My daughter has a bad temper

Dear Counsellor,

I am a single mother with two children - a boy and girl. We have been a very happy family, but my 12-year-old daughter has out of nowhere developed a very bad temper lately. However, she has not always been like this. Growing up, she was this calm and peaceful child I was proud of but her behaviour is now an issue of concern. Her teachers tell me that at school she is well-behaved and this has even left me more confused. Is there something I am not doing right as a parent? Does her erratic temperament have anything to do with her age? Please advise me on how I can handle this situation because it is beginning to worry me that I could lose her.

Pauline

Dear Pauline

In everybody’s growth cycle, it’s common that a period between 11 to 20 years of age is without a doubt one of the most chaotic periods of our human existence. During this time, our bodies and minds go through many complex changes. These changes are marked by overwhelming and often uncontrollable emotions, lack of judgment, poor impulse control and high-risk behaviours. Every teenage child faces emotional difficulties from time to time and your 12 year old daughter is no exception to this life change. During this period, the part of your child’s brain responsible for impulse control, decision-making, planning and organisation begins to develop intensely. As a result, your teenage daughter is now ruled by her emotions anger overloads and often incapable of responding in mature and reasonable ways. It’s in this context that your daughter is now exploring her world and learning to adapt to the varied demands of the family and the world at large yet her behaviour makes both of you feel frustrated, angry and out
of control. During this stage, conflicts between you and your teenage daughter will always be inevitable as she struggles to develop her own identity. These are normal changes in behaviour due to growth and development.

Fortunately, even when these teenage years are challenging, chaotic and just plain crazy, they won’t last forever and this should provide countless opportunities for you to connect with your daughter in a loving and healthy ways. The key factor in working with an angry child is patience and practice. What your teenage daughter needs most is for you to model reason, logic and objectivity and not anger, frustration and intolerance. However, when you recognise that your daughter’s behaviour has surpassed the boundary of what all teenagers do and has become sufficiently alarming to warrant a formal evaluation, some behaviour modification mechanism should be in place to help motivate the child to offer an alternative behaviour that is more socially acceptable than an angry reaction. The best way is to listen, talk and educate at a suitable time when she’s not blowing up, and you’re not either. In listening without responding or reacting while the outburst is going on, you are teaching your teenager that emotions
are manageable and need not rule your lives. She’s likely to listen to what you do far more than what you say. Harsh or angry responses tend to escalate a child’s aggression, be it verbal or physical. Therefore, by staying calm and positive, you’re modelling and teaching your daughter the type of behaviour you want to see in her.

Similarly, Ignore negative behaviour and lavish only behaviours you want to encourage. You should also endeavour to notice gradual improvements towards the goal of self-control rather than feeling defeated if there is not an immediate change. Internal mechanisms for self-control can be learned by the child gradually as she steps out of adolescence. Please don’t lose hope in her and she’ll soon turn out the most composed and laid back adult lady with whom you’ll be proud being her mother and role model.

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NEXT WEEK’S PROBLEM

Is my husband cheating on me?

Dear Counsellor,

I think my husband has another woman outside marriage. Recently, he has developed a habit of coming back home late, something he never used to do before. He keeps saying it’s because of the work related meetings. On top of that, he doesn’t eat well even when I prepare his favourite dishes. When I ask, he gives an excuse of being tired. I have a feeling he is cheating on me and that could be the reason for all this. I need help; could it be that I am imagining things? What should I do?

Mary