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Dealing with Difficult Teen Behavior: 40 Tips for Parents

Helping a teenager become a caring, independent and responsible grown-up is no small task. The teenage years can be a confusing “time of change” for adolescents and moms and dads alike. But while these years can be tough, there's plenty you can do to nurture your adolescent and encourage responsible behavior.

Use the following parenting skills to deal with the challenges of raising an adolescent:

1. As you allow your adolescent some degree of self-expression, remember that you can still maintain high expectations for your adolescent and the kind of person he or she will become.

2. As your adolescent demonstrates more responsibility, grant him or her more freedom. If your adolescent shows poor judgment, impose more restrictions.

3. Avoid disciplining your adolescent when you're angry.

4. Avoid reprimanding your adolescent in front of his or her friends.

5. Avoid setting rules your adolescent can't possibly follow. A chronically messy adolescent may not be able to maintain a spotless bedroom overnight.

6. Avoid ultimatums. Your adolescent may view an ultimatum as condescending and interpret it as a challenge.

7. Avoid using a sarcastic, demeaning or disrespectful tone.

8. Be consistent when you enforce limits. Whatever disciplinary technique you choose, relate the consequences to the broken rule and deliver them immediately.

9. Be prepared to explain your decisions. Your adolescent may be more likely to comply with a rule when he or she understands its purpose.

10. Be specific. Rather than telling your adolescent not to stay out late, set a specific curfew.

11. Before negotiating with your adolescent, consider how far you're willing to bend. Don't negotiate when it comes to restrictions imposed for your adolescent's safety (e.g., substance abuse, sexual activity, reckless driving, etc.).

12. Don't impose penalties you're not prepared to carry out.

13. Don't pressure your adolescent to be like you were or wish you had been at his or her age.

14. Encourage your adolescent to talk to other supportive adults (e.g., uncle, older cousin) for additional guidance.

15. Enforcing consequences can be tough — but your adolescent needs you to be his or her parent, not a pal. Being too lenient may send the message that you don't take your adolescent's behavior seriously, while being too harsh can cause resentment.

16. Focus on what you want your teenager to learn from a particular consequence - not whether or not he or she going to care.

17. Get to know the technology your adolescent is using and the websites he or she visits. If possible, keep the computer in a common area in your home. Remind your adolescent to practice basic safety rules (e.g., talk to a parent or trusted adult if an interaction or message makes you uncomfortable, don't text or chat on the phone while driving, don't share personal information online, don't share passwords, don't send anything in a message you wouldn't say face to face, don't plagiarize, don't get together with someone you meet online, and so on).

18. Give your adolescent some leeway when it comes to clothing and hairstyles. It's natural for adolescents to rebel and express themselves in ways that differ from their moms and dads.

19. Have plenty of time-outs (i.e., time away from your difficult teenager).

20. If your adolescent doesn't seem interested in bonding, keep trying.

21. If your adolescent shows an interest in body art (e.g., tattoos, piercings), make sure he or she understands the health risks (e.g., skin infections, allergic reactions, hepatitis B and C). Also, talk about potential permanence or scarring.

22. Keep in mind that only reprimanding your adolescent and never giving him or her any justified praise can prove demoralizing. For every time you discipline or correct your adolescent, try to compliment him or her twice.

23. Keep your rules short and to the point.

24. Limit consequences to a few hours or days to make them most effective.

25. Listen to your adolescent when he or she talks.

26. Make sure you reprimand your adolescent's behavior, not the adolescent.

27. Make sure your adolescent knows early on that you won't tolerate tobacco, alcohol or other drug use.

28. Not sure if you're setting reasonable limits? Talk to your adolescent, other moms and dads and your adolescent's doctor. Whenever possible, give your adolescent a say in establishing the rules he or she is expected to follow.

29. On days when you're having trouble connecting with your adolescent, consider each doing your own thing in the same space. Being near each other could lead to the start of a conversation.

30. One of the most important parenting skills needed for raising healthy adolescents involves positive attention.

31. Punish only the guilty party, not other family members.

32. Put house-rules in writing. Use this technique to counter a selective memory.

33. Regularly eating meals together may be a good way to stay connected to your adolescent. Better yet, invite your adolescent to prepare the meal with you.

34. Remember, adolescents learn how to behave by watching their moms and dads. Your actions generally speak louder than your words. Set a positive example and your adolescent will likely follow your lead.

35. Respect your adolescent's feelings.

36. Spend time with your adolescent to remind him or her that you care.

37. To encourage your adolescent to behave well, identify what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior at home, at school and elsewhere. As you establish appropriate rules, be sure to explain to your adolescent the behavior you expect as well as the consequences for complying and disobeying.

38. Use “active ignoring.” Tell your adolescent that you'll talk to him or her when the whining, sulking or yelling stops. Ignore your adolescent in the meantime.

39. When a consequence needs to be issued for misbehavior, ask the adolescent to suggest one. Your adolescent may have an easier time accepting a consequence if he or she played a role in deciding it.

40. While it's important to consistently enforce your rules, you can occasionally make exceptions when it comes to matters such as homework habits, TV watching and bedtime. Prioritizing rules will give you and your adolescent a chance to practice negotiating and compromising.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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