Is your teenage son quick to be angry?
Are you also quick to respond back?
There is a way to turn down the heat.
Your 13-year-old son’s room looks destroyed. You stop him in the kitchen and tell him he cannot go to the skateboard park this afternoon until he’s cleaned up his room. The war is on! Dopamine, a brain chemical, is raging through his brain screaming at him to make his opinion known and make sure he wins this conversation with you. It happens fast and catches you off guard. What are your options?
- Demand that he do what you tell him to do.
- Threaten more punishment if he keeps arguing with you.
- Angrily walk away.
These unexpected outbursts from your adolescent can be jolting. Your parent-instinct is to fight back. You think to yourself that you are the parent and he needs to do what you say. In the past, when he was younger, this worked. It is likely not to work now.
In the heat of the moment in a conflict with your adolescent, the best option is to use a consistent phrase to get you out of the situation. An example could be “Let me think about this.” Or “I will get back to you in a few minutes.” And then you leave the volatile moment and give time for your emotions and his emotions to calm down. The situation is only going to get worse if you also become emotional.
Why is this important? Does it mean that you are compromising your parental authority?
Adolescents in this age group are experiencing a rapid time of brain development. Their brain is preparing them for independence. You are getting caught in the brain chemistry revolution. Dopamine is a real brain chemical and it is pushing these adolescents to win every fight. By calming the situation and then approaching it with more of a negotiating position, you have a better chance of winning over the dopamine effect.
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