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I must admit to taking some comfort from this article I came across on the IOL Babynet website a while ago when I found myself relating to the awful behaviour described, as dished out by teens to their moms.

While things have been pretty steady and calm of late, I have had to deal with broken doors and stuff before! And yes, when they are much bigger than you, extremely unpredictable and sometimes volatile, it can get a little hairy. What do you do?

If you are at the end of your tether living with a teenager that’s driving you potty, then this book may be worth getting …

Before Your Teenagers Drive You Crazy, Read This!
Nigel Latta (HarperCollins).

By Carroll du Chateau, New Zealand Herald

Imagine you are a single mother, with a 14-year-old son whose bedroom is a tip. During one argument over mouldy toast under the bed, he punches a hole in the wall. He is so bad-tempered and unpredictable you’re secretly slightly scared of him. What do you do?

“Not easy”, says clinical psychologist, Nigel Latta. “But do-able.”

The first thing to realise is that teenagers have outgrown their brains. Their judgment is faulty. Most of the time they’re driven by hormones and physical triggers that mean they are not in control of either their minds or their bodies. “If you take teenagers seriously they can be terribly hurtful,” he says. “I spend a lot of time explaining to parents that though their child is looking more and more like an adult he’s still a long way from being there. So when he starts saying ‘I hate you’, and ‘you’re a f&*%ing b*tch’, you shouldn’t take it seriously.”

“It doesn’t excuse the behaviour but if you can understand it, it doesn’t freak you out, scare you or hurt you quite as much.”

“Once you have calmed down”, he says, “take control of the situation. Be the adult. Act confident. Above all, don’t get emotionally involved no matter how much they taunt you.”

Latta recommends watching the parenting style of silverback gorillas on Youtube to get a feel for how laid-back you need to be. And true, after a few minutes of watching the silverbacks mooch around on their knuckles, chew leaves, twirl with joy to the spray of a hose, play with their babies and deal the odd swipe when they need to, you start to get the idea.’

The next step is to follow the detailed instructions in his new book, Before Your Teenagers Drive You Crazy, Read This!

If this all sounds way over-the-top it is important to realise that 40-year-old Latta has a string of qualifications in both private and government-related counselling that stretches to 18 years of dealing with many of this country’s nastiest, rudest, worst-behaved children and teenagers.

Latta’s methods have a chime of clear, workable sense – both for the model nuclear family (two parents, plus 2.1 children), single parents with grouchy, angry, physically imposing offspring, down to kids so dysfunctional they end up before the courts.

Latta believes the key to effective parenting is good communication coupled with robotic disengagement – remaining removed and dispassionate no matter how your teenagers act up.

You also need to teach your children cause and effect. “Which”, says Latta, “includes punishment, even if it isn’t fashionable.” As he says, positive reinforcement alone does not work. “If you look at youth and the increasing number of kids who don’t give a monkey’s about things like restorative justice and family group conferences, we should all be worried.

“What we have to do is work out the difference between punishment and being punitive,” he says. As he sees it, being punitive isn’t effective. Punishment, on the other hand, makes it uncomfortable for kids to keep on doing bad things – and is vital. “Punishment remains an effective way to change behaviour,” he writes. “Give them reasons to be good by all means. But we must also give them reasons not to be bad! Effective punishment means people have to sit down and do the maths – and work out why it doesn’t add up to keep on offending.”

So back to that out-of-control 14-year-old. How do you snap the circuit and make him behave?

As Latta said at the beginning, it may not be easy, but it is perfectly do-able. “And,” he adds, “it is complicated. You really do need to read the book!”

Not easy? Complicated? You’re not kidding!

OK, so his whole interview adds up to one big sales pitch, which may send up a red flag. But seriously, if you’re struggling and feeling completely defeated, then you might want to give this book a chance.

No – I am not part part of some affiliate scheme, nor do I get any payment for writing this (or any other post for that matter).