From feelings of anger and distress to restored relationships and calmer and more positive behaviour
This is a brief account of how seven angry parents journeyed together over 10 consecutive weeks to recreate and restore their heart connection with their angry, very disruptive and defiant teens and also to attempt to set respectful and effective limits and boundaries around their teen’s often outrageous and out of control behaviour.
The journey began on session one of the Parenting Adolescent course during which time the parents discussed in great detail their feelings of utter hopelessness, helplessness, sadness and despair, not knowing which way to turn concerning what was happening in their homes. All parents were very stressed and felt at the limit of their endurance. This was expressed clearly by one parent saying that she was totally, “at her wits end”. Their teens had long given up listening to them or engaging in any conversation, and when they did it was usually to argue with them.
Their teens wanted to engage in unsafe use of the internet, wanted to associate with other teens that they felt were not a good influence on them and when at home they would withdraw themselves to their rooms and when out of their room engage in continual fights and arguments with their siblings.
For these seven parents, life had become filled with uncertainty and loads of frustration. One parent stated her teen would continually escape out of a window at night and run away. Another parent shared how her son had stolen a car. A couple shared how after trying desperately to get help for their family from many different organizations, that it was Oranga Tamariki who ‘encouraged’ them to attend a Whānau Marama Parenting course. All the parents had their own distressing and terrible stories to tell.
One parent stated. “My teen and I don’t communicate much; it is like we have lost any connection we had when she was a child.” This was typical of the experience of most of the parents in the group who shared that when their teens were home they didn’t seem to want to communicate much at all. It appeared to them that the communication that did occur was filled with frustration, anger and arguing.
However, the good news is that from the beginning of the course parents began to embrace the importance of creating and holding a loving heart connection between their teen and themselves. This was no easy task. They all worked extremely hard at finding time just to be with their teens by doing something with their teens that they would accept. For example, one mum and daughter started regularly to go to the shops to just look around.
As the sessions progressed and parents began to consistently practice more and more of the practical skills and strategies for enhancing and strengthening their relationship with their teen, they discovered that their teen also began to respond more positively to them. They opened up and discussed more of their thoughts and feelings, they listened more and were apologetic for their behaviour and even expressed affection to their parents. One mum said: “My teen has become more loving in return”. A dad stated: “My son’s problem behaviour has virtually disappeared now that he feels more valued and loved”.
In the process of recreating this loving heart connection between themselves and their teens, the parents discovered they needed to make many changes in the way they communicated and responded to their teens. Most parents shared how they learnt how to approach issues in a calmer way, how to show respect to their teen and how to really listen to their teen’s feelings, which was completely different from how they had behaved towards their teens previously. One parent stated: “I am much better at thinking of how to respond to a situation in a way that will maintain the relationship”. Another dad said he realized that what he said and how he said something would either strengthen or weaken their bond.
Because of the renewed and strengthened relationship, the parents discovered that not only were their teens more willing to listen to their small requests such as helping with their younger siblings and helping around the house, but they now had become more responsible, for example, by letting parents know where they were at all times, by owning up to what was happening even when they thought they had let their parents down, by talking to them and others in a more respectful way, by excusing themselves when realizing they were getting angry and worked up so they could go and calm down, and by showing a whole lot more consideration to the whole family. One parent explained it in this way: “He is now taking more responsibility and enjoying the freedom that goes with it. He is helping with the family and even visiting the relatives which he doesn’t really like – something that happened for a long time”.
The parents who attended this Parenting Adolescents Course didn’t discover a magic formula for instant success. They worked extremely hard over a period of many sessions to transform their own attitude and parenting behaviour while consistently putting into practice what they were learning on the course. Their success was evident and the transformation that took place in their families was truly amazing.
The transformation of teen and parent behaviour are taken from actual examples of what parents shared while on the course.