New podcast: Staying cool talking with your teen's school.
Feb. 24, 2022

8: Sibling rivalry, and the vaping teenager who's doing well at school but causing problems at home.

8: Sibling rivalry, and the vaping teenager who's doing well at school but causing problems at home.

Is conflict never-ending in your home, or are your teenagers benefitting from having a sibling? We talk about our own experiences - memories of driving our own siblings up the wall - and the research we've read that will help you to make the situation positive.

One thing to note is that if you have an only child don't panic. There are some enormous benefits of not having a sibling; it's just different. 

Top tips from Positive Parenting Solutions for reducing the conflict between the siblings in your home:

  1. Don't label your children, or compare them. Don't make them the pretty one or the clever one or the sporty one. It's very limiting and is bound to create conflict. 
  2. Arrange for attention. Make sure they each feel they are being noticed, and that their needs are being met. Those needs will differ between children.
  3. Prepare for peace and set grounds for acceptable behaviour. Teach them the language they should be using to communicate properly, be clear about what is expected from them in your home, and arrange ways in which conflicts can be resolved without fighting.
  4. Stay out of the conflict. Don't always step in to resolve it. They may be fighting just to get your attention. Each time you feed that behaviour by getting involved you run the risk of making things worse. Teenagers need to be developing the skills to fix problems themselves, so give them time to work it out. 
  5. Calm the conflict if you do get involved listen to both sides, getting them to talk in terms of 'I feel'. Don't apportion blame, get them to discuss ways in which they can stop the situation escalating again. 
  6. Put them all in the same boat. Make the consequences of their behaviour the same for everyone involved. If they end up fighting they both end up suffering. If they behave themselves, they both benefit. 

Listener's question: We discuss the case of a thirteen year old girl who is doing very well at school, but misbehaving at home, vaping and swearing. What's going on? Could her parents approach the situation differently? How should we handle vaping?

For vaping, watch Big Vape with them. It’s on Netflix in the Broken Series.

Resources referenced in the podcast:
Sibling rivalry:

  • Siblings Without Rivalry by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
  • The Sibling Connection by Jane Mersky Leder
  • Calypso by David Sedaris
  • Dunn, professor of human development at Penn State University.
  • Deborah Gold, Ph.D., senior fellow at the Center for Aging and Human Development at Duke University 

Teen who's behaving well at school but vaping and misbehaving at home:

  • Stephanie Lee, PsyD, a clinicalpsychologist at the Child Mind Institute. 
  • Dr. Bubrick, Clinical Psychologist at Child Mind Institute, 
  • Notes from the Field: E-Cigarette Use Among Middle and High School Students — National Youth Tobacco Survey, United States, 2021
  • Five vaping facts you need to know, M.J, Blaha MD MPH Hopkins
  • Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from

Thanks for listening. Creating this podcast has been transformative for our family lives; we hope it does the same for yours.

Please subscribe if you like our podcast, and share it with anyone who might benefit.
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Our website has a blog, searchable episodes, and ways to contact us:

Susie is available for a free 15 minute consultation, and has a great blog:


This transcript is an automated, rough and ready approximation of the conversation:

Unknown Speaker  0:02  
Hello, I'm Rachel Richards and welcome to teenagers untangled as a former BBC correspondent parenting coach and mother of teenagers I've turned my skills to researching the issues involved in raising teens with me to share the pain and discuss them from a mindfulness perspective is Susie as the qualified mindfulness coach and parent of three teenagers. Hi, Susie. Hi, Rachel. Coming up later in this episode, our parent question is from Mumsnet user Mrs. Denzel, she said my 13 year old daughter is an absolute nightmare at home yet school gave her a glowing report. I've recently found out she's been vaping she was grounded, but I'm sure she's still doing it. I feel physically and mentally unwell at the end of my tether. But first let's take a look at sibling rivalry. Western culture has dwelt long and hard on the issue of sibling rivalry. Think about the story of Cain and Abel. It was Freud who labeled it and explored the competition between siblings for parental love and attention. So if you're living with teenagers who fighting, you're not alone, Susie, what are your experiences of sibling rivalry?

Unknown Speaker  1:08  
I love this topic. I think it's brilliant, first and foremost. And also, firstly, I think it's really important to remember that sibling rivalry or sibling conflict is actually really important for our kids. It's, it can be where they learn their boundaries, because there's this space where it is unconditional love, even though it doesn't always feel like that. But there is unconditional in that their their siblings will be there tomorrow and the next day and the next day. So that is where countries and they learn where where you know, where they can't do things where they can do things. And it's really important ground for them. As

Unknown Speaker  1:49  
Jane Mirsky leader who wrote sibling connection. She says that siblings are reflections of ourselves and help us better understand who we are, why we are in the way we are. And one of the mothers I was talking to yesterday said that her younger daughter has been looking at the older daughter who's performing very well. And she's suddenly started saying, well I can do that. It can give them a sense of you know, what can be achieved, and give them a desire to improve themselves. Look at the Williams sisters

Unknown Speaker  2:19  
and siblings are the you know, they're the longest relationship we have if we stay in touch, obviously. And because they start obviously so early. They are really they can be really important and really beautiful. They're not always because you know, because of very different reasons, but they they are the longest relationship we have.

