Violent Behavior in Teenage Daughter
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Violent Behavior in Teenage Daughter

"My 14-year-old daughter hit me when I confronted her about yelling at her siblings. I am frightened. What can I do to avoid a future confrontation?"

Does Your Teen Need Help?

Q. "I am a single mother of four and I have a 14-year-old daughter. Recently we got into a disagreement about her yelling at her twin sisters. She became angry and threw her desk stool at me. I yelled and told her that she will not receive anything else until she can respect her things and other people. She responded by hitting and kicking me and telling me that she hates me. I can handle her saying that she hates me. I know that kids will say things when they are upset. But I am afraid that if she feels she can hit me, it is only a matter of time before she tries something worse. What can I do to avoid a similar future confrontation?"

A. If this recent attack at home was an isolated incident, drop it. However, if your daughter regularly -- say, once a week -- becomes physical with you or her siblings, seek professional help. You alone cannot stop her angry or aggressive ways, especially if they have become a pattern. A counselor can provide objective advice to help your daughter channel her anger. If you are able, see a counselor together; doing so will help you identify whatever communication problems are leading to these outbursts. However, if she refuses to go with you, consider individual counseling sessions. Do not attempt to quell this behavior on your own. When she has an outburst, do not try to reason with her at that moment. In a quiet moment, let your daughter know that you're concerned about her behavior and that you'll do whatever you can to help her manage this abusive behavior. Remember, your goal is to help your daughter learn to manage anger without becoming physically and verbally violent. What follows are suggestions to help you address your daughter's out-of-control behavior.

Teenage Rage

It's important to understand that teens are on an emotional roller coaster. One minute they're charming and controlled, the next minute they're ranting and raving over a seemingly minor offense, such as a sibling using a favorite comb. Such behavior is normal and to be expected, to some degree. If your daughter yells at her twin sisters, and it is typical grouchy sibling banter, let it pass. However, if it is mean-spirited or verbally hurtful, step in -- calmly -- and let all parties know that you love them and that you won't allow one child to hurt another, either with words or actions. Before you try to address the situation, give everyone -- including yourself -- time to cool off. Then regroup later in a different setting and discuss the incident further.

Respond Don't React

When a teen shifts into high gear with anger-related behavior, the parent needs to shift into low gear. You can't put down anger with anger; you'll only aggravate the situation. Instead, use this opportunity to set an example for your daughter by responding calmly to a volatile situation. Additionally, you can't stop her physical attacks by punishing her. Telling her she will not receive anything until she starts respecting people and property is vague, ineffective, and it may only serve to further enrage her. If a child is ready to strike you or throw an object, move away. Follow the example of boxers in the ring when the bell sounds: Go to opposite corners. Or better yet, leave the room so that everyone can cool off. An angry child will usually stomp off to her room to either sulk or regain control. Eventually, the incident passes. When calmer, cooler heads preside, ask your child what is going on and spend some quiet time talking it over with her.