What To Do When Your Teen Becomes Verbally Abusive
Oh, to go back to the days when you were teaching your child his first words! Looking – and listening to your teen now – you wonder what happened to that sweet little child who loved to whisper sweet words to your ear. Now, you are grappling with a teenager who has become verbally abusive, not only to you, but to his teachers, his siblings and the people who love and care about him. How do you respond when your child transforms into a sullen teenager who can’t seem to stop using abusive language?
Understand that there is often an underlying cause
It is important to understand that when teenagers begin to act and speak abusively, it will invariably point to a bigger problem. Dealing simply with the abusive talk, in this case, will just be a band-aid solution to a problem that needs a more in-depth and thorough approach. Often, a teenager will act negatively as a way to challenge existing authority and try to wield his power, independence and control of the situation.
Acting on it
When your teen starts becoming verbally abusive, it is imperative to act immediately. Otherwise, there is a strong possibility that the abuse will turn physical, where you and other people can end up becoming hurt. Here are some ways you can respond to a verbally abusive teen:
– Nip the attitude in the bud. In this age where permissive parenting is on the rise, parents need to step in to prevent children from developing an attitude of defiance and entitlement. When a young child sees how quickly his parents give in to his demands or how they bend over backwards to do so, an attitude of defiance begins to grow. Remember, an abusive teen usually starts out as an abusive child. As a parent, strive to create a home environment that values mutual respect and kindness. The challenge is for parents to set the example and watch how they speak and act. Also, parents should carefully and conscientiously work to help the child develop empathy and the recognition that the world does not revolve around him and his wants.
– Show that verbal abuse is never acceptable. The situation may warrant feelings of disappointment or anger in the child, but turning into abusive language as a way to deal with the situation is never acceptable. Parents need to show that abuse (whether physical or verbal) is never an acceptable way to deal with situations.
– Invite dialogue to foster understanding. Why does the child talk abusively? It may be that he discovered that doing so generates the results he wants. This provides little incentive for him to act in a positive manner. During times when everyone is calm, sit down with your child to try to delve into the reasons why he is acting the way he does. A deeper understanding of your child and his motivations will be a good step towards helping him.
– Set house rules as a family. The family should also discuss house rules on acceptable and unacceptable language. Ask the teen for his input and talk about how you as a family define verbal abuse. Also, discuss the consequences if he breaks the house rules. Consistently implement these rules and consequences. With this, you are making your child accountable for his behavior and language.
– Do not engage. Rather than trying to calm your verbally abusive teen or meeting his abusive language head to head, walk away instead. Indicate that you will only talk to him when he is ready – that is, when he has sufficiently calmed down. Walking away will also calm you down. Your discussions will be more effective and you both will be ready to thresh out the underlying issues when the emotions have cooled down.
– Allow them to face the consequences. Sometimes, the consequences of his abusive behavior will go beyond the home. He may get into trouble with authorities, especially in school. Rather than protecting him from the consequences, hold him accountable by having him face these consequences.
– Consider professional help. When things take a turn for the worse, think about getting your child into therapy or enrolling him in a troubled teen program. There are a variety of programs that can help equip your child with the necessary tools so that he can effectively deal with his anger without resorting to abusive language. These include teen summer camps and wilderness programs that aim to foster positive behavior and personal motivation in your teen. You can also consider calling the police, especially if there are indications that the abuse will become physical and when he starts threatening you or other people in the home.