Now parents go to school – to learn how to deal with moody teenagers

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MIDDLE-CLASS parents are being offered classes in how to cope with the tantrums and mood-swings of their teenage children.

A six-week course in East Renfrewshire aims to give parents hints and tips on tackling and containing youthful rebellion.

Nicola Hanvey, the course tutor, said a key aspect was to remember that everyone was young once.

She said: "Parents come feeling they are struggling with their teenager's behaviour.

"But, during the session, they reflect back on their own teenage behaviour and it surprises them that it is fairly similar to what their children are doing now."

During the first few sessions, the "students" are talked through the job of parenting a teenager and through typical situations encountered.

Then teenage behaviour is divided into three categories:

&#149 Teenage irresponsibility – when youngsters seem to be rebellious but in fact are just distracted and absent-minded.

&#149 Teenage development – the moody and uncommunicative behaviour associated with hormonal and physical changes.

&#149 Challenge to authority – deliberately refusing to act on instructions.

Mrs Hanvey said: "There will be situations where there is a blatant challenge to authority, when a young person just refuses to do something a parent or teacher has asked. But it is far less common than we imagine. By far the smallest category is the challenge to authority.

"It reassures parents that probably the teenagers are not as bad as they initially thought."

She said teenagers were often so preoccupied with peer pressure and trying to fit in that they lost track of time, rather than deliberately refusing to return home at the right hour.

The council course, which is open to all parents of teenagers in the area, will run one afternoon a week in a community hall in Newton Mearns from Tuesday. Classes will take the form of group work, with "students" discussing possible and actual scenarios.

East Renfrewshire Council hopes eventually to run the courses throughout the year across the local authority area.

Mrs Hanvey advocates agreeing house rules with your teenagers – and the consequences if they are broken.

She said: "That allows parents to stay in control and gives young people the opportunity to know their boundaries. We can't wave a magic wand – the course doesn't have a list of quick fixes which are going to solve the difficulties they are facing with their teenagers' behaviour.

"But it is about understanding what the young person is going through and looking for ways to build a relationship."

Aileen Hutcheon, from Giffnock, said the course had been a great help in understanding her 13-year-old son, Grant.

She said: " There was a lot of stuff I already knew, but there was a lot of helpful advice with the added benefit of meeting people.

"Sometimes, you just feel you wish you had handled a situation differently. It makes you realise there is no such thing as the perfect parent or the perfect teenager."

Judith Gillespie, the policy development manager of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said: "The most helpful thing for parents is to talk to other parents who are in the same position and find that they are not alone. It helps to know that teenagers go through these phases and that it hits everyone."

SO HOW GOOD A PARENT ARE YOU?

TRY OUR LIGHT-HEARTED QUIZ

1 You've told your teenager to be home by 9pm but they are late. They are not answering their mobile.

Do you: a) pace the floor, furiously devising a punishment and rehearsing an angry speech on their eventual return?

b) call the police and report them missing as they might have been kidnapped?

c) consider they might just have lost track of time because someone they fancy got chatting to them?

2 Your teenager calls from the local swimming pool demanding you drive down there because she has forgotten her costume.

Do you: a) shout at her because she managed to remember her hair straighteners, hairspray, mobile phone and make-up but wasn't organised enough to remember the most important item?

b) drive down with the costume – after all, teenagers have so much on their minds to think about with social pressures it's understandable?

c) agree to take it but warn her you won't always be able to help out and suggest she makes a list in future?

3 Your son doesn't take the rubbish out, which is his usual chore.

Do you: a) call him irresponsible and ground him for a month until he learns to do what he's told.

b) let him off because he usually does it without being prompted, and it is really tough being a teenager.

c) remind him he has broken a house rule and that means he will have to forego an hour on his computer as you agreed when you made up the rules?

4 Your teenager stumbles home drunk and late.

Do you: a) accuse him of being an alcoholic, ground him for life and scream at him that he is throwing his life away?

b) offer him a nightcap – after all, it's safer for him to drink where you can keep an eye on him?

c) remember that you sampled alcohol as a teenager under pressure from your peers and sit him down for an informed chat on drinking?

5 Your teenager refuses to do his homework on the kitchen table as usual, something you both agreed he would do.

Do you a) warn him he is throwing away all the opportunities you never had and he'll end up a waster?

b) let him flounce off to his bedroom because the pressure of exams must take a lot out of the poor darling?

c) ask him why he doesn't want to do it in front of you and investigate whether he may be having a problem with his school work about which he is embarrassed?

6 You have left your teenager home alone all day and you know you will be confronted with a scene of dirty dishes and mess when you get through the door.

Do you a) work yourself up into such a fury at his laziness that you are screaming in frustration before you are even over the doorstep?

b) don't say a word, seething inside as you collect the dirty mugs while he watches TV?

c) ask how his day went and offer him a cup of tea, asking him to bring all the dirty dishes into the kitchen while you put the kettle on?

7 Your teenager refuses to answer your questions, speaks in uncommunicative grunts and flies off the handle that "he never asked to be born", at the slightest aggravation?

Do you a) yell that he used to be such a lovely child and now he has turned into a monster?

b) ignore him and concentrate on your younger children, hoping they will turn out better?

c) realise that it's just a phase he is going through caused by excessive hormones released by puberty and that he will grow out of it?

8 A parent of one of your teenager's friends tries to engage you in discussion about your children and how to cope.

Do you a) offer her tips on how you deal with your child and how she can be a perfect parent just like you?

b) declare confidently your child is an absolute angel and you don't understand what all this talk is of troublesome teens?

c) swap hints and tips for dealing with situations and ask her if she really lets her child stay out as late as he likes?

ANSWERS

MOSTLY As – You are being too tough. Try to think back to what life was like for you as a teenager.

MOSTLY Bs – Too soft. You are misguided and indulgent.

MOSTLY Cs – Well done. You must have undergone the teenager parenting course.