Monday, June 17, 2024

Doctor Love: Going Crazy


Readers email your question to [email protected]. Your letters are edited solely for grammar, spelling and length.

Dear Doctor Love,
I have two girls; one is fourteen and one is twelve. The older girl is quiet and responsible, so I allow her to go places and do things that the younger girl isn’t allowed to do. The youngest gets really angry and she acts out. She throws tantrums when her sister is allowed to go to the park on Friday evening and she can’t go. She screams and throws things because her sister got a cell phone and she didn’t.
I’ve told her she acts like a brat. How do I make her act right?
/s/Going Crazy

Dear Going Crazy,
Welcome to adolescence, a drama-filled, emotionally draining daily challenge of how to make a preteen do anything they don’t want to do. Perhaps you didn’t go through this with your oldest daughter, but now you have to learn a different way to respond to your youngest.
You will not be able to treat them the same as one is excitable and responsive while the other is laid-back and easy going. You have to change your strategy.
Don’t tell your daughter that you don’t like her when she acts out—it sends a very negative message. You always like her, you always love her no matter what she does, right? It is her reactionary behavior that makes it difficult for you.
Tell her you understand that she is angry, you understand that she wants to do things her sister does. Every child feels that way at that age. It hurts when she sees other girls doing what she wants to do. These kinds of responses from you show that you are on her side even though you disagree with her. Being an understanding parent is more effective than being a controlling one.
Now that you have told her that you understand how she feels she can trust that you will listen to her without her needing to get angry and throw a tantrum.
Hear her out then quietly explain that while you do understand, you still do not accept her behavior. She isn’t showing you that she can be responsible to handle more freedom when she is shouting and slamming doors.
Give her a goal, a date when she will be able to have a cell phone or go to the park. Spend a half hour together every evening and write a diary of the day’s events. Praise her when she modifies her angry response and show her the progress she has made. Take her to the park for an hour when she has had a good week. When the date comes when she can have a cell phone you will be able to look through the diary and reinforce her accomplishments.
Develop dialogue now and it will make the next few years easier for both of you.

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