I have, for some time now, been working with high risk and aberrant behaviour youth as a youth and family counselor. Few things in this world are harder to deal with than a teenager with a sense of entitlement, immature emotional development, poor discipline, and a bad attitude. Those of you who have gone toe to toe with a teenager can verify what I am saying.
It simply doesn’t work.
It’s all about energy. Yelling at a belligerent who is yelling back at you rarely, if ever, leads to a group hug. It’s Einstein’s definition of insanity all over again – doing the same thing and expecting different results. Unfortunately, however, most of us continue to yell. Yelling feels familiar, and it releases pent-up emotion and frustration. The majority of us learned it from our parents who learned it from their parents. We swore we wouldn’t be that kind of parent when we grew up but sometimes, well sometimes that kid frustrates us so much we have no choice.
One more time. It doesn’t work.
If you want to win the argument, salvage the situation, or whatever it is you want to accomplish, you need to change the energy if you want to change the result. You need to change the rules of the argument if you want any hope of a positive outcome. Here’s a good guideline – Do not emotionally engage a screaming teenager unless you want to have a fight.
Stop arguing. Stop emoting. Stop gushing. Smile.
There is an old maxim: Love me, hate me, just don’t ignore me.
Why is that? Perhaps the reason has something to do with the fact that the vast majority of us hate to be ignored. We feel disrespected. Something inside of us rebels against apathy. When it comes to an argument with an irrational person a second factor comes into play as well. It is very hard to argue with someone who will not argue back.
When your out-of-control teenager is looking for a fight, seeking to make a point, and prepared to bully you to get their way, nothing will disarm and frustrate them more than a parent or person who simply smiles and says nothing. It works, I have used this methodology and taught it to dozens of parents. At first it drives them insane, later it shuts down the yelling effectively and with dignity.
There must be a more effective way to engage angry teens, while at the same time helping them to understand that emotional bullying is not just wrong, it’s ineffective. Those of us who were taught to yell by our parents inherently understand how ineffective their yelling was.
So why did we decide to use this dysfunctional method ourselves?