Foster parents have the opportunity of being role models for teens. When an argument is about to break out, remember the following: 

Never shout, yell, or raise your voice at a child or teen. There is no point in arguing or have great arguments with a child or a teen. This only escalates the issue and brings the parent down to the level of the child. Yelling is not only a poor strategy but it also is a violation of the children's right to be discipline with dignity and without embarrassment. This is a violation of California regulations and will result in an investigation by Community Care Licensing.  

Do not take it personal. Remember that all children and teens who are in foster care have experienced trauma. Trauma affects their emotional, mental, and behavioral health. When confronted with a teen who is argumentative, keep your cool and do not take it personal. When the teen curses, is rude, or even says things that appear to be “disrespectful”, remember that it is not the teen, it is the trauma manifesting itself. 

Other strategies to keep in mind based on recommendations in Psychology Today, a well known journal: 

Realize that your teen is struggling. The argument is her way of dealing with something that is bothering her. Think of this as though she were a 3-year-old who is tired and melting down in Wal-Mart about checkout candy. You wouldn't go ballistic; you'd know that it is about her—she is tired. So when she ramps up, tell yourself this is not about me but her. She is struggling. Be compassionate. 

Realize that she can't win. This where parents have trouble. They feel that by not pushing back when their teen gets upset, the teen is winning. She can't. After all is said and done, you still have the power and the larger community will back you up (about going to school, not staying out late, etc.). 

Stop and listen. As soon as you can tell that this is turning into a power struggle, that you are getting too out-of-control, that the conversation is going off-course, shut up. The problem is no longer what you are talking about but rather the emotion in the room. You need to put out the emotional fire, and you can do that by being quiet and listening. 

Your teen will ramp up. This is to be expected. If you suddenly start arguing and get quiet, nod your head, say, "It seems you're upset," you are changing the pattern and your teen will invariably do something to pull you back in the fight: get more angry, say something disrespectful, bring up something from the past. Resist the challenge. 

Continue to actively listen. I know, you are upset. This is not the time for lectures, ultimatums, attempts to solve the problem—the rational brain has shut down and it's all about emotion. Stick to putting out the fire. If you don't feed the fire, your teen will begin to settle down. 

Mop up. Problem solved. Once your teen is emotionally flat-lined, go back and talk. "Let's try this again: What are you so upset about? I know you're upset that you can't go out Saturday night." Stay calm. Solve the problem, restate your request and your intention behind it. If it ramps up again go back to listening.


Was this article helpful?