06-02-2017 08:45 PM
Hi @St_George-, I'd like to apologise firstly for taking so long to respond. I hear the desperation in your messages, and I understand that as I have felt the same. And losing it yourself every now and then is understandable too! We parents are human too, and it actually gives an awesome opportunity for teaching our teens about taking responsibility for behaviour and apologising when we need to. When I was learning about my daughter, and learning more effective parenting ways, I'd slip up all the time. Even if my daughter had screamed, sworn at, or abused me, if I snapped I started saying I was sorry for losing my cool and shouting, it wasn't okay to behave like that. At first my daughter was confused, but it didn't take long before she started copying my behaviour.
I also stopped engaging with her when she was angry or aggressive. I would say to her that loved her and I was not going to communicate with her until she could speak with a calm voice. Initially this infuriated her and things did escalate as she was trying to elicit the response she was used to. 4-5 times of me being consistent in keeping my cool (on the outside anyway) and a calm voice and she learned that it was a waste of her time going off like a fire cracker. A couple of years down the track, she apologises after any dummy spit, and is able to articulate exactly what she is sorry for, which means she's thinking about her behaviour and what's okay and what's not.
As @Ngaio-RO said, anger isn't an emotion itself, but is a response to fear or sadness. So as tough as she may seem with her temper, I learnt with mine, that she needed me more than ever. She needed me to not take her insults personally, to remain calm with her, to listen to what she needed to say, and to show her that I loved her and would be there for her always. I like what Ngaio says about treating them like we would if they were crying or frightened. It can be hard to do at times, but I learnt a great saying - 'fake it til you make it'.
As she learnt what was unacceptable, she also needed to learn other ways to cope with her emotions. We started with a big jar of water with multi coloured glitter. She would come out and shake the glass furiously, saying 'MY GLITTER IS ALL OVER THE PLACE'. I'd ask if she wanted to talk, and it would all come blurting out, but sharing with me, not angry at me. She's 15 now, and if comes out in a bad mood, I ask her what she's angry about, and we talk about it if she wants, or I ask her of she needs a hug. She now does the same for me, or just makes me a cup of tea We still have our ups and downs, but it's all about the repair
I'll tell you something really interesting about our arguments about technology - and I've been in the same situation, trying to pry the laptop from her tight grasp, with her screaming and swearing and threatening to smash up the place and jump off the balcony if it did take it (we live 5 floors up). It happened twice. I gave up the battle, told her to have the bloody laptop, do what she wanted. But she didn't cheer up and no longer wanted it back! Her outburst had nothing to do with the actual laptop. I think it was the connection with me she wanted, even if that was through anger, I'm not really sure. Interesting though!
I know your daughter is still young at 13, but she'd be feeling like she's all grown up (like all teenagers do I think!). Around that age, I learnt I needed to back off the control a bit, and allow my daughter the ability to negotiate some decisions. This showed her that I recognise her starting to mature and trust in her decision making. Making rules and deciding consequences together, I found my daughter more accepting if she had to face the consequence.
The anger and aggression in my girl could be pretty scary at times. It sounds harsh but I used to need to call the police quite often. When I couldn't keep the situation below a certain level, and things escalated to out of control, the police were the only option, and my daughter would be sectioned under the mental health act. Having to stand back and allow police to deal with her brought me to tears many times, but I knew that it was something that was required. If they don't learn, a violent teen grows into a violent adult and the repercussions are way more serious then. When I said I would have to call the police if she didn't stop breaking things or stop with her aggression, if she didn't stop, I HAD to call the police. Being consistent, she knows now that if it gets to that point, she knows she has only two non-negotiable choices - calm herself down, or police come. I have only had to threaten once or twice in the last couple of years.
I highly recommend the coaching Ngaio has mentioned. I've done it and it's very flexible, you choose your appointment times. It's done from home or wherever, using a computer while you chat to the coach over the phone. It's very personalised, and tailored to the things you'd like help with. It's different to counselling, as the coach doesn't diagnose, but gives you practical ways to help you make the changes you want. You can do 1 session, or up to 4 if you like.
I understand that you have seen many therapists along the way, with not a lot of luck by the sounds. My daughter refused to engage with any of the support services or therapists she's had, so all our changes have come from me learning to understand about the teenage brain, learning more effective parenting techniques, and displaying the behaviour I want to see from my girl. It has taken time, and as life is, it's not always perfect. I'm not always the parent I want to be, but that's okay, because we have learnt to repair well after a fracture.
Please keep in touch and feel free to ask me any questions. I hope my response hasn't been too disjointed!
06-04-2017 12:13 AM
My absolute pleasure! It's so challenging, and anger and aggression is very confronting. I had no idea how to deal with my daughter initially either. A new beginning can seem quite daunting, so you will always find support here to help you along the way.
Please ask anything you need to, no question is a silly one. We're also here to listen if either you or your wife just want to get things off your chest.
Just thinking, another thing we had was a mood chart on the fridge. My daughter was your daughter's age, but it's still on our fridge. It's a chart with various feelings and emotions named, and we both have our own magnet to use to indicate how we are feeling. It teaches vocabularly around emotions, which is learnt because of the mere requirement to read all the emotions to place your magnet. Having a larger vocab for her emotions helped her to recognise exactly what it was she was feeling and become more self aware.
