Teaching Self-Control

When Cheyenne turned twelve, her mother became increasingly frustrated by her daughter's lack of respect. When she asked Cheyenne to do something, her daughter often talked back. Her mother got angry and sent her to time-out, grounded her, or took away a privilege. Recently, Cheyenne had become blatantly defiant, rolling her eyes disgustedly, saying that her mother couldn't tell her what to do, and threatening to go out without permission if she were grounded.

If your tween is difficult to manage, find friends or extended family members to provide support. Other parents with children the same age or older are ideal. However, you need more than just listeners. You need wise people to give advice, even if what they say isn't always to your liking.

With the help of a counselor, Cheyenne's mother decided that if Cheyenne was too angry to be polite, she could write her mother a note to express her opinions, take a walk around the block, or pound on a pillow to get her anger out. The consequence for verbally abusing her mother would be to apologize and restate whatever had been on her mind in a more respectful manner.

In the interim, Cheyenne would be responsible for getting herself to and from school via the bus instead of being driven by her mother and would have to work out her own rides to her other activities if she wanted to go. She would have to make her own lunches, wash her own laundry, read herself a bedtime story if she wanted one, and do her own hair in the morning.

That got Cheyenne's attention, and she settled down as soon as she understood her mother was prepared to follow through. Her mother realized that if she didn't want to be taken for granted, she needed to be careful not to take Cheyenne for granted, either. Her mother was careful to use common courtesy expressions when addressing Cheyenne from then on, saying, “Please,” “Thank-you,” “I'd appreciate it if you would …” and “Would you mind … ?” She apologized for becoming cranky with her daughter by saying, “Sorry, Cheyenne. I'm in a bad mood, but I have no right to take it out on you.”

After just a few weeks Cheyenne began inserting some pleases and thank-yous into her conversations, too. Once, after she began issuing demands and ordering her mother about very rudely, she suddenly said, “Sorry, Mom. I didn't mean what I just said. I've just had such a terrible day.” That's when her mother knew the problems were under control.

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