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How Parents Create 'Badly' Behaved Children
And How To Reverse the Process


  

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Home
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Chapter 27
Chapter 28
Chapter 29
Chapter 30
Chapter 31
Chapter 32
Chapter 33
Chapter 34
Chapter 35
Chapter 36
Chapter 37
Chapter 38
Chapter 39
Chapter 40
Chapter 41
Chapter 42
Chapter 43
Chapter 44
Chapter 45
Chapter 46
Chapter 47
Chapter 48
Chapter 49
Chapter 50
Restoring Childhood
How We Create 'Badly' Behaved Children
©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016
(Copyright Unedited Beta Version)
(To be read online only)

Book One

Chapter 6

The myth of the “terrible teens”

Parents have the right to insist on behaviour, on actions, but have to agree to differ over differences of belief. An entire developmental myth has come about because parents have not understood this distinction. The ‘terrible teens’ disappear at a stroke when parents stop spending more than a few minutes trying to get their child to agree with their decisions. They can insist that their child comply but they cannot insist that their child accepts that they are right to insist. The child’s physical acquiescence has to be enough. Teenagers get lots of rewarding attention because parents spend their time trying to convince them that their thinking is flawed rather than making it clear to them what will happen if they continue to act upon that flawed thinking.

Teenagers do not behave ‘terribly’ because they are ‘in transition’ or ‘hormonal’. This is why we often do not see this ‘hormonal’ behaviour repeated with other adults outside the home. Teenagers are practical people and they choose to display ‘terrible’ behaviour only in places where they do not feel embarrassed by it – places where it works. When parents believe the “terrible teens” myth they think that there is something akin to a developmental stage that their child passes through and expect their relationship with their teenager to sour. This myth may allow some youngsters to gain power and use bullying behaviour at a time when they desperately need to know that they are still being securely supported by parents. The last thing they need is a ‘get out of jail’ card at a time when they need to be accepting more, not less, responsibility for their choices. The myth may prevent parents from tackling behaviour that is only marginally more difficult to train-away than it was when their child was younger.

This myth would have us believe that ‘terrible’ behaviour in a teenager indicates that the child has reached the transitional stage between childhood and adulthood. If that is the case, then what sort of adult are they transitioning towards? How can rudeness, dismissiveness and not caring about the hurtful things they say indicate that they are becoming more mature? Why would a movement towards maturity involve a relapse into petulant, toddler-like behaviour? Any well trained 6 year-old will be, not just appear to be, more mature and responsible than a teenager behaving ‘terribly’. If this behaviour is intended to be a bridge between childhood and adulthood it is a dismal failure. Not only does it fail to facilitate the move to adulthood, it gets seriously in the way.

Only two transitional stages

©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016

If we look very carefully at the development of children who have parents who enable them to feel secure it is only possible to see two really landmark transitional stages. The first is the baby’s transition at birth from a symbiotic world where he or she is both physically connected and physically dependent to, at birth, a world where they are physically separated but still physically dependent. The second is the transition from the physically dependant world of babyhood to the increasingly physically autonomous world of childhood. Parents will not be able to discern any other transitional stages.

It is at this second transitional stage that parents need to introduce the training secret that underpins all we will say to parents and professionals in this book. If children have been trained correctly they will have always behaved responsibly and will have been treated like responsible individuals by their parents. If parents are fair and only make the decisions for the child that parents have to make their children begin to steadily internalise the parental view. They increasingly accept that their long-term best interest takes precedence over what they want at this particular moment. In fact even teenagers in constant dispute often somewhere deep inside secretly accept that their parent’s longer term view is correct. Their handicap is that they have parents that allow discussion in non-negotiable areas.

Parents that already have non-negotiable areas established in their homes do not experience the ‘terrible’ teens. Since all teenagers crave more freedom it is the easiest thing in the world to link an increase in more mature and responsible behaviour to corresponding increases in their freedom and their financial ability to enjoy it. It would be a tragedy for these parents if the myth of ‘the terrible teens’ were to lead them to ignore rude challenging behaviour just when their youngsters need for emotional equilibrium was greatest. Chronological age and developmental age

We should never assume that the chronological age that a child has reached corresponds to or matches the stage that they should have reached in their emotional development. Throughout this book the use of the word ‘child’ or ‘children’ is intended to also include teenagers. No distinction is made between children and teenagers simply because when a youngster is behaving ‘badly’ there is no distinction. As we have said a child of six can be, and often is, far more mature than a sixteen-year-old.

The only real difference with teenage ‘bad’ behaviour is that it comes at the point where the youngster wants and should be getting more responsibility for their own lives. The deal should be that as the child shows they are more responsible we steadily give them more responsibility. It should not be that they behave like an irrational toddler and rudely demand more freedom which we then feel forced to give them. Although training a teenager is often far less difficult than parents assume time is of course short. Past a certain age children just become completely autonomous regardless of whether they are ready for it. If parents allow this to happen while they are still in constant dispute then the child may well make decisions based on the need to prove their autonomy or even make choices because their parents disapprove.

The most pernicious aspect of the ‘terrible teen’ myth is that it often prevents parents from seeing how vulnerable and lost their children have become. It prevents them from working out what should be obvious were they only to look closely at the type of behaviour they are witnessing. It stops them seeing what their son’s or daughter’s behaviour clearly indicates, namely that they are feeling insecure and vulnerable and are still functioning at best as a child, but at worst with demand behaviour that was last appropriate when they were babies. Listen to enough tapes of teenager behaving ‘badly’ and it becomes clear that apart from their vocabulary there is a striking similarity to ‘bad’ toddler behaviour. ‘Terrible’ teenagers are clearly not going through a pre-adult stage – far from it. Their behaviour indicates either a relapse through insecurity an earlier primary mode of behaviour, or, for me more likely, not a relapse at all, just a teenage version of the same confrontational behaviour that their parents have failed to train away as the grew up.

Parents need to be clear what is categorical and what is not

The only protection for parents once teenagers begin to allow short term desires to put them danger or threaten their futures is to have a clear idea what has to be categorical and what can be conceded before every discussion. So many parents make the disastrous mistake of working out what their real position is during their discussion with their child instead of before. Even when they say ‘no’ they are saying it experimentally. Parents need to accept that they often do not have the power to prevent their child from acting on decisions that will hurt their futures. They often only have power to indicate to the child the consequences they control before the decision and carefully impose them afterwards. It is vital they remember that these consequences only have a chance of working if parents accept they are intended to influence future decisions not force their child to make a current one.

Persuasion

If parents continue to assume that their ‘terrible teen’ can be persuaded to forgo their short-term desires and that logical, reasonable argument will do the trick then problems become increasingly worse. Persuasion always has nothing to do with it. All explanation and discussion is superfluous and will be treated by the youngster as negotiation. It should be avoided as should all superfluous emotion. The child often assumes that strong emotion usually stems from the parents loss of control or loss of power. Heated argument with teenagers ingrains wrong decisions it rarely changes them.

Parents, however, should not despair. Training that has not been done prior to child becoming a teenager can still be done afterwards and is often just as effective. In my experience even years of ‘bad’ behaviour from a child rarely damages them seriously. Even if responsibility for making decisions has not be been gradually passed onto children throughout childhood it can still be done in a relatively short time when the child is already a teenager.

   
                 
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©Copyright Warwick Dyer 2016
  

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