Strategies for Parenting Difficult Teens

November 5, 2015 Mariana 0 Comments

“My teen is driving me crazy” “I feel like I have totally lost control” “My teen is very disrespectful towards me” “I miss being close with my child” “We have a strained, almost broken relationship” “They never follow any of our rules” “I’m tired of the screaming and yelling matches” 

Sound familiar? You are not alone. The transition into adolescence is a taxing time on teenagers, parents, and families as teens fight for more independence and autonomy and parents hesitate to let go out of fear and worry. All families with teens confront this struggle as they attempt to balance freedom and exploration with rules and boundaries.

Rules and boundaries are necessary- teens need predictable structure. Societies are based on structure, rules, and laws and teens need to learn there are always repercussions and consequences for their actions and behavior. Teens always need to be held responsible and accountable for their actions. However, the process of forming these rules and consequences is not the same process a parent would use with a younger child.

All children thrive with predictable structure and boundaries to help them feel safe and secure. Structure provides opportunities to practice self-discipline, internalize constructive habits, and develop a sense of mastery. Without predictable structure, children and teens will turn into adults who are unable to complete unpreferred tasks, get to work on time everyday, and in the worst case scenario, obey the law.

Parents, you create that predictable structure (e.g., school attendance, basic self-care, daily and weekly chores) and those boundaries (e.g., no name-calling, no hitting)  with little to no input from what your young child desires (and that’s a good thing). However, when your child transitions into adolescence- it’s likely that what you have done in the past, will not work anymore and that’s okay. It’s time to pivot and change how you view and approach your relationship with your teen.

If a parent continues to treat their teen as a young child, their teen will rebel, act out of control, feel anxious, and experience low self-efficacy. Here are a few strategies I recommend implementing in adolescence to increase family respect, responsibility, and accountability. Note: Each family member’s ideas and opinions should be heard, validated, and incorporated- think COLLABORATION not COMPETITION. And, HAVE FUN with this!

Create a family mission statement TOGETHER!

Collaboratively create 5-10 rules & expectations and discuss why these rules and expectations are important

Clearly define the consequences for breaking rules & expectations (i.e., discipline)

Set up an incentive and reward system for following rules & expectations

Write all of these down, create a contract, and have everyone sign the agreement

Every week have Family Time– each week a different family member decides how they would like to spend that time as a family

LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN to your teen- do not react, respond. Find truth in what your teen is saying, acknowledge what they might be feeling, paraphrase what they are saying, ask questions about what they are thinking and feeling.

Practice pausing before you respond and encourage your teen to do the same-take 3 deep breaths before you respond and ask yourself, “Is it kind? Is it necessary? Is it true?”

Start your sentences with “I feel, I think, I believe” versus “You’re wrong! You’re making me mad!”

Show respect and you will receive respect- your teen will model your behavior. For example, if you yell, they will likely yell.

Find something genuinely positive to say to your teen at least once a day, even if you aren’t on good terms- adolescence is a tumultuous time and low-self esteem is a common issue for teens.

Check-In with your teen at least once a day- in person or via text. Sometimes, teens are more likely to share over text messages. Ask- “What were your highs and lows today?” “What’s one thing that made you smile or laugh today?” “What’s one thing you are looking forward to tomorrow?”

Send supportive text message reminders to your teen. For example- “I love you and am always here to listen.” “I’m really glad we talked the other day and I like how we heard each other out.” “Hang in there. I know your math class is demanding. I believe in you.”

Those are some strategies to get you started if you feel like you are at a complete loss of what to do. Best of luck- you are doing better than you think!

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Copyright © 2015 Mariana Prutton. All rights reserved.

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