enough to be on their own, they will fight and the mother will typically drive them off. It is no different with adolescent human children. Conflict is a naturally evolved way to cause the young adult to leave the nest.
From approximately 12 years old to as old as 25 an individual suffers from significant brain chemistry changes. These changes outwardly show as conflict with the parents. For no reason at all, the child will exhibit hate and intolerance for the parents. The same child who has been a loving companion up to this time.
In cave man days, this signaled that the young adult was ready to leave the parents and establish his own “tribe” identity.
This can be a frightening period of time for a parent. Even a child with no sensitivity to ADD triggers or Autistic Spectrum will go off the handle when an adolescent. It’s not uncommon for very well adjusted children to feel at times worthless, powerless., enraged The child flails about, lost in an unidentified rage one minute, loving and affectionate the next. They seem like a ticking bomb.
In 6th grade children seem to go through a brain drain. They forget everything they have been taught. They vacillate between wanting independence and taking their stuffed toys to bed. They do homework and forget to turn it in. They forget assignments and test the convenient lie escape. The only difference between a 6th grader and a 2 year old is the size of their shoes due to the brain chemistry changes going on.
As the child progresses to 7th and 8th grade the insecurity gets worse. They feel impelled to taunt and deride those different from themselves in order to feel “bigger” themselves. They tear down others unmercifully in order to “elevate” their own self-esteem. Anything can trigger the derision from clothing color to behavior to a physical handicap or hair color difference. One day they are the perpetrator, the next the recipient.
Even children, who are not sensitive to ADD triggers or Autistic will fidget, cough and belch in class and at home for effect. This is a natural right of passage, not behavior requiring chemical intervention.
What is required at this time is extreme parental patience. Magically one day all the misbehavior will cease. Your child will revert to the respectful, well-behaved child he was prior to his pubescent evolution.
In order to nurture your child, you must draw a very large circle of love around him. Give him space to “collect his thoughts” when you would rather make wall decor out of him. Put your hands deep in your pockets when your child dishes out extremely rude verbal abuse. Parents have to learn to take very deep breaths, and not return the anger that appears to be directed at them. When they are being rude and abusive remove yourself from their presence. Let them be isolated with their angst.
Adolescent anger is merely an unfortunate, predictable side effect of the puberty process, similar to the “terrible twos’. It is indicative of the child striking out to find his own individuality, trying to find his self worth. Trying to prove he is an adult. The parent needs to take a step backward and give the child the freedom to step away and cool off, rather than engaging in all out verbal war with the child. Remember violence returned generally escalates.
Just like the terrible twos, the parent is best advised not to return the level of anger. This is a crucial learning period for the child. Parental behavior under these circumstances becomes the “acceptable adult behavior” for the mature child. Do not reinforce the verbal abuse with verbal abuse. Calm the child by rational response, even if you have to break dishes in the garage later in private to release the parental tension.
Commonly runaway children fit into this age bracket. It is not unusual for the child to leave because the parent is returning the anger and potential violence in kind. This causes the child, not realizing what is going on in his own head, to want to strike out on their own. Just as it did in cave man days. Remember, that was the whole original design and purpose of puberty.
Child/Parent puberic verbal wars account for many homeless children living on the streets of large cities. The momentary rage is so powerful that the parent can mistakenly feed off it, and deliver rage and ultimatums impossible to uphold with a confused transitioning adolescent child. Worse yet this can lead to physical violence on one side or the other that you can never push the rewind button on.
For a child already sensitive to such things as ADD trigger chemicals or Autistic Spectrum, puberty is an extreme gauntlet to cross. Not only do they have the same feelings of a normal developing adolescent, they are also intensely heightened by their spectrum. What might be simple rage in a normal child may become hopeless suicidal tendencies in sensitives.
The parent must stay in tune with their child. If he expresses suicidal tendencies, IMMEDIATELY get the child psychological help as well as testing for all spectrum sensitivities. You child’s life might hang in the balance.
The best cure is to forgive and to hug. A forgiven child can bounce back. A hug, when the child will accept it, reinforces the closeness that they still need. They won’t have to search for the love and reassurance they really want from the parent through gangs, drugs, alcohol or promiscuous sexual behavior.
Saving the best for last, I have to relay the advice of a parent who raised four sons successfully.
When my own son hit 12 and did a major Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde on me, I called her and asked for advice.
Here it is:
When your child is going crazy and storms into his room slamming the door, DON’T FOLLOW THEM IN!
If you leave them alone, they will cool down, and come out in a while and tell you what really happened that day that set them off.
If you follow them in, (“Don’t you slam the door on me!”) you are just guaranteeing that world war three will escalate and go for hours. In many cases end VERY badly.
The next time it happened with my son, I didn’t follow him in. I sat immobile on the couch nauseous. It was all I could do to control my own anger.
Eventually my son came out and tearfully told me what had happened at school that had put him in the rage.
If your children are not getting along, give them their own space. If you have two children in puberty in your household and they fight at breakfast, let them each have their own dining space. Say you have a son and a daughter that can't be in the same room without fighting. Let your daughter have her own "tea" area in her room with a small cafe table and chair. Let your son eat in the kitchen, both in peace. This way they don't go to school already in flight or fight adrenalin rush.
A big thank you to my friend, Ann Schulz, for giving me the advice that saved my relationship with my son. I hope I can do the same for you!
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