Teenagers and Parenting Out of Control 1

Can violent or verbally abusive parental behavior occurring during attempted discipline be considered as morally sound or effective? This type of parental response generally triggers withdrawal or counter hostility from the teen. He/she may feel violated, even when he/she agrees that the behavior is wrong.

Teenagers and Parenting Out of Control? Part 1

By Dr. Coach Love 

Our children are 6, 8, and 10 and easy to parent.  We know families with teens who are struggling.  For example, our neighbor and former babysitter (now 17) is a good kid — honor student, polite and works part-time.  His frustrated parents admitted recently they took away his cell phone, car, and rummaged through all his drawers.  They yelled and cursed, broke down his bedroom door, grounded him— even from sports.  He hardly speaks to them and looks miserable.  His dad is angry because he’s lying and sneaking out of the house. Both parents are worried and suspect he is sexually active or drinking.  We probably don’t know the whole story, but is it right for parents to behave like that? It seems like they are out of control.We almost dread when ours grow up.  Is there anything we can do to prevent such a bad scene in our family?


There are three primary perspectives from which to decide whether the parents’ behavior toward their son is “right”: legally, morally, and/or as healthy, effective discipline. 


Laws are in place to help protect children from physical abuse.  Additionally, parents do not have unlimited leeway to disrupt their child’s privacy or other rights in pursuit of discipline. Even children do have some rights.  Whether these parents had the legal right to intrude on their son’s privacy/restrict his freedoms in the way you describe, is a question for legal professionals. 


From a moral standpoint, however, parents often violate their own values when they discipline. Some lose control. The more angry and afraid parents become when they feel their child’s behavior is wrong or creating self-harm, the greater the chance they behave impulsively. They might act out, yell, curse, name call, impose unreasonable and unproductive restrictions, or produce a climate of emotional abuse. So how can violent or verbally abusive parental behavior similar to this occurring during attempted discipline be considered as morally sound actions?


This type of parental response generally triggers withdrawal or counter hostility.  The teen may feel violated, even when he/she agrees that the behavior is wrong. 


In terms of whether this parental behavior is right on target for healthy and effective discipline, the answer is NO. 


When parents angrily strip an adolescent of all privileges, intrude on privacy, disrespect personal belongings, and loudly voice moral mandates for behavior, communication disintegrates. 

Without communication, parents cannot discipline or influence in the direction they feel is best. As parents lose emotional control, they throw away their opportunity to be heard or influence behavior.  When parents manage their own feelings and actions, they gain influence and credibility with adolescents. 


In my next column, I will provide parent coaching tips to consider using with your children now.  These tips are designed to improve communication and strengthen your influence with your children before they reach adolescence.


What do you think? Check back for more options. 

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 


Dr. Coach Love


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