Unknown Speaker  2:38  
I saw some experts saying I mean, it's it's a constantly evolving relationship. Yeah, I think that it is, but actually, you know, David Sedaris talks about it so brilliantly in his book Calypso where you, you basically you get together with your family, and all this same positioning, your family comes straight out again, and everyone's treating each other the same way. And it's so annoying, because you're now a grown up and you've got all these other exciting things happening in your life, and yet your sibling is going to treat you. In that position.

Unknown Speaker  3:07  
We have that in my family. My sister is older than I am. And my kids laugh about it. And other people have noticed and my partner noticed. And it's like, I just regressed to being little sister and I have no problem with giving up control. I don't need to be in charge of things that have enough to do and I don't know. And she enjoys that part of it. And so I just regressed to being you know, a little girl.

Unknown Speaker  3:34  
The only danger of that is that you get siblings who don't learn skills because they've handed those skills to the other sibling,

Unknown Speaker  3:41  
or they have a problem with being in that role. I have no problem being in that role. But I think where we are in our sibling role is massively underestimated. I know there's a lot of research on it. But you know, where the the oldest and middle the depending on how many children there are the youngest, I think plays a massive role in in our, in the way we see ourselves throughout life, something we need to be aware of where are you in the family? And how does that play out?

Unknown Speaker  4:07  
I think the awareness is really important and acknowledging it and saying, okay, so you feel that you're in that position, but you don't have to be when you look at the research about it. The question is, what are teenagers arguing over? And it's power, attention and resources? Yes, there's a Professor of Human Development at Penn State University, Dan's work reveals that from a year on, children are acutely sensitive of how they're being treated in relation to their sibling, they notice it and I remember watching my sister like a hawk, and I would clock it think I'm not kidding.

Unknown Speaker  4:38  
Yeah, that children are so you know, they get so caught up in being fair, what's fair and and they, they want to have the same as the others. And I remember having conversations with mine earlier on and trying to explain that, you know, we're all different and we have different phases in our lives and and actually, giving people the same thing isn't always the right thing to do. Because if you know like one of my three had a particular need at a time, then I'm obviously going to help them with that need. And that means that might not be the same as what the others need. So it's more needs based rather than being trying just to be fair all the time. And that's quite different.

Unknown Speaker  5:13  
Done does talk about how critical that relationship is between the parent and the children, and whether the children feel that they're having to fight to get attention, and how much that will contribute to sibling rivalry. But she does have a caveat, which is, there are personality differences that can be very striking. And if you're stuck growing up with someone day to day, who grates on you irritates you, it's perfectly understandable that even with all the parental love and attention, you're still going to have fights, it's normal, and having to and you spend more time with your siblings than you do with anybody else.

Unknown Speaker  5:49  
And I think for as parents I know I'm certainly guilty of this we're desperate for them all to be best friends.

Unknown Speaker  5:57  
And it's really love you all so how can you not like each other and it's really painful when

Unknown Speaker  6:01  
they fight we hate it like I hate it. i My My eldest would be quite mean to his twin siblings and I kind of understandable way but it used to be break my heart and be like, Why do you do that? Why are you doing that?

Unknown Speaker  6:13  
And I remember saying things like that to my stepdaughters who would fight like cats. And I would say, How can you treat your sister like that? Look at you love her, she loves you. And they look at me like I'm an idiot, because I scratch your eyes out.

Unknown Speaker  6:29  
And why I have to like why and they won't mind me saying this. My eldest and my daughter are really similar. And they used to really fall out when they were younger, they would fight massively. And I used to say to them, probably really annoyingly, you're really similar. And I think when you're older, I think you'll be really good friends. And they again, look at me like I was an idiot and be like, now I hate them. I'm never gonna like them. And we've actually reached that point where there's suddenly this sort of newfound respect for each other. And they're getting on I'm touching it as I say this,

Unknown Speaker  7:01  
but underlying some of this is actually that you were as a parent, you can't always see what's going on. So you know, kids will come to you. And they'll tell you something, actually, there's a new if you try and intervene, you're running the risk that you've completely missed with read the situation. I used

Unknown Speaker  7:17  
to do that with my sister. She's two years older than me, and I would, and she has a really long fuse. And I would stand I remember standing in the kitchen next to her and pinching her. And she didn't react. So I'd pincher harder. And it got to the point where you're not going to feel my nail. So when is she going to explode? And then she did obviously explode. And I was in huge trouble. But there was this kind of thrill of how can I get her to explode?

