Repeated feelings of discontent and victimization can become a person’s normal response to life

Published 10:07 am Monday, June 6, 2016

QUESTION: Is it best to ignore “eye-rolling” responses from my teenagers?

RESPONSE: Rather than get into a power struggle with our teens, we often choose to sigh and ignore the teenage sneer, roll of the eyes and muttered comment. The problem in allowing this behavior is that actions shape beliefs and attitudes. If anyone acts annoyed or offended often enough, feelings of discontent and victimization can become a person’s normal response to life.

Many teenagers love drama and they enjoy creating it. Kids use their negative power to get an upper hand with adults. Parents who become angry, lecture, or threaten lose in the power struggle. It’s also not helpful for parents to become doormats. So, what is the effective response to the nasty attitude?

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Doing your best to stay calm, try saying “I will know that you are really growing up when you can share your feelings without giving dirty looks or huffing. If you feel something I do is unfair, we can have a discussion a little later when both of us are calm.”

Then do have the discussion. When our kids are able to talk to us about how they feel, they are less likely to act these feelings out in nasty, disrespectful or irresponsible ways. Listening means showing we care about their opinions. We can listen carefully without agreeing. We can encourage and affirm healthy, maturing expressions of opinions and emotions.

Love and Logic psychologist Dr. Charles Fay suggests that when this negative attitude has become seriously habitual, wise parents consistently apply a rather generic consequence. “I allow or do (something the teenager values) as long as my energy is not being drained by dirty looks.” Then expect a respectful interaction before putting your energy into the next thing your teen wants or needs from you.

To talk with a parenting specialist about the challenges in child-raising, call the toll-free Parent WarmLine at 1-888-584-2204/Línea de Apoyo at 1-877-434-9528. For free emergency child care call Crisis Nursery at 1-877-434-9599. Check out Love and Logic resources at the PRC Specialty Library (105 First Street SE, Austin) and the website