Karyn Gordon, a parent, teen therapist and author, shares her tips on helping parents deal with their kids when things get out of hand. Here's her advice.
Seize the opportunity
The Chinese characters for crisis mean both danger and opportunity. Whether you spin a crisis into an opportunity is up to you. It's ideal if you can use a crisis as an opportunity to help your kids understand their role in the event. If you simply lash out and don't talk with your kids, you'll build a wall between you -- instead, you want to build bridges. Sit down with your teen after something has gone wrong and talk. Why?
• They take ownership of rules they help make.
• They learn the value of speaking up when they are not satisfied with the way things are going, including when they're uncomfortable with their own friends' behaviour. Most of all, your teen needs to learn from the experience and think for herself.
Tips for your teen
While a teen may have had no control over kids coming to the house, for example, she does have control over other things. If parents phone home and ask what's happening, she is responsible for what she answers. If she didn't mention the party, then it's fair to ask, "Why didn't you tell us when we spoke to you that there was a party?"
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Don't be afraid to confront
Ask your teens questions that will let them think about what they did and help them take responsibility for and learn from their actions. You might need to prompt them to help them look inward instead of blaming others. Examples of questions to ask:
• What went wrong?
• What did you learn from this?
• If we could rewind the clock, what would you have done differently?
• What did you learn about yourself in terms of who you invited and how you deal with conflict?
If your teen replies, "I don't know," to any of your questions, she might need time. Tell her to go away and think about the answer for a few hours, or even days, then ask her again.
• Also ask her to take a look at how she responded to you when you discovered the party. Was she belligerent ("Damn, I got caught") or sorry ("What have I done")?
The more you can help predict situations, the more equipped your kids will be. Play the game of "What If," before something happens. And get them to come up with solutions on their own.
Most of all, you want to spend time talking. As for consequences, ask them, "What do you think we should do? What do you think would be fair?"