Why is my teenage daughter challenging me
"My kids are killing me!"
Arguing, discussing, manipulating: Responsible children
Exhausted parents who complain that their only child or their children are putting too much strain on them have recently been piling up in the educational advice center of the Verein für Christian Ehe- und Familienarbeit e.V .. The children are mostly socially inconspicuous, even respected in their social environment. The parents are often not believed, which is an additional burden for them.
Cases from educational counseling
Marion B. also prepares the consultation appointment: “When you see Yvonne and Natascha, you don't believe me anyway. They are good at school, make music in the school orchestra, are popular everywhere, and I keep hearing what kind of wonderful daughters I have ... nobody believes me how they perform at home! " The daughters, aged 14 and 16, leave everything they use at home, do not tidy up their rooms, do not put their clothes in the laundry, let alone that they would take responsibility for tasks for the good of the family. “They have an excuse for everything. I have to repeat what I want from you dozens of times, and if it's still not done, you start discussing ... You use my things without asking me, I can then find everything, and no one wants to have it ... I can not anymore!"
The introduction to the subject is not always so dramatic. Many parents come to the consultation today before problems solidify, say the parents of nine-year-old Fabian: “He doesn't consciously annoy us, I wouldn't say that,” replies the father when asked whether he feels provoked by Fabian. “He just leaves everything where it is, for example constantly forgets when it is his turn to sweep the stairs. What else?" The mother: “He loses all kinds of things. I've already bought him the third pair of sneakers! "
What these children and teenagers have in common is that they only take responsibility for themselves at home to an extent that is not appropriate for their age. They are difficult to use for tasks that contribute to the smooth coexistence of the family. Instead, they allow themselves to be pleaded and begged, unimpressed by threats and possible consequences. And they have one more thing in common: They discuss, argue, negotiate and manipulate, as the only three-year-old Ruben, Simone P., a young, friendly woman, brings into counseling: He goes straight to the computer. Mrs. P. gets up and goes to him, calmly takes him by the hand and tries to pull him away: For Ruben the reason to drop down on the floor and break out into a deafening shriek. When she sits down, he stands up, points to the computer, hugs her and says in a sweet voice: "Only once!" When his mother says no, it doesn't work, he throws himself back on the floor and yells out loud. Simone P: “This is how it works all day!” In the kindergarten, however, he is well integrated: "When I told the teachers about it, they said I was talking about another child!"
It is noticeable that the mother is dressed normally, but Ruben is outfitted with the most expensive outfit. When asked about it, she says: “Yes, Ruben has a very special taste. He just doesn't wear everything! "
How is the problem developing?
Using the examples for which I have chosen children in three different stages of development, the development process of the problem and its symptoms can be well illustrated:
The small child experiences that the parents give him a higher priority than they admit to themselves: They put their needs above their own. The child learns that his needs are more important than those of his parents, since his parents react to his expressions of displeasure and grant him his will. Over time, the child learns which expressions bring the parents to the desired reaction: It begins to develop techniques of arguing, negotiating, and debating. The palette ranges from subtle manipulation (flattering baby voice, gentle look of the eyes) to triggering feelings of guilt (“You no longer love me!”, “That's unfair!” Etc.) to yelling, throwing yourself on the floor , Slamming doors, holding your breath, and vomiting. The parents' reactions to discussing, negotiating, and manipulating the child determine their future behavior towards them.
Since the children often do not cause any problems outside of the family, but even receive positive feedback, affected parents only notice over the years that their children are not relieving them as much as would be appropriate for their age. At first they think it is normal for children to be so strenuous even after they are toddlers.
In the next stage of development, as can be seen from the example of the nine-year-old Fabian, the child has already learned that the parents take care of everything and that they do not have to contribute much to their own life and that of the other family members. Parents now feel a certain amount of suffering due to the responsible behavior of their child, but often look for explanations and reasons: "The change to kindergarten / school / birth of sister / loss of boyfriend / puberty etc. is probably bothering him."
Parents often don't notice the problem until the third phase, when the effort becomes excessive. But then often vehemently: Some try radically to change their teenagers or openly threaten them with expulsion if they do not change.
