The Rational Basis® of Happiness Podcast

← Return to Podcast List

00:00 / 00:00

Communicating With Kids

I often lose it with mythree teenagers.

(this is raw unedited text transcribed directly from the audio)


Dr. Kenner:      Paul, you’re dealing with some anger issues?


Paul:                Well, actually, stress with kids. I have three teenagers at home, two girls and a boy, that are 17, 15 and 13. I’m a little frustrated with myself because I try very hard not to just explode and yell at them, and yet sometimes that happens. An issue happened yesterday and it turned into this big yelling and I’m frustrated at myself because I know I don’t want to do that. I’m trying to figure out a way to get a better grip on my self control.


Dr. Kenner:      What skills do you have already? Meaning it sounds like you’ve reflected and said, “Oh, I wish I’d done something differently,” and then fill in the blank, that you had some skills already. One or two things you could have said differently?


Paul:                I would say one of the skills that I had and I seem to have lost is the ability to just stop for a minute.


Dr. Kenner:      To put yourself on pause?


Paul:                Put myself on pause, exactly. Lately I seem to not be managing that very well.


Dr. Kenner:      What that does, putting yourself on pause, is a terrific skill. What it does is prevents you from exploding, from acting in the moment, and it buys you time to think about alternative ways of responding to the same situation. For example, if your kids call you a name and you say, “I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap. Don’t you ever do that again. You’re going to be punished,” and blah, blah. If you tend to do something like that, then you need an alternative. If your subconscious, if you have not trained your mind that you have a few options on the menu of responding in situations like that, then when you put yourself on pause, there’s no station to turn to, so to speak. I’m mixing metaphors there, but there’s no station to turn to. So you definitely want to give yourself alternatives and that’s what I Had to do. I had two children and when they reached their teenage years I’m sure I struggled at times, as all parents do. You’ve got the fundamental skill.


Another skill would be, in the example I said, if a kid calls you a name or you’re a jerk dad, worse than that, you’d say, “That’s a funny thing to say. Sounds like something is bothering you. What’s up?” And it totally defuses the situation. So there are skills that will help you defuse the situation. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn those skills. That’s when I learned a lot of my communication skills, when I had kids. I am going to recommend a book. I’m going to actually recommend two books. One is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Very long title. You can also go to my website,, and read about it. I’ve got it up there under books, parenting books. That’s Adel Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Now, this book deals with little tykes. You don’t have little tykes, you have teenagers. Little tykes don’t deal with alcohol problems or being out too late or breaking curfew or wanting their independence. I know the terrible twos, but the terrible twos are a tad different from the terrible 13s, 17s and 15s. The same authors wrote a book How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk.


Paul:                Very good.


Dr. Kenner:      There’s also a book, an old book, but I love it, Between Parent and Teenager by Haim Ginott.


Paul:                It’s called Between Parent and Teenager?


Dr. Kenner:      Right. You can deal with anger management skills too. That’s another angle to come at it, and absolutely the number one skill you already have. You just need to polish it a little, that putting yourself on pause. And there are different ways to put yourself on pause. The way not to do it is to storm out of the house saying, “I’m leaving.” They don’t know if you’re leaving forever. You traumatize them just by doing that with the vagueness. If you say, “I’m feeling a bit hot under the collar or like I might lose it again. I don’t want to do it with you kids, so I’m going to just take a breather. I’m going out for a car ride or a walk for a half hour and I’ll come back and feel a little better. Maybe we can talk and connect better.” You can also prepare them in advance. I told my daughter – my daughter once said to me, not with anger, but with guilt – she said to me, “Mom, are you trying to make me feel guilty?” She was a little tyke and man, she caught me in action. I said, “Yes. Honey, if I ever do that again, will you tell me? Will you say that again, because I don’t want to do that to you.” So there is a way, and we could go into the specifics of your case, but we can’t on this short amount of time we have here.


So there are ways to manage anger. One is to look at what you say to yourself and see if it’s completely accurate. Anger is your injustice detector. It’s telling you that something is not fair. So a friend may not call me and I’ll say, “I can’t believe she ignored me. She said she would call me and she didn’t call me. I hate her and I’m never speaking with her again.” Then I find out later she was in a car accident and that’s why she didn’t call me, I feel awful. Because I didn’t have my facts straight. So you can feel a strong emotion, but you need to make sure that it’s grounded in fact. And many times we just lose it because that’s how we lost it as a kid. It usually brings up old baggage for us.


Listen, I wish you the best with that.


Paul:                I very much appreciate the links to the books, and I will indeed look those up. Thank you.



Movie clip       

Female:           Why is it so easy to love our families, yet so hard to like them?

Male:               Well, that is one of those questions that makes life so rich. And psychiatrists richer.


Dr. Kenner:      I’m Dr. Ellen Kenner and that’s from Frasier. Isn’t that true? There are many aspects about your family which you may love. Some people may hate their families, and many aspects which you dislike or even hate. So what’s going on there? Well, first you’re talking about families. And families involve a lot of individuals. When I think of my family, I have two sisters, and my dad, my mom is no longer around, so what is it about my family that I love? I happen to have good relations with them, so there are many things I could name. We laugh a lot. My sisters and I get along well. My father is a dear. And then I could ask myself, “What is it I don’t like or what is it that is difficult about them?” And I could point to things in our past, difficulties or struggles that we’ve had or confusions that we’ve had to iron out. That’s a fairly good family. Let’s take a family where it’s really mixed. Maybe your father is an alcoholic or your sister is envious of you or you’re envious of your sister, there are jealousy issues, sibling issues going on. Or there are concerns, health issues, that you are really worried about and you don’t like the way a sibling is handling it or a parent is handling it, or you don’t like the way they’re bringing up their kids.


Really, in evaluation of liking or loving or disliking or hating, really it involves you focusing in on specific characteristics you’ve observed or specific behaviors, and judging your family. All of us have mixed contexts about when we think of our family, the good and the bad. So it’s good to break it up into individuals. What do I like about my sister, my brother, my mother, my father, my niece, and what don’t I like? What is it hard to like them? That’s the work of thinking. That’s the work of understanding yourself, of introspection.