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Your Parenting Questions Answered

by Allison Livingston, 5 Steps to Connect 

Parent Question: "The Dealing with your strong willed teen blog had great information, thank you! I want to know what to do if my angry teen hits me or their brother?"

Answer: Job number one is to keep everyone safe. If there is any dangerous physical aggression, as carefully as possible, block their arms and say, “I can’t let you hurt me/them. I see you feel angry and frustrated. I get it. I believe you. I want to understand more. And my job is to keep you and everyone else safe.”

This can be super traumatic. Especially if they are almost as big or bigger than you are.

If everyone is currently safe, say, "I'll be right back, I need to take a minute and regulate my system." Or if too volatile, do this in front of them to model re-setting. Somatic re-set ideas: wash your hands, take 5 deep belly breaths, go outside and observe a bird or a bug or a tree, bounce on your toes, tapping various parts of your body, hum your favorite song.

Why this crucial step to reset your nervous system? So it feels safe again.

It’s better not to talk when everyone is in a reactive threat state. Until both you AND them are breathing normally, heart rate is stable, fists are un-clenched, and tension has drained, words won't be helpful. They aren't receptive yet to support or learning.

Once you do reset and regain the felt experience that they are good inside, let them know hitting isn’t how you resolve differences. That you know something must really matter to them and you want to understand. That you know they are a good kid so something must be going on underneath. That you’d like to talk about this more once everyone has had time to regulate their bodies. 

If others are involved, the challenge is to NOT take sides nor assume you know what happened. A relationship isn’t something to be fixed or right about. It’s more convoluted and making them wrong or saying it's their fault only makes them feel ashamed and less able to reset. They are kids learning how to relate.

Parent Question: "Boy I wish my parents had known all this when I was a teen. So what if the stormy mood, explosive anger episode takes over an hour or more time than I have?"

Answer: That sounds like a hard situation for you to navigate. And surprisingly common. It almost always takes longer than you want it to, no matter how many minutes it actually lasts. It can feel like forever, especially in public, with the thought that others may be judging you. And when your teen is loud or aggressive, it will probably feel immediately triggering to you.

So what can you do?

S.T.O.P. to connect. Give yourself a TON of compassion and kindness. You aren’t a bad parent. They aren’t a bad kid. You are both in a tough situation. 

  • You could say, ‘I get something really matters to you. I believe you. I'm on your side. I can see this sucks for you.’ 

  • Remind yourself, ‘They are not a problem, we are facing a problem together.’ 

  • They are upset and having a hard time too. 'You aren't alone in this. It won't last forever.' 

  • Notice: This is triggering my old stuff. She needs my support just like I wish I’d had back when I was her age.

  • Key: it is not the intense emotions that are the issue, it's feeling alone in them is awful.

  • Rub your arm as a gesture of support. 

Parent Question: "So many times I show up reasonable and centered and she still acts like a she-devil. What if talking to her doesn’t work and she gets more angry?" (several parents asked this)

Answer: I can’t tell you how many times I thought I nailed the compassionate, heartfelt connecting-with-my-angry-daughter talk, only to have it enrage her more. 

So discouraging isn’t it? Confusing. Aggravating!

Remind yourself: their anger and upset is not about you, nor how good a parent you are. 

It’s still about them. 

Their behavior is telling you they still have more upset underneath the hood. They have more anger energy to release. They need more time and space to move through it.

Clear, honest communication is more important than ‘doing it right’ for these strong willed kids. So you may need to say something like, “Wow. This is intense. I know you don’t mean to take it out on me, but that’s what it’s feeling like on my end. I’ll do my part and not take anything personally. How can I support you or do you want to go outside and walk it off? I want to listen, but I won’t be a target.”

Often my daughter didn't want to talk about it, didn't want words. She just needed time and space to resettle her nervous system and let it drain through. She did want me to check on her and sometimes just rub her back or arm in silence. To not feel alone in her pain.

Tap out and take a break if you need to. Take in some micro self care to stay balanced.

Anger means something matters and it's not over until it is. Often it is 22 emotional hurts piled up from friends and school and things not going their way all rolled into one and you are the lucky lightning rod. Hang in there!  

Parent Question: "I'm a I-want-to-do-this-right perfectionist type Mom, do you have to practice S.T.O.P. in this order for it to work?"

Answer: Great question, no you do not need to do them in order. The order doesn’t matter as much as showing up as a teammate and validating their emotions. The S.T.O.P. is a support system that’s worked for me and many parents and educators to interrupt old patterns that don’t work (telling them they are wrong...telling them what they should do...telling them what not to do...telling them to 'get perspective'... fixing their problem...disapproving of them...blaming them...) and reminding you to show up curious, with the goal to support both yourself and them.  

The one thing to hold on to:

If you only remember one thing, I hope it’s that strong willed teens aren’t wrong or bad. They aren't meaning to trigger us or manipulate us or piss us off. They are trying to meet their needs. Often all they can grab is unskillful, triggering strategies due to their nature and brain development. 

So have compassion for both yourself and your kid as you navigate this time in your life; the relationship is more important than whatever happened; it's not personal.


Are you feeling frustrated? Stuck in old patterns? Angry and yelling at your kid, then feeling guilty? Take action. Don't stay in these old patterns a moment longer. Learn a quick win and how to set boundaries that actually work! Schedule your free coaching session today to get unstuck and experience relief.


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