Unknown Speaker  7:42  
So that's one of the elements. It's like, I'm bored. What am I going to do? Oh, here's a sibling I can practice on my

Unknown Speaker  7:48  
kids have actually fessed up really recently, which shocked me massively. It was again, my eldest boy and my, my daughter, and, and she was much smaller. And he was also mean to her. So there was an element of truth in it, but she come in crying, and he go, but she did it. She started it. And I genuinely thought I'd seen it and thought it wasn't her. And we had the conversation the other day, just in the kitchen. And my eldest went, Yeah, she used to do that. And I said, No, he didn't need and my daughter when? Yeah, no, I totally did that. I would fight him. And then I'd run into you crying thing. Oh, wow. That is amazing. To me, and my eldest is going to see I told you, and that's

Unknown Speaker  8:36  
probably why they're getting on well now because they're actually there's a more honest relationship. Yeah. Where she's like, Yeah, I know.

Unknown Speaker  8:42  
I yeah, I was, I was really I bet you.

Unknown Speaker  8:48  
There's a Psychology Today article that all of these references will be in the right arm. Points that studies that have shown that of the three sibling pairs. So Sister, sister, brother, brother, brother, sister, obviously, there's much more complicated setups. Sister Sister is the most calm and equitable, it's going to be the nicest. Although, of course, there's age gaps and the age gap can be a problem. You know, my daughters are very, very close in age which creates more opportunity for them to compare themselves with each other. The the most rivalrous is Brother brother, and when Deborah gold's the PhD, from Duke University, discipline, some research on this, she says, the consistent theme running through the interviews that she's conducted, is that somehow, with boys, there's a lot more parental and societal comparison. You know, we were measuring everything, their height, their size, they just focus on these numbers, like my husband goes running and all he cares about is his times his spit times he unpacks everything and says, How did you do and I just say, Oh, it was really nice. It was lovely weather and you know, I don't care, I just not interested. So you know whether it's hardwired into males, or it's much more of a male culture, it feels much bigger for boys. And so that's the hardest setup my friend who's got three sons.

Unknown Speaker  10:16  
Yeah, so boys compare each other of you know, height is really important. And at the moment, the eldest is still taller than the youngest, but nobody knows. When if that will last but it's a big it's important to them. Yes. And yes, sport sporting things are compared, and not so much now. But we're definitely

Unknown Speaker  10:37  
on these are things that specifically can be compared to Yeah, I found

Unknown Speaker  10:41  
as a mother of on my own with two boys. And I had sister, I found sometimes because they they play very differently, you know, they would, they would be playing on the trampoline, and they'd be fighting, and I would kind of think I needed to go and step in, and when one is bigger than the other, and this isn't going to end well. And sometimes that was the case. But quite often they do they go stop, stop, stop what you do. And they, you know, their heads would pop up from each other's underneath each other. And they'd be like, what, we're just playing Mum, you know, back off. It's really hard to, it was really hard for me to judge.

Unknown Speaker  11:20  
And that's a really great point. Because I think for a lot of parents, it's, you know, when when do I step in? How important is what's going on? How should I manage it. And I think the transition is very difficult going from being the parent of young children, where it's more of a command structure to the parent of teenagers and saying, Okay, you need to start taking responsibility for your relationships. And that involves me being less, you know, involved in how you fix these these problems. I mean, you can start this young, but the emotional development and the language won't be there until a little bit later. By the time they're teenagers. They should.

Unknown Speaker  11:59  
Yeah, I think it's important to start young, so they get that I do culture, and you know, that's really can be really hard. But the more you intervene, so I mean, it's a balance, isn't it? If you if somebody is being hurt, then of course you step in, if it's really unequal. And of course you step in, but if they can fix it, I think often the cases that we can't bear the discomfort of them fighting, we can't bear the noise of the arguing the it feels it kind of grates in our bodies, so we want to go in and turn it off. And stop it because it's it's unbearable for us.

