Survival Strategies for Parents: What to Do When Your Teen's "Evil Twin" is in Charge

By: Michele Timmons

Sometimes parenting a teenager makes me feel like I am raising a "good twin" and an "evil twin", or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Generally speaking, when a teenager's "evil side" takes charge—a snippy remark or the rolling of the eyes—it simply means they are going through a stage in life. In other words, it's normal. They are spreading their wings and learning to fly. It's important for them to push away from us because it helps us prepare for them to leave the nest. I must say, there are days when I am definitely ready for my 17-year-old to fly the coop. While I am sure to miss him when he heads off to college in less than 12 months, I can feel the time is just about right, and I know he (and I) will be okay after he goes.

Just so you know, my family is chock-full of testosterone. I don’t have much personal experience handling teenage girls, so I reached out to a friend (who also happens to be raising "evil twins" at the moment) for advice on girls.

Here are (our) survival strategies for maintaining sanity when the “evil twin” is in charge.

  • Beware of Cujo. In the Stephen King novel, a friendly dog, Cujo contracts rabies and terrorizes a small town. If you start to see Cujo emerge—look out! When Cujo starts snarling, barking, and biting, it is next to impossible to communicate. No matter what you say, it’s wrong. I haven’t figured out a way to keep Cujo at bay, but here are some ways to keep him from biting:
  • Quit snarling back. When Cujo snarls, my first inclination is to snarl back. While it works in animal packs, this doesn’t work so well with teenagers. When a person is angry, worried, or afraid, their "thinking brain" shuts down and they will move into “fight or flight” mode. Snarling is fight mode. When we snarl back, we just fuel the fire. A calm and quiet (but firm) voice is a much more effective way to get a message across to an angry teen.

    Parenting Angry Teens, by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed. D., is a terrific resource to help parents better understand and manage angry teens. The advice she offers is real and practical. I especially like her suggestion to “take it seriously, but not personally.” This is a real challenge for parents because when kids are arguing with us, it feels personal.

  • Beware of teenage Anthrax. Anthrax is a bacteria naturally existing in the environment that has been turned into a biological weapon. Teenage Anthrax is pretty similar. In its natural state, teenage Anthrax manifests as just a little grumbling. But, on occasion, something—and it could be anything—combusts, and Anthrax (the biological weapon) becomes full and present. Fortunately, teenage Anthrax doesn't cause irreparable damage. It can usually be re-directed to its natural, grumbling state.
  • Remember: Laughter is the BEST medicine. I discovered that if I do something really goofy or silly, it often eases my teenager's tension and allows him to loosen up just a little. Just easing the tension gives him the chance to control his emotions better and he finds his true self again.
  • eHow.com has a great article called "How to Cheer Up a Moody Teenager". In this article, eHow Coordinator, Judy Ford offers great advice to help parents think of ways to connect with their kids without the old “What’s wrong? Nothing is wrong” routine. Check it out here.

  • Keep your teen SPARKing. Sparks are the hidden flames in kids that excite them and tap into their true passions. As kids move from child to tween to teen, it is important to give them plenty of opportunities to find their sparks. It is also important for kids to meet and connect with other caring adults who share those same sparks. Oftentimes, these adults can say the same things that parents say, but kids will listen simply because it didn’t come from mom or dad.
  • Get tips for helping helping kids discover what they love to do here.

  • Stand your ground against Hateful Hattie. Do you know the story of Hateful Hattie? When Hattie was a teen, she could go from being sweet and loving to venomous in seconds. Her mood usually depended upon whether or not she was getting her way. Hattie’s parents discovered that when they stood their ground, eventually Hattie would disappear and their kind, loving daughter would return. (The key word here is eventually.)
  • Get more tips for dealing with parent-child conflict here.

    Tell Us: Are you dealing with “evil twins” in your household? How do you keep them at bay?

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    Sources:

    1. Parenting Angry Teens by Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.

    2. How to Cheer Up a Moody Teenager" by Judy Ford.

    3. National Institute of Mental Health: Child and Adolescent Mental Health.

    4. Image via Carlos Varela on Flick'r.

    5. "Hulk Up Close and Personal" image via Kiwanja on Flick'r.

    Yes I agree laughter is a big medicines. We can start laughing in the time of stress. It will really release your tension. I had doing the same thing several times. It really made me feel better.

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