I don't want to bamboozle you with a mountain of things, as I know it's a lot to take in. As I think of more things, I'll will post here though, which will always be available to come back and read over at any time. Please don't feel pressured that you must take it all in at once or acknowledge each of my messages. And remember that if something suggested doesn't work, you're not failing, not everything works with every teen. It just means trying something different.
06-04-2017 08:46 PM
Hi @St_George- 0h boy you sound as if you have been on a difficult pathway wit this child ! She has been seeing psychs since she was 4 ! Goodness that is a long and difficult road for you and your wife . I am so sorry his is happening to you and 13 is a tough one , my daughter was very difficult at that age . I could have swapped her for a slab of beer ( and I don't even like beer )
Would you be able to give us some more details as to what the psychs have said recently ? To diagnose a child with anxiety without even treating them seems strange . And if she has this how did it originate ? Why did she see so many ? What was your takeaway ?
You also say she gets on well with friends and is confident at school . What about authority ? Does she kick up a stink at school ? If she doesn't then I would say the problem is the family dynamic - without trying to lay all the blame at the parental feet ! As @Ngaio-RO she may be playing you . She knows how to get what she wants .
Anger can also be not just sadness or fear but also frustration - what could she be frustrated about ? Just some food for thought..
06-05-2017 10:00 AM
Thanks for your thoughts. Much appreciated.
As for your question about her behaviour at school: She is best described by her teachers as 'lively' which is code of course for a little disruptive and chatty. At home, she talks tough about her teachers - what she claims she says to ones she doesn't like or how she responds to reprimands during class - but the feedback from school is generally positive despite her disruptiveness.
Just for variety (Spoiler alert: That was irony), the last couple of weeks she has refused to go to school a couple of days each week. (She went today without a fuss however.) She doesn't know - or won't confide - why she doesn't want to go. My wife and I met the school counsellor and a head teacher last week to discuss the absences and later our daughter met the counsellor. But Rachael couldn't explain her reasons for absenting from school. (Or the counsellor WAS told and held the reasons in confidence.)
Re your comment about a possible 'problem of family dynamic'. It would be fair to say that she is better behaved - and she has said this herself and my wife agrees - when only one parent is at home. (We both travel for work occasionally.)
At least last night she surrendered her laptop without fuss at the curfew time.
06-05-2017 10:08 AM
Thanks again @taokat for your thoughts and encouragement. We might try the mood chart! And you're right that some things work for some kids but not for all kids. We can vouch for that!
06-05-2017 12:34 PM
Hey @St_George- I just wanted to say how happy I am that you and your wife feel like you're getting some helpful info.
And emotion charts are such a useful tool. From my experience, there's a chance your daughter might balk at the idea but if you guys persevere by using it yourselves, she'll likely come around to it.
It also helps teenagers start to recognise the physical elements of emotions. A churning tummy, faster heart rate, tension in the chest, whatever it is, but the aim is she'll get to a point where she can recognise she's starting to get distressed because of how her body feels.
Did you manage to open the coaching link?
06-05-2017 12:59 PM
Hi @St_George- It It's so interesting to me that she is able to be " better behaved " when only one parent is home . Perhaps explore that dynamic with her and with your wife , perhaps separately ?
I am sure you have had all sorts of suggestions of diagnosis and I know she is probably too old but her symptoms seem to echoe ODD which I am sure you have heard about . Many of the tips on sites such as Raisingkids.net.au. I have used with my kids
Such as catch them doing some good , really small stuff like patting the dog ! Or bringing out her dishes and praise her . 10 positive comments to every one rocket up the bum . Well maybe 5 lol 😂
Relay back to her what she has just argued at you , in a calm voice , so she is sure you have heard her and say you understand where she is coming from and that you can see she is annoyed, irritated , upset AND she still has to do whatever . I'm sorry if you have done all of this consistently to no benefit . It must be exhausting ! Especially when people give you advice you have tried ad nauseum .
The other thing that crossed my mind was this : Sometimes long term behavioural problems can be neurological and or medical or genetic ?
I know this might sound strange but did she have a fall to the head before age 4 ? Has she had any brain scans ?
Really if you have tried everything been to upteen psychs and tried all the behavioural strategies maybe she is in some kind of neurological feedback loop she is stuck in ? This may not be voluntary and entirely controllable on her behalf ? Maybe it's a mixture of factors ?
As far as her counsellor not telling you why she won't come to school , that would be something worth exploring , is she being bullied and trying to protect someone ? Sorry not a lot to add from me if you have tried for so many years . I wish I could suggest more
Best of luck , my thoughts are with you and your wife .
07-08-2017 10:35 PM - edited 07-09-2017 03:37 PM
Hey @St_George-, I just wanted to check in and see how things are going, and see if you've had any success with any of the suggestions?
I know from my experiences it can take continued effort and time. It is such a difficult behaviour to deal with, so please know you can come back to the forum for new ideas, or to let off steam. We'd love you to feel part of this supportive community throughout the ups and downs of parenting.
07-09-2017 11:23 AM
It's school holidays of course so the home dynamics do change. We went overseas for a holiday and invited one of her friends along. That went well.
I, the father, am controlling my emotions and not responding to her in angry banter, despite what she says or how she says it. If I have something to say that she will take as criticism, I say it in a calm voice. And I'm learning to stay aware from conversations between her and my wife.
A major issue we had last term was absences from school. She refused to go to school at least one day a week for virtually the whole term. We met with the school counsellor and other staff who began to meet our daughter once a week, in confidence. Our daughter just says school is boring. We're not sure what to do.
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