Somebody asked about disrespect from a teen who said they COULD be verbally abusive and there was nothing the parent could do about it. The question was, what do you say when they say this?
First off, ((((HUGS)))) to you. I know this was not a part of the picture you had in mind when expanding your family, and offering love to a child who desperately needed a home.
I don’t know of ANY parent who wakes up in the morning and says, “Honey, I think we should bring a teenager home so they can cuss us out, scream at us, threaten us and hate us.”
WE ALL want to see the best side of the adoption equation. The one that shows our children doing well, being successful, and having that end result of a happy, healthy, functioning adult who is ready to face the world with gusto and not look back, lovingly coming to family dinners and bringing home wonderful spouses and grand kids for us to love on and enjoy.
I think for most of us, the truthful balance lies somewhere in between the last two paragraphs. 🙂
We have daughters right now who have given us ZERO problems whatsoever, and are just adorable. We have daughters on the other EXTREME and I do mean EXTREME who have given us grief beyond belief.
So, I will feebly try to answer your question about what to say when your child is IN YOUR FACE screaming obscenities and you say, “You can’t do that” and they say, “YES I CAN” or worse yet, “TRY AND MAKE ME STOP!”
HOLD ON TO YOUR HORSES…. DO NOT CROSS THAT LINE…..
The MOST POWERFUL THING you can do at that moment is to CALMLY…. say, “YOU ARE RIGHT. YOU CAN, because you are.
And then, let them know that YOU need to take a quick breath.
WALK AWAY and CHOOSE TO DIFFUSE…..
What ever you do in your private room…. take a shower so you cannot hear the pounding on the door, or go for a drive, or go for a walk…. write in a journal, take a long lingering bubble bath and cry it out before the Lord asking for wisdom beyond what is wisdom….. whatever it is you do… CENTER YOURSELF. CALM YOURSELF…. give yourself permission to cry, but in your pain, remember that PAIN they transferred to you…. that RAGE they transferred to you is how THEY FEEL inside.
So FEEL it… FEEL the despair and then….. take a breath and try a different way.
A few calming statements for your child:
“Wow, you sound really upset.”
“I bet it is confusing trying to figure out family life” or “how you fit in.”
“That must be really hard”
“I’m so sorry things have been hard for you”
THEN….. When things are calmer (not in the moment)
You can ask some thought provoking questions:
“What power do you gain inside when you curse at me?”
“How do you feel afterwards?”
You might be surprised at the answers you get.
Go back to square one…. “You know, you are right, there is not a lot I can do when you choose to be this way. But I can help you to make some new choices. Maybe you have never known anything different? Maybe this is what is “normal” for you.
(For MANY of our kids it is THEIR normal!”
And then, calmly, reassuringly guide them to a different way.
You can have a cursing book. A BIG FEELINGS book! These are modifications of the “Mom Dad and Me book” for an older kiddo.
Anything you can do to get them to WRITE DOWN how they are feeling or what they are thinking in their head is fantastic and helpful not just for them, but informative for you.
When they start to write in the book, (introduce the concept during a calm family meeting) give praise where praise is due!
If they choose to continue to be verbally abusive, offer more ideas for them to have new coping tools.
You can actually write down a tool list and put it on the wall or door. It can be in their room on the wall by their bed or on the back of the door
that just slammed. 🙂 There it is… “IDEAS to calm yourself”!
GET a MENTOR if you can; somebody who they can call, that is TRUSTWORTHY and will not cave to their claims of how horrid you are. 🙂
And somebody who will also offer them the exact same ideas or other ideas for coping with big feelings.
I have to admit, one of the more frustrating things for me personally that I just had to get over, was that our sweetie, in the detention center has been given NOTHING NEW for coping that we had not already offered her. She was however, willing to take that advice from another person that wasn’t us.
As irritating as that was, we are thankful that she is now USING THE TOOLS to help her stay calm and focused.
And that IS OUR GOAL….in the end, OUR GOAL IS RELATIONSHIP!
If you can picture yourself as a light house, stable and calm during a hurricane, that is what our children need. You can shine the light to them, but you also must remain steadfast and steady.
Don’t change things to fit the rage…..( as in, if you don’t let me do what I want, I’ll be abusive and disrupt family life)
Be calm and when the rage calms, you are still there.
Some of the tools offered to our daughter included finding a quiet place to go to outside. She had a favorite area ( we have one acre) To go for a walk, to ride her bike, To take a shower, to read, to write, to listen to music, to spend 30 minutes of the computer,
to take deep breaths WITH ME, to go for a drive and get a coke,
These are not magical things, but they calm the brain and get us into a different part of the brain when we are stuck in a negative feedback loop.
Get out of the loop!
AND THEN…. your real work is when they are settled and calm.
Do NOT harbor anger.. DO NOT allow yourself to be vindictive.
PRACTICE kind words, loving affirmation, compassion, peacefulness etc.
As your child opens up to you about the past, listen…. help them grieve, and then, help them see the big bright future ahead.
I once told our daughter, if we drive a car looking in the rear view mirror, we will crash and never get down the lovely road to see the beauty that lies ahead.
It has been 5 1/2 years with her, and she is finally starting to see things in a different light.
Have we shed tears of sorrow? Yes. Has it been hard? YES.
Have there been times of felling hopeless? YES.
Do we feel hope now? YES.
Because in all of it, we have to have a future focus.
If your child NEVER gets better….. it won’t be because you didn’t give it your all.
And if we as parents don’t give it our all, how will they learn to trust?
THIS DOES NOT MEAN you tolerate abuse. I’m not saying that.
It means that abuse can happen, and HOW YOU HANDLE that can lead them to a different direction in life, or not.
It may not even happen on your watch. They may not see it until they are in their 20’s or 30’s…. or they will see it now.
But they WILL see eventually.
If you are in a dangerous situation, as we unfortunately were, then as Karyn Purvis recommends, as well as Heather Forbes, you may need extra outside helps, including law enforcement.
I remember being in shock when we had to resort to that, feeling as if we had totally failed. I was wrong.
It has been the best thing for our daughter. You are not allowed to threaten to kill people. You are not allowed to pull a knife.
These things are beyond dangerous.
So, when the behavior crosses the line into criminal activity, then there are civil laws that must be followed too in order to protect the family.
This is NOT GIVING UP….. BE there.. love them through the process. If they wind up in detention as our daughter has, BE THERE to visit, love, accept, guide,
and listen. And be the authority that they need.
Not authoritarian…. overbearing, but that lighthouse…. “Over here! Remember! You cannot go there. It isn’t safe.” NO “I told you so’s needed”. 🙂
Love Never Fails.