• Dealing With Challenging Behaviors in Your Teenager—Mighty Parenting 216 with Dr Karin Jakubowski

  • challenging behaviors

    Is your teen trampling over your last nerve? Do you get tired of constantly feeling like the disciplinarian, where your relationship with your teen gets more strained by the day? Dr. Karin Jakubowski knows how that feels, and she joins Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler in discussing how to deal with challenging behaviors in our teens. We learn how to stay calm, how to be patient, how to interpret those behaviors, how to connect, and how to strengthen that strained relationship.

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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    When your teen displays a challenging behavior it means there’s either a problem to be solved or a skill to be taught.

    High Points From Our Conversation on Challenging Behaviors:

    Quote about challenging behaviors

    Challenging behaviors are anything your child struggles with. They’re any kind of disruptive behavior that you don’t know how to navigate or deal with effectively as a parent.

    When dealing with challenging behaviors, the connection tends to break down. Parents feel shame, anger, frustration and other difficult feelings. Whatever you say to your kid in that moment, they aren’t in a state of mind where they’re going to learn from that.

    Stop. Take a deep breath, or two or three. Get calm and in control of your own body before you react or address their behavior. If you can’t do it right then, then let them know, I’m very upset right now, so I’m not sure what we’re going to do about how you’re acting, but we will discuss it later. 

    Let your teen sit. If they’re breaking down, don’t look at them. Give them space to calm down on their own. In the same vein as calming yourself down, you look like you need time to calm down, so take that time. We will still discuss your behavior, but we’ll discuss it later.

    Both of you being relatively calm and in control are key pieces to managing their behavior and your relationship. It allows you to think about the situation more clearly and fairly, and if you’re calm and not visibly angry or annoyed, your teen feels safer taking a risk and possibly sharing what’s really bothering them (even if it might not seem like a big deal to you).

    Your child will mirror you. If they don’t want to talk now, let them have space but come back to it later, whether that’s two days or 30 minutes: I’ve noticed you haven’t been yourself lately. What’s up with that? If they don’t know or act like they don’t know, try asking them, If you did know, what would you say? And give them a minute to realize you and the space are safe for them to share what’s really going on.

    Generally when your teen is exhibiting challenging behaviors, it means there’s either a problem they can’t deal with or a skill they don’t have yet but need.

    Parents can try calmly taking a conscious breath. Take three deep breaths; use your fingers and do ball breaths or finger breaths. Model these and teach them to your child. You can both use this to recognize when one of you needs a mindful moment, and step away.

    Remember to give them choices, only on things that they’re okay with. Allow them a sense of control when everything around them feels out of control. Ask questions: You look calm and in control of your body. Are you ready to talk now? Or, you don’t look calm and in control of your body. Do you need a few minutes?

    Saying less is best for your teen to get in touch with that state where they’re actually thinking clearly and can clearly talk and respond to what you’re saying without all the emotion muddling everything.

    If your teen is still showing challenging behaviors but is very calm while doing them… As long as they’re not hurting themselves or are a danger to others, let them have space, and check in periodically—they’ll tell you if they’re ready to talk or not.

    Whenever that talk happens—maybe dinner or a club meeting gets in the way—come back around to that behavior with the questions ready: I noticed earlier that you were [fill in behavior here]. What was going on with that? Why were you doing that?

    There are moments in life where you don’t have time for this process. You may have to say, this is how it is, and this is what we’re doing. It’s hard, but sometimes you have to just make a decision on the spot, and later follow up with, I noticed that you were doing/being X/Y/Z. What was up with that?

    Going back to the issues behind challenging behaviors being either a problem that your teen doesn’t know how to deal with, or a skill they don’t have but need. When you don’t have time initially to wait your teen out and just make a snap decision, you can still revisit the situation later.

    For example, you go back later in the day or after school. Say, Hey, you know I noticed, it was really tough to get out the door this morning. You couldn’t find your socks or you didn’t want to wear that sweatshirt, what was up what’s up with that? Just pick one of those. Don’t give them too many things to think about. And eventually they will open up to help us figure out, oh, we need to learn something about time management, or getting outfits laid out for school, or it might show that there’s a problem there. 

    So what can we do to solve that problem? Actually ask them that and wait it out. The pause might be uncomfortable, but you’re really getting them to think and become thinking problem solvers. And this is a skill they will need for the rest of their lives.

    Knowing how to calm ourselves and also teaching our kids how to calm themselves makes all of our work as parents so much better. And eventually the challenging behaviors start to dissipate and the connection grows.

    It might take a while to change things, because things have to change on both ends of the relationship, but even if it takes a long time, you’re not bringing any harm to that relationship anymore. You’re beginning to grow more connections. Eventually your teen will see that you’re honoring and respecting them in whatever they’re feeling.

    If they harm someone, ask, what can you do to make this right? Put it on them to think and ponder and figure out, how can I fix this relationship that got broken? But also keep in mind (for the receiving party who got hurt) that there are myriad ways to show you’re sorry beyond simply saying the words. If they come up with a sincere apology, you need to accept it, even if it doesn’t include explicitly saying, “I’m sorry.”

    Many times, then things our kids think of while problem-solving are things we would have never thought of. They had a problem that they weren’t solving and now they just come up with the tools to solve it. It’s a difficult but empowering process. 


    Teen Behavior: Punishment vs Discipline vs Problem Solving | Cindy Kaplan | Episode 31

    Mindfulness In Parenting | iBme | Episode 130

    Handling Challenging Behavior In Teenagers | Christine Abrahams | Episode 162

    Connecting With Your Teenager | Courtney Conley | Episode 185

    Our Guest Dr. Karin Jakubowski:

    Dr. Karin Jakubowski discusses challenging behaviors

    Dr. Jakubowski is a well-respected international influencer on helping kids live happier, healthier lives. She has touched the lives of thousands of families in multiple states with her ability to connect and help kids experience success from challenging behaviors. With a doctorate in Educational Leadership, and nearly 20  years of experience in education as a teacher, assistant principal and principal, she is highly regarded as an educational gamechanger. Her insights have been featured in various media outlets including The Washington Times and Delaware State News and heard in multiple speaking engagements internationally such as the National Principals Conference and as far-reaching as India. She has been a featured guest on podcasts in Canada, Australia and the UK. As an empowerment coach, she provides a framework for parents who feel helpless when their child is experiencing challenging problems at school or home to experience the happy life they always dreamed of having through utilizing her revolutionary problem-solving approach.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://www.educationalimpactacademy.com.

    From Sandy:

    It’s easier to listen and connect with your teenager when you are calm. Grab Sandy’s complimentary lesson on finding calm at https://sandyfowler.com