Unknown Speaker  12:32  
Such a great point. Yeah, yes. And you can't you just can't concentrate. And it's upsetting. Yes. So positive parenting solutions had some great tips for how you can reduce the amount of squabbles and arguments and I say reduce for a reason. Because you're just never going to get rid of it. There is going to be an element of that. And the first on the list is lose the labels. We're living in a society where everything is about labels. And it's getting worse. If you say to one of the children. Are you really smart? Yeah. The other child is gonna listen to that and think, Oh, wait, so I'm the one who's not smart. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  13:08  
so actually might one then it's like, Well, who am I when I'm not smart, when

Unknown Speaker  13:12  
I'm not smart? Yes. And throughout your life, you will hear other people being complimented in your presence. And it's hard, because you instantly think oh, so why aren't they saying something about me? What's wrong with me? What? Yeah, and it's actually in part of it. It's about learning, that it's not personal when you compliment somebody

Unknown Speaker  13:28  
else. And yet another thing with the labeling thing, which I think is really important, that was the point you're making at the moment. But another aspect of it is that we were kind of slightly obsessed with trying to get our kids to find their thing. Like, it comes from a really good place, you know, we want them to shine in something. And that can be really helpful. But sometimes it becomes a label, there's no you're the musical one or you found your thing. You're You're good at art, your you know, whatever it is. And then that becomes if we're not careful their identity, and then the siblings are going, Oh, well, that's their back. I can't do that, or yes or no just becomes a bit weird.

Unknown Speaker  14:05  
Yes. And we all develop at different stages. And I distinctly remember my mother saying to me, no, you can't do music. That's your sisters that Yeah. Which I just thought, well, how limiting Yeah, what a pity because I would love it. And I just think that that's not helping anybody.

Unknown Speaker  14:20  
No at all. It's worse if your sister goes actually, I don't want to do music anymore. My identity, then it's much more complicated for her.

Unknown Speaker  14:27  
It's much more complicated. So this is tip to arrange for attention. Make time, specific time to see your child. We talked about this before. You don't have to have a shedule and say, right, it's your turn. Now what you have to do is you have to think have I actually spent any time with my child just letting them talk in Isabelle about them talking not you. So it's not you on transmit, it's about so how you know whether it's in the car when you're driving your child to or from school, or when they're about to do their homework or they've just come home and they're unpacking anything anytime when it looks like they're open to you just lie on their bed. Yeah, just let them talk.

Unknown Speaker  15:01  
Yeah. Or do you feel tired? You know, you can watch your favorite show to get exactly muck about do something silly.

Unknown Speaker  15:07  
So they feel that you're getting them, they're getting that one to one, then there's less to fight over.

Unknown Speaker  15:12  
It's kind of a tricky one when they get to be teenagers there, isn't it? Because they, they might like when they were little, they were gagging for that attention now when it's my turn to be with. And now they're like, can you leave my room, I don't want to hang out with you. But there are moments and you

Unknown Speaker  15:28  
just have to grab them. My mother and sister were very close. But it didn't mean that I didn't want my mother to come and see me. But she didn't. Because I think she thought because I was in my room that I didn't want her to talk to me. I was desperate. Yes. But sometimes teenagers don't really know how to express it. And if you've got a quiet one who's not saying anything, don't assume it's because they don't want to picking a fight, or picking a fight or anything. If you've got the one who's just going up into their room and closing the door. Maybe just go knock on the door and say, Hey, do you okay, you want to chat? Yeah. And then you may find that there's a very different relationship as

Unknown Speaker  15:59  
a result, or they might tell you to get lost. Exactly. I appreciated the effort,

Unknown Speaker  16:03  
then I think she they didn't notice me. Yeah, exactly. Tip number three, prepare for peace and set grounds for acceptable behavior. And part of that is teaching them the language to use. So rather than saying, Give me that it's May I have that? Or? No, I'm using it at the moment. But you know, I probably be finished in 10 minutes, you know, it just language that is acceptable for a semi adult. And also soliciting rules from them giving them control. So, you know, sit them down and say, Okay, you seem to be arguing a lot. What would you rather? How do you want this to work? What rules would you have in place and let them agree on them? You know, don't get it, you don't have to do it.

Unknown Speaker  16:44  
And that reminds me, we used to do that when they were little, we have family meetings that they think are super cringy now and I found the other day. All the things that we'd written in it? Absolutely. Did you have the talking spoon? We didn't have a spoon we had we had a book so they could write in the book, things they wanted to discuss up to the meeting. And then I would make notes or they would make notes in the book in the meeting. And and it turns out that they didn't really like the meetings. They but they like the biscuits I provided.

Unknown Speaker  17:18  
Anyway, anyone people go to meetings because there were sandwiches.

Unknown Speaker  17:24  
And my youngest boy, was it we will absolutely wetting Assad reading it the other day, you know, his were mainly like, why can't we have sweets for breakfast? Very important question. But I do think it did make a you know a basis for that. My point of doing it was that there's everyone has needs and none of them are wrong. So it developed into you know, they had a light issue. My twins shared a bedroom and one of them wants the light on one of them wants the light off. So we had a meeting discussing Well, you have different needs and not right or wrong. But how can we resolve it and eventually went back and forth. And we found a solution. But the idea that just because you have a need. And it's not the same as the other persons and they're bigger and shouty Earth and you doesn't mean your need is wrong.

