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Defiant Behavior versus Normal Teenage Rebellion

Many families of defiant teens live in a home that has become a battleground. In the beginning, the daily struggles can be expected. After all, we knew that problems would occur because teens are naturally rebellious, to a degree. Initially, stress can be so subtle that we lose sight of a war, which others do not realize is occurring. We honestly believe that we can work through the problems. Outbursts, rages, and strife become a way of life (an emotionally unhealthy way of life). We set aside our own needs and focus on the needs of our teenager. But what does it cost us?

There is a significant difference between normal teenage rebellion versus defiance:
  • Defiant teens are destructive and disagreeable by nature
  • They like to push their parents' anger-buttons
  • Every request results in a power struggle
  • Lying is a daily habit, and stealing is a favorite hobby
  • Getting others to react strongly pleases and amuses them
  • They blame others for their mistakes and misbehavior
  • And they have no remorse for the hurtful things they say and do

The majority of the population does not understand the dynamics of parenting a defiant child. Family and friends may think that you -- the parent -- are the one with the problem. Parents of defiant teens are frequently turned in on false abuse allegations. Support is non-existent, because outsiders can't even begin to imagine that children can be so destructive. Where does that leave a parent?

Without strong support and understanding, the parent will become isolated, demoralized, hurt, confused, and often held accountable for the actions of her/his teenager.

Families are simply not prepared for the profound anger that lives in the heart and soul of the defiant teen -- he/she sees YOU, the parent, as the enemy. Small expectations on the parent's part can set the defiant teen off in ways that are not only indescribable, but also often unbelievable.

Your home becomes a war-zone and you feel totally inadequate. You begin to question your parenting abilities -- and your own sanity. Your heart's desire is to provide your child with untold opportunities, a future, and all the love in the world. You want to soothe your troubled teen. You want him/her to have a fulfilling life and to grow up to be a responsible adult. Yet, you are met with hatred and fierce anger.

In war, the battle lines are drawn; an antagonism exists between two enemies. In our homes, we are not drawing battle lines; we are not prepared for war. We are prepared for parenting. Consequently, the ongoing stress can result in disastrous effects on our well-being, literally causing our emotional and physical health to deteriorate.

In parenting a defiant teenager, you will not escape adverse effects. It is essential to recognize that your feelings are typical under stressful conditions. It is just as essential to accept the fact that extensive stress is unhealthy. By recognizing the symptoms and seeking support, you will strengthen your abilities to cope.

The strains a defiant teen puts on your family can be enormous.

Effects on the family:
  • A defiant teen will play one parent off the other, which could result in  a rift between parents.
  • Dreams of the perfect, loving, caring family are squashed. There is no such thing as perfect family, but a family with a defiant child can become quite dysfunctional.
  • Due to the child’s disruptive behavior, parents often withdraw from social functions.
  • Family events, like Christmas, can be filled with anger and frustration.
  • Parents appear to be unfair, strict and sometimes hostile, as parenting skills used with healthy children do not work with defiant children.
  • Siblings and pets can often be targeted and threatened.
  • Siblings often feel ignored or overlooked as the defiant child takes up so much of the parent’s time.

Defiant teens are not bad -- but they are very intense.  And they seek intensity from others as well -- especially their parents!

Unfortunately, they have discovered that their parents are the most intense and exciting when things are going wrong.  What parents may have viewed as punishment for their defiant child was actually a reward (i.e., he/she received a bigger payoff for misbehavior).

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