Teenagers react to this with a mixture of injury and helplessness, according to Natascha P. from the first example: “I don't know what is suddenly going on with my mother - she just yells around. So far everything went ok, right? Now she has even been to the youth welfare office with me and asked about possibilities. But I don't want to leave home! "
With teenagers, the learned attitude has now solidified and is very difficult to change with the utmost patience and tenacity, because there can now be real gaps in knowledge and experience in terms of responsibility for yourself and the family environment.
How is it that parents give themselves less value than their children?
Some parents with this problem were brought up in a strongly authoritarian manner and would like to spare their children what they experienced as negative in their upbringing. They are too considerate of the children and accept behaviors that they actually dislike. They often name self-confidence, the ability to criticize, assertiveness and the personal development (self-realization) of their children as the primary educational goals.
Feelings of guilt
Parents who feel guilty about their children, for example because of a divorce, the birth of a sibling or life situations in which they have too little time for the children, tend to (partially) submit to their children out of a feeling of reparation . Mr and Mrs M. do not receive any support from their four children aged 7-12: “The children came in quick succession. Jealousy was always an issue. Somehow my wife kept reproaching herself for it. " Ms. G., single mother of two daughters, always blamed herself for her divorce: "I wanted to make everything possible for them that they would have had with father." The children got their own riding horses and took part in expensive language trips, while the mother worked a lot and did without amenities. With the good intention of balancing out feelings of grief or jealousy, parents take responsibility and chores from their children, give them assistance, or ask them to provide little or no support in the household.
Insecurity and fear of emotional harm
Some parents are very insecure because of the many educational guides and are afraid of causing emotional damage to children by asking for help and setting limits. Fabian's father said from the example given in one of the following consultation hours: “I never really know how to set limits. I'm really scared of being too strict. I don't want my son to have such a bad relationship with me as I have with my parents! "
Avoidance of conflict or too little energy to get through conflict
Children quickly find out how far they can go with someone. Some people have such a need for harmony that they prefer to avoid conflicts. Another reason for sitting out conflict-laden situations can be a lack of time or inner strength: Parents who come home exhausted from work often no longer have the strength to tackle domestic conflicts. They tend to teach children too little for household chores and prefer to do the things they actually asked their children to do themselves, because at first it seems easier to avoid the argument. “In the beginning it was easier to do things quickly yourself,” says Ms. St., whose eleven-year-old son can only be persuaded to help with the household with great parental commitment. “I was always working, Stefan was well looked after. In the evening I just didn't have the nerve to push it. " Only as the children get older does the effort to continue to relieve the children of things that they could actually do themselves in the meantime.
Marital problems as a cause
Marital problems can also be the trigger for responsible behavior by children: In family counseling, the family can determine the seating arrangements. The T. family, who complain about the problem that the 13-year-old daughter takes little responsibility for herself and no responsibility for household chores, takes her place. The mother sits closely with the son, the father closely with the daughter, both children between the parents, but there is a wide gap between these two seating arrangements. The mother keeps making quiet remarks to the son, while the daughter is extremely snippy towards the father. The following conversations confirmed our assumption: Since the father feels more obliged to the daughter than his wife and, moreover, subordinates himself to her, the daughter occupies the executive chair of the family. In fact, it largely determines what the family should and should not do.
The cause of this constellation turns out to be that the wife is bitter about the fact that the husband has had too little time for her for years for professional reasons. So the son got into the role of the substitute partner. In response, the frustrated husband took the daughter into the substitute partner role. The subsequent discussions are all about encouraging the father in his role as husband and father in order to take his place at the side of his wife again and thus automatically assign their place to the children.
It is also important that spouses respect each other. If they do not do this, e.g. if one partner undermines the authority of the other by making derogatory remarks, this will also have an impact on the children, who also place themselves above the corresponding parent.
Even children who, due to the loss of a parent through death or divorce, are taken in the place of the parent and thus assume a substitute partner function, can tend to subordinate themselves to their mother or father.