Unknown Speaker  18:08  
And these are fabulous skills for being older. Because in the workplace, the this is exactly the stuff that comes up because people end up in a workplace with people they don't necessarily like. But you have to somehow have meetings so that you can actually all work together. And it's about how do you make sure people are speaking and they you know, and by the way, the talking spoon is where the only person who's allowed to talk is the person holding the spoon just in case you will anybody there hasn't come across that it used a biscuit. Yeah, talking biscuit

Unknown Speaker  18:36  
got smashed,

Unknown Speaker  18:37  
talking. So the four tip for was to stay out of those squabbles, which we've already talked about, give them a chance to work it out on their own, you don't have to intervene. You know, don't think that it's your job all the time to make sure that they're getting on because then every time you step into that you're feeding the desire for the kids to get their parents attention. If it's that it's so hard that one is such a hard one. It's a hard one. And you know, it's basically is someone about to die, yes. Or is my house been damaged? Yes. Because I have had kids here where they were older daughter triplets, okay. And that's much one of them were fighting. One was one side of a door. One was the other and basically, my door was about to come off. And that's where I said, Okay, you too. This is my house. Alright, so I don't think your mother wants to pay for that door, but I will make her pay for it. And it'll probably come out for your allowance. So you know, that's where you say, Okay, this is enough. Because it can get very violent it can

Unknown Speaker  19:34  
and also when it's uneven when there's somebody who's bigger and stronger or verbally stronger than that's not cool. It's

Unknown Speaker  19:41  
very worrying, yeah, calm the conflict and don't try and get them to talk straightaway. Because very often it's got to the point where they're, they're shouting or they're fighting. They don't have the ability to straightaway calm down. So just say right, calm down, and then you can listen to each child's point. Don't take sides. Because the fact is you both lost because you've both been fighting. So I always say to my kids, you've lost because you've lost control. You don't have any power over what you're thinking because your brain stop thinking properly, and no one's listening to you. Because the second you start shouting that people either cower, or they shut off because they're ready with their next point. absolutely pointless. So I will always say that to them and say, right, so you've been shouting, which means that you haven't got anywhere. Yeah. So let's get it back to a point where you can actually have a conversation.

Unknown Speaker  20:29  
And take a moment maybe also to check in with where we're at. Because I know, you know, always comes back to us as well. Is this a day where I'm already overwhelmed and overloaded? So actually hearing my children fighting is unbearable, and it's the tip of the iceberg? Or am I pretty good today? And then then I can tolerate more. And I can go in and be more of an assistance? Yes. So taking care of such important removing ourselves if we need to?

Unknown Speaker  20:57  
Yes. And letting the kids when you do unpack where you say what you can talk about it, don't try and make the decision about who was right and who was wrong. They need to take be able to talk to each other. Say, so use the I feel language, and I felt this. And that's why that happened. No blame, taking science,

Unknown Speaker  21:15  
that's really good teaching. And when you do that, I feel Yeah, when this happens, I feel rather than

Unknown Speaker  21:20  
you're an idiot, yes, yes. And then finally put them all in the same boat. Neither of you wins. My mother was brilliant at this, my sister and I used to fight like cats, we were five years apart. And I was a runt, she hated me. And they would leave us on our own a lot. We'd always come running to her when she came home and say, my mother would say, I can't bear it. So she came up one day with this wonderful idea, which was, you know, those chocolate rabbits that you both like, well, if you don't fight, you will both get a chocolate rabbit. And we just looked at each other when actually I really like this chocolate rabbits. ouchy when we fought I mean, you know, nails screaming everything. And then we realized she was about to come home. And we turned to each other and said, Look, we didn't fight, we didn't fight, we didn't fight. And we both felt really pleased with ourselves. Because we said to my mother, no, we didn't fight at all, we were really nice to each other. Chocolate, rabbit, chocolate, right? When we, when I look back on it at the time before you're really clever. And now I look back at it and think wow, my mom

Unknown Speaker  22:22  
is amazing. No, because then you become like a team, don't you. And that's actually think when, when my kids go in from when they were really young, they their dad lives abroad, he lives in Denmark, and they've traveled on their own. They've flown on their own, sometimes the sisters, but for many years, they've just done it on their own. And I noticed, you know, quite early on they become a team. And actually they are even if they've been killing each other on the car journey there, they are suddenly aware that they need to look out for each other. And they have very different personalities. So the unit, some are more responsible than others. And they are looking out for each other. And they're suddenly a homogenous group as opposed to get my attention because I'm not there.

