Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Adolescent Lessons: How to Handle Teens

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Adolescent Lessons: How to Handle Teens

Article excerpt

YOU'VE ALLOWED your young teen to air her grievances. You've negotiated and compromised. You've used "I messages" that convey your concerns constructively. But your adolescent is still doing something you find unacceptable.

What do you do now?

Discipline is a big concern for parents of fifth through ninth graders, according to a national study conducted by the Search Institute, a Minneapolis-based research group.

Of 11,000 parents surveyed, 38 percent of mothers and 40 percent of fathers said they worry about discipline "very much" or "quite a bit." Learning how to discipline effectively can alleviate this concern, experts in early adolescence say.

Many parents try to change their teens' behavior by coercion: depriving kids of something they want without regard to the fairness of that consequence, yelling, striking or threatening to strike.

Moms and dads tend to use these methods more often with boys than girls, the Search Institute has found. Unfortunately, experts say, coercive discipline tends to foster anger and resentment that can worsen teens' behavior and cause aggression toward siblings and peers. Coercion also encourages early adolescents to lie to parents about their actions.

Psychologist Peter Scales, senior fellow at the Search Institute, observes, "Hitting doesn't help anything. Nothing will distance you more from your adolescent. All research shows that physical punishment lowers self-esteem and makes kids more aggressive."

Some parents try to manipulate early adolescents' behavior by pouting, expressing disappointment, acting unfriendly, or giving their kids the "silent treatment."

In the Search Institute study, about 30 percent of the 8,000 teens surveyed said their parents use these methods "often" or "very often." Experts say those discipline techniques tend to produce guilt and make kids wonder whether their parents really love them.

Some moms and dads insult their young teens for transgressions, making them feel like failures. …

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