How to Cope with a Negative Teenager: Timely Advice

Here are 7 things you can do as a parent when your child is being negative and it’s pushing all of your buttons.

1. Don’t try to turn your child into something she’s not. As a parent, you might feel you’re responsible for how your child feels and behaves. If so, the choices she makes will feel very personal to you. You’ll find yourself trying to turn her into a positive person, a “Negative Nancy” into the proverbial “Sally Sunshine.” The result? She’ll work all the harder to resist you. This will cause you to push harder, creating more and more reactivity and negativity between the two of you. Remember, you’re not responsible for the choices your child makes about her attitudes or behaviors. Instead, you’re responsible for how yourespond to these attitudes and behaviors.

2. Try to be nonjudgmental. As hard as it is, try not to be judgmental, critical, or defensive. So if your child says, “This food is gross,” don’t react by saying, “Why are you always so negative about everything? The least you could do is say thank you!” Instead, say something like, “Hmmm, I’m sorry you don’t like it,” or “Too bad you find it so unappealing,” or simply, “Oh.” Nothing more needs to be said.

Related: Why it’s better to take charge rather than try to take control as a parent.

3. Don’t personalize it. Try as hard as you can not to personalize your child’s negative attitude and constant complaining. Have a slogan in your head that helps you ignore some of his negative remarks. Try repeating the following to yourself: “It’s nothing personal and nothing to worry about. These are just feelings.”

4. Be direct. If your child launches into a venting session when you’re stressed out or in the middle of something,be clear and direct. You can say, “Sorry, but I’m not up for listening to this right now. Why don’t you save it for later, when I can focus on what you’re telling me?” That way, if your child really needs a sounding board and isn’t simply complaining for the sake of complaining, you’ll be able to give him your full attention and listen to what’s on his mind. (And maybe by that time, he’ll have worked through it on his own. In this way, your child will learn to rely on himself to calm his anxieties.)

5. Reflect but don’t react. If your child always has something negative to say, you can go with it without agreeing with him. If he says “It would have been a good day if I’d gotten a home run during recess,” you can say, “Yeah, really just to have that one extra thing, that would have made it better for you, huh?” Instead of trying to negate his negativity, listen to it and let it go. When your child is critical of something and then you’re critical of him being critical, it just adds to the cycle. Often we don’t hear ourselves complaining about our kids and we just pile it on. So try to be nonjudgmental about it.

6. Put a time limit on complaints. If your child is really a chronic complainer, you might consider putting a time limit on him.When your child launches into a complaining session, listen to what his beef is and then let him let him know he only has a few more minutes. You can say, “Okay Jackson, two more minutes to talk about how you hate math, and then we’re done with this subject today. I can’t hear anymore.” You can also establish a complaint time as James Lehman advises in The Total Transformation Program . Set aside a time each day, like after dinner, when your child has 10 minutes to complain about everything that’s bothering him. Limit it to that time of day and that amount of time. If he forgets and starts being critical about something, just remind him that he can tell you all about it at complaint time that night. You can also give him a journal in which he can write everything down. Another idea is to give your child five “complaint tickets” per day that he can use at any time. Each one is good for one complaint, but after the five are used up, no more. (This works well for younger kids.)

Related: How to give consequences that work.

7. Give honest feedback. Your ultimate goal is to let your child be who he is, but also to let him know that his attitude does have an impact. Giving him honest feedback is one of the best ways to set your own boundaries while respecting his. When he’s going on and on about something or someone, you can say, for example, “When I’m hearing too much of your criticisms and complaints, I find myself tuning it out.” You could also try saying something like, “Hey, I think I need to hear a few more positives right now because I’m getting zapped.

Generally when you give authentic feedback, you’re just letting your child know that what he’s doing is not working for you right now. Again, simply complaining about his negativity is not necessarily going to be helpful. Instead, you need to be honest about it and let your child know what you’re feeling about the impact of moods, attitudes and words. That’s about you expressingyou—not you criticizing him.

Related: How to avoid getting entangled in your child’s emotions—and parent more objectively and effectively.

A final piece of advice: When dealing with your negative child, be counter-intuitive.Again,while the goal of helping your child be a more positive person is a good one, trying to make him be one will backfire.Instead, do what is counter-intuitive: accept his negative feelings. His feelings are separate from you, so allow them without “futurizing” and personalizing and getting entangled. Don’t let your own anxiety about your child interfere. Rather, listen without criticism.Stand next to him, not joined to him. Only then will he stop being compelled to use his energy to fight you or defend himself from your criticism. With your acceptance, he’ll be free to begin thinking about how he wants to change and grow.

Excerpted from: http://www.empoweringparents.com/how-to-handle-your-negative-complaining-child-or-teen.php#

 

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