Unknown Speaker  23:04  
And that's and that's the most amazing thing. And I I think one of the points made by Jane Mirsky leader is that we don't focus enough of our language on sibling relationships and the incredible power of having siblings. And I do spend a lot of invest a lot of energy in saying to my daughters were the Richards family, which had girls do this, this is how we think and trying to make them see the gains of one of their siblings as a as a team thing. So because we do not exist in a vacuum, and this relates also to the way we look at society, where there's a tendency to think that when somebody has become incredibly successful and powerful, lots of money, they feel very pleased with themselves because they've done something very special to get there. Well, actually, let's step back a second and think the way you managed to get there was supported by the schooling system in the UK, the fact we've got people who collect our rubbish, the fact we've got nurses who will back up people who are sick, you know, these amazing teachers who come in every day. And you know, we have a society we have an infrastructure that enables that. So coming back into the family, you know, the reason you're being so successful is not some special unique thing about you is that you have you're coming from a family that's giving you the support that's enabling, that's beautiful this to happen. Lee,

Unknown Speaker  24:24  
I noticed with mine, there was you know, a few years ago as a possibility, you know, it was floated, and the details don't matter of, you know, one of my kids staying with their dad for a bit. And I think that really made them think oh, you know, when the idea of something changing or being missing, suddenly makes you value what you have. The idea of not having siblings around for that period was was not not a nice one.

Unknown Speaker  24:55  
Yes, because it does destabilize changes and suddenly you go from

Unknown Speaker  24:59  
i hate Then my wish, actually, I don't want to be without you.

Unknown Speaker  25:03  
Wonderful, wonderful. So the when to get professional help just to finally, bookmark this is when the conflict between brothers and sisters is so severe that it's disrupting daily functioning, when it's causing marital problems. When there's a real danger of ongoing physical harm, I did read some rather harrowing reports and one woman saying, you know, she grew up with a very violent brother. And it would have been nicer if she'd had the bullies at school because at least she could have come home and felt safe. And so if you have one particularly violent, difficult child, then you need support you need to seek out.

Unknown Speaker  25:41  
And it can be hard to know when that is. And we talked about this earlier. And it was there was one particular day where he was they were playing in the garden and then turned ugly. And he's bigger and stronger. And I suddenly was worried thinking, Gosh, he could really hurt him. And his views is really, really, really short. My eldest, and it freaked him out. And he was I don't want to be doing that. So we tried to make you know, strategies of you know, trying that first strategy is to walk what can you try to turn tune into your body? What what are you feeling when you sing read, you know, what do you feeling just before you see read? Can we catch it? And what when you catch it, can you do something about it, go for a run, punch a pillow, you know, shout whatever you need to do. And we tried some different things. We ended up with a word. So he has a word that he says when he's about to lose it. Finally plastic, which is Flint, and he actually still uses it. I don't think it is. And then the other day, I was discussing something with him that he wasn't enjoying. And I was asked politely to leave. I wasn't quite finished. So I carried on just another thing. And he just looked at me anyway, Flint, and you thought, oh, okay, I Well, I'm out. We finished

Unknown Speaker  26:52  
the State Fair, useful, useful technique in any relationship.

Unknown Speaker  26:56  
But with the idea if you've got someone on a short fuse? Yeah, absolutely. But you know, when do you step in? When is it a big problem? And when is it actually maybe just try something else?

Unknown Speaker  27:04  
First? Yes, absolutely. And techniques, techniques for each individual child because we will all have different fuses, different trigger points, and being able to separate up and say, okay, you've got an issue here. Let's look at how we've helped you with that. It's not it's not always about everybody else. Do you have an issue with sibling rivalry in your home? Or are you the parent of an only child? How does that affect your relationship and their relationships with other teenagers, we'd always love to hear from you find us on Facebook, Instagram, and email help at teenagers. Now for the parent question of this week, which comes from mums. net user Mrs. Denzil, my 13 year old daughter is an absolute nightmare at home yet school gave her a glowing report. I've recently found out she has been vaping. She was grounded, but I'm sure she's still doing it. And now it's escalated to the point of swearing. I'm at the end of my tether. I feel physically and mentally unwell. What do you think, Susie? How can we help? Mrs. Denzil?

Unknown Speaker  28:05  
Yeah, tricky, isn't it? It's really tricky. And it's very hard to know, when we hear that our kids are doing something that we don't want them to be doing, do we? How do we react? Is it as big a deal as we think? Are they just experimenting and being curious? are they reacting to something? Or is our own fear sort of propelling our heads and minds into some horrific worst case scenario that maybe it isn't?

