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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can I help my teenage daughter control her anger?

    Disagreements often turn into full-blown arguments with my daughter. She is at the age where she is very stubborn and become verbally aggressive. What can I do to help her?
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    My speciality is Anger Management for individuals and couples. The program I developed is held over 4 one hour sessions and substantially reduces anger over … View Profile

    You don't say how you respond to your daughters aggression. However, I can recommend the following two approaches.

    1. Anger is learned habit controlled by the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind has no logic, it is a patterning system,  which responds to triggers. In Cognitve Principle Therapy (CPT) we teach not to use logic against a bad habit. Therefore, when your daughter is aggressive do not tell her to “calm down”  or other such words which are logically and true, but are ineffective. In fact they normally incite more anger because the person is aware of the “logic” but does not know how to implement it. Try any way you can to distract her or remove yourself from the situation, without letting her believe she is controlling you. This is not easy at the time of aggression. However, at a later stage, when there is no anger, you both need to sit down and discuss the rules, bondaries and consequences which apply in your house.

    2. If you use aggression, such as verbal abuse back at your daughter, then follow the CPT rule of “Splittng the person from their behaviour.” That is, you attack her behavior, but not her. Aggression attacks the person, assertiveness attacks the behaviour. You don't have to change your personality to be assertive. You can be serious, loud, intense, but aim at the behaviour.
    However, if you are passive and she abuses you and you feel inadequate, then become assertive. Assertiveness is based on the truth, your commitment to the truth and acting on it. Be forceful because it is your truth (about her unacceptable behaviour) and you are the mother. If you make it personal, then she will continue to “win”, but if you stay with the behaviour you will develop a better relationship and teach her assertiveness at the same time.

    Note: She may escalate her aggressive behaviour in the short term, to test you, but be persistant and stick to assertiveness.

  • 1

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    I have been working in Eltham, Melbourne as a relationship and family counsellor for over twelve years. I draw on current theory and research about … View Profile

    It sounds like your daughter is doing what is really normal in adolescence - trying to work out how powerful she is in relationship to authority (in this case, you!) and where the boundaries are. These are important things to work out in order to become an independent adult, but can be very challenging to deal with as a parent!

    You might want to start by setting up some rules for 'safe talking' with your daughter - common ones would be:-

    • no put downs, swearing or contemptuous language
    • stick to the one issue
    • use assertive language (say what the issue is and how you feel about it - for example, “I want to go to Sara's party on Friday night, it's really important to me”)
    • it's each person's job to manage their own strong feelings - take a ‘time out’ from the conversation if she (or you, for that matter!) needs to calm herself down so she can continue to talk things through in a respectful way. Because of the hormones that are raging around in an adolescent body, she may need some extra help with this - common strategies are slow deep breathing, counting backwards from 10, thinking of a ‘STOP’ sign.
    Make it clear to your daughter that if she is not prepared to ‘safe talk’ with you, you are not willing to continue the conversation.

    Encourage her to come and talk to you about the issues she is having, and to let you know, using the rules above, how she feels about what you are requiring her to do. Once you and she know and understand how each other feels about the issue, try to develop a solution together if possible. Some examples of solutions you might develop together might look like this:-
    • she can go to her friend's party on Friday night as long as she has completed all of her household chores and homework.
    • once you have seen her make an effort to treat you with respect over a week, she can have more (monitored) time on the internet.
    It's not uncommon for parents of teens to need some extra support. If you'd like to know more, your local community centre or health centre may offer parenting courses for this challenging stage. Alternatively, family counselling can provide a space where parents and teens can listen to each other and learn to develop collaborative solutions to the issues they are dealing with.

    Warm wishes, Vivienne Colegrove

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