Pay attention to the signs of hierarchy
The examples show how important it is to pay attention to signs of precedence. Children perceive violations against it very sensitively and react accordingly. Here some examples:
- The teenagers occupy the whole house, while the parents' bedroom is in the basement
- The children's rooms are perfectly equipped with high-tech, while the father has a completely outdated office in the house
- The parents sit at the sides of the dining table while the children occupy the headboards
- The parents wear well-worn clothes, while the children wear expensive branded clothes
- The children get the delicacies at the table, the parents make do with the leftovers, etc.
Signs of hierarchy are important in human coexistence and should not be underestimated in the family!
If you recognize yourself and your children here, we would like to encourage you to pay more attention to yourself and their needs and to express yourself more clearly to the children:
- Pay more attention to the behavior of the children that you dislike. Think: what is it that troubles me? What could my child actually do by themselves? Often it is always the same conflicts that cost endless energies - unless you face them.
- In everyday situations, practice confronting a conflict and getting through it to the end: Bringing children out of their old habits can be very exhausting. The older the children are, the more time and energy you have to invest.
- If you want to demand or stop behavior, do not allow yourself to be drawn into discussions, do not negotiate any more, but insist on a legitimate demand. Here is an example with smaller children: If you do not want your child to pull their nose up, but when asked to blow their nose, they cannot get a handkerchief, get up and take the child to the Hand fetch the handkerchief - without reproach, scolding, etc. If you have done this a few times, the child realizes: “Mom means what she says! What I fail to do, I have to do. "
- No longer answering manipulative behavior positively with the old behavioral patterns for the child, but with negative I-messages: "Your fidgeting is very exhausting! “,” I feel by your (naming behavior, e.g.) using my clothes without asking me, or better said, as if you were trampling on me! "," I am totally embarrassed how you scream here! “Etc.
- In older children you can address manipulative behavior: “I know you want to make me feel guilty now. But it is important to me that you help here! ”
- Ask children less for their opinion and their wishes, instead they arrange more.
- Children no longer ask for their opinion on adult decisions.
- Introduce the “polluter principle” in the family and insist on adhering to it: Whoever makes something dirty cleans it, whoever uses something clears it away, whoever breaks something repairs it (if necessary with the help of parents). Here the children learn in a playful and natural way that all their actions have consequences and are made familiar with the biblical principle of "sowing and reaping" from an early age.
- You can teach your child more about age-appropriate work, assign them tasks and ensure that they are done. As a result, the child experiences recognition and a sense of achievement through actions and not through discussing, arguing and negotiating. This makes him behave differently.
- Don't let the child occupy you, but keep the child busy with age-appropriate, meaningful household chores.
- Learn to say no when the child's demands become too many and thereby determine the pace at which you want to tackle new tasks: “I don't want to play with you now. “-” I'll finish that first. “It is important to stick to this no in spite of manipulation attempts:” I cannot concentrate on my work when you are moaning around here. "-" I'll only come when I'm done with it, and that won't change if you keep calling mom. "
- As hard as it sounds, it can happen that you have to win arguments when children or young people test whether you are really to be taken seriously. Sometimes they just realize that their responsible behavior is no longer wanted.
- Even if it doesn't seem so at first: Children want strong parents who face up to the conflicts with them, guide them and set them limits, because they perceive this as loving care. As Fabian put it from our example, who was present in the final consultation. When asked what has changed for him, he replied: "I am now also important because I have to do something!" If you set a good role model, you do not need to pay explicit attention to the ability of your children to self-actualize, assert yourself and be critical. In addition, children need many skills for self-fulfillment, which they can best develop by performing tasks that support the family - in trust in strong parents, in protection and security.
Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook
Beatrice Bachmann, M.A., heads the Association for Christian Marriage and Family Work with the aim of divorce prevention. According to the biblical concept, this offers marriage counseling, marriage seminars and seminars on marriage counselors.
Books: "Handbook of marriage and family counseling", "Time management for the family", etc.
Beatrice Bachmann, M.A.
Christian marriage and family work CEF e.V.
Tel. 07351/300 37 36
Created on November 19, 2002, last changed on February 19, 2016
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