Unknown Speaker  28:34  
Because I think there are two separate things going on here. The first thing is that you've got a child who's doing really well at school, but seems to not be behaving the way you'd like them to at home. And quite often, we panic, because we're the person we see. I mean, I've had that where I've gone into school, and they've described my daughter, and I said, really? So yeah, so can I just check the name? Yes, because our children are in a school environment. And there's a lot of structure, there are a lot of very set expectations. So it's easy for them to see what they've got to do. But it's hard to do it to stay at that level of performance all day long. And they've also got to win their teenagers deal with some very tricky peer relationships that become much more complex and confusing. And so when your child is coming home, so this girl's 13, and I've seen it with both my daughters at 13 is a big change going on there. And it's physical, it's emotional, it's and you know, when they are coming home, they may be finding that they've tried so hard all day to be great at school. And then she just lets fly at home. She's not behaving at home. And as a parent, you panic because you think oh my god, my child is a nightmare. They're not behaving properly. They're this this is and rather than focusing on what they're doing really well saying Oh my I'm so I'm so pleased for you, you're really getting it, you're nailing a very difficult thing there. And just praising them for that and giving them space at home. We panic.

Unknown Speaker  30:12  
Yeah, we have like a negative bias in our heads. Because we are, our brains are still wired as if we lived in caves evolution wise. So we are constantly scanning the horizon for danger, the saber tooth, Tiger will kill us if we're not aware. So everything we notice, and because our brains are still wired like that, everything we noticed that is negative we really hold on to because our bodies and our heads respond as if it will kill us, when most of our modern day panics and worries won't kill us, but we respond as if they will. So we pick up on all the negative and any positive isn't going to kill us. So we don't need to hold on to that. So we just let that go. We don't spend any attention on it. So you know, the classic is this girl, you know, she's doing really, really well in school. And she does one thing that is not good, we focus on the not good thing. And, and I'm not belittling that if the mums really worried about the vaping. You know, that's a thing for her. But it's one out of lots of positive things that you you were talking about. And we just just an awareness that we have this negative bias can be really helpful, that we intellectually understand that when we're focusing and zooming in on that negative it's there's a biological reason for it, and stepping back and going okay, is this something I really need to panic about and and genuinely be concerned about? Or is it my negative bias kicking in and trying to get me to sexual health for

Unknown Speaker  31:40  
points so useful to for us to be reminded about what's actually physically and intellectually going on there. The child MIND Institute also talks about this issue, they say that it can be helpful to talk with the school because see what's going on in the school that's providing a format that the child can work well with, and how much pressure Are they under having an open discussion with the school can be very useful, because it's enlightening. And then the school understand that at home, the child's exhausted and struggling. And another point that they make is that we can give our children when they come home, acknowledge, wow, it must have been, I bet, it's been actually really hard. Some children will absolutely lose their mind when they get home, they really behave badly, because they need to blow off that steam. So actually acknowledging that they're coming home, and they need a space to just let off finding talking to them about it, and finding ways that they can do that, where they're not where they feel safe. And they feel like their parents are they get it, they see them, they get it, they understand how tricky this whole transition thing is. Because a lot of the stuff I'm hearing from my children, that they're saying about their friends is that they say my friend's parents don't get it. And they don't feel that they don't not talking to them, because they know that they're not going to understand if you show your teenager, even if they're horrible, and they're treating you poorly if you say I actually I get it, yeah, it can really diffuse the the frustration and anger the teenager might be feeling

Unknown Speaker  33:11  
and when something comes up, and it's really hard. And we've all been there that we don't like, for example, the vaping like nobody, I'm sure nobody wants their 13 year old to be vaping. But firstly, you know, is it a want, you know, talking to them in a in a compassionate way, rather than right, you've done something bad and I'm going to punish you have a conversation. Tell me about the vaping Why do you like it and engaging them in a conversation and then just seeing where that goes? b I get it? You know, they're curious.

Unknown Speaker  33:39  
Yes, of course. It's interesting because there has been research done in America and according to the 2021 national youth tobacco survey, more than 2 million US middle and high school students reported using E cigarettes in 2021 with more than eight in 10 of those youth using flavored e cigarettes Now, the thing about it is that the flavored cigarettes are very sweet smelling and they're very appealing to a younger age group. Right? And the experience I've had is neither of my children have said that they've tried them and one of them is very health conscious. So she's she was actually anxious because a whole wave of her peer group was using E cigarettes and she was calling me saying am I going to get sick No. What's what's the impact of it? And I said no, because I researched it in the droplets are heavier than smoke particles so they dropped closest to the person who's using E cigarettes. So I said don't worry, you know you can still be with your friends and not use it and you're not you're not good research man. I know I research everything. This is my this is my thing. But they The thing is they are they have a lower cost per use cost than traditional cigarettes, which is one of the reasons why teens are going for them. They also think it's less dangerous teens think is less dangerous is wrong, which is which is what I do. No, because they're still researching this and the disposable e cigarette use has gone up dramatically 1,000% among high school students, according to the CDC, and 400% among middle school students since 2019, which is actually quite scary. Yeah. nicotine itself is a toxic substance, it raises your blood pressure spikes, your Adrenaline increases your heart rate and likelihood of having a heart attack. It is problematic. And what they're finding though with E cigarettes is that the lung damage the popcorn lung and the deaths that have resulted, they are finding a very closely linked to modified e cigarettes. So you stuff you buy off the street, where you're not buying it from a certified retailer. The problem is, Who are these certified retailers which brands? Jewel is a well known brand. The problem is my step daughter when she was trying to give up smoking, went into a newsagent and said, Oh, I'll buy one of those jewels. And the guy said, which one do you like? And she said, Oh, I don't know which one shall I have? And he said, Hang on a second. Why are you buying them? And she said, Oh, because I want to give up smoking. And he said, let me just stop you there for a second, what you're looking at has doubled the amount of nicotine than a cigarette. So it's not really a good way to give up smoking. She was shocked. I hadn't realized it. I don't know how true that is. Because I haven't bothered researching it, researching it because I'm not interested in E cigarettes at all. Except for this particular subject. The way I've dealt with my daughters is I've read a book called Merchants of Doubt, which is absolutely fascinating. And it's about how the tobacco industry dealt with the onslaught of bad information that was coming out about their products. So what they did was they collected their own scientific, they pay their own scientists to get their own scientific research, to muddle the information coming out so that you could say, oh, yes, you that research says it's very dangerous. And all these horrible things are happening. But that research says actually, it's fine. These people aren't dying these things. Yes. So it's very much a tactic that's used. It's been used about climate change as well, by the businesses who are very much involved in it. So I've said that to my girls. And then I said, So just stop for a second and think that the tobacco industry has a problem. It's been a massive cash cow for a very long time. And nicotine is addictive. The problem they've got is that the original thing they would use, which is cigarettes has dropped dramatically, because we all know that they're problematic. So they have they have nicotine, how do we sell it? So they've switched to E cigarettes. And the reason with the particular thing about E cigarettes is they're using these nice flavored sweet things. Because just like the elbow, pop industry, it gets kids to try it when they're young. And what happens when you try it? It's it's quite addictive. Yeah, some people more so than others. But you know, you can get addicted very, very quickly. And then you end up paying for the rest of your life, because it's very hard to fight an addiction. And I was at university with a girl who was from a Mormon family 11 children, she said, One day looking very glam that just on the sums that if I hadn't smoked while I was at university, I wouldn't be in debt right now.

Unknown Speaker  38:15  
No, it's amazing. And I think that's a really good idea as a way of talking to kids as to why they shouldn't because nobody wants their kids vaping it's clearly not very good for them. But how we approach it is really key

Unknown Speaker  38:25  
just tell them you're you've been duped you know, basically, I mean, if you want to Well, I'm you know, I can't stop you. I can't if you're not if you're out with your friends, and you decide to do this, I guess, you know, I can't be there the whole time. But what I'm telling you is this industry is just trying to find more people to sell their horrible products to and they're trying to get you young so that you can end up being addicted. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker  38:46  
that just about that. And that's the thing when we when our kids are doing things that we don't like and we want them not to be doing. If we come down with like a hard don't do that punishment, you know, that just is immediate disconnect. Immediate disconnect can be very ineffective. What we need is more connections so that we can, you know, persuade them to be taken making healthier

Unknown Speaker  39:07  
choices, and no teenager wants to feel they're being a mug. No, no,

Unknown Speaker  39:11  
no, no the money I think the financial thing is brilliant.

Unknown Speaker  39:15  
Well, it's worked with my kids anyway. Next time we discuss two issues raised by listeners, Sarah has asked us to look at how to ensure our children get healthy nutrition, and don't develop eating disorders along the way. And Nikki says there's been a massive shift of boundaries over screen use during COVID. And she'd like help with finding the right balance between placing limits and encouraging her teens to seek pleasure and accept responsibility with other activities. That's it for now. In the meantime, if you'd like to learn more about mindfulness, both one to ones and courses you can find Suzie on Instagram. And her details are on Susie as the mindfulness TopCoder Have you made it to the end of teenagers untangled well done Have a biscuit Don't snatch from Susie Thanks for being here goodbye until next time bye bye for now

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