Butting Heads with Your Defiant Teen: Tips for Parents

The primary goal of adolescence is to achieve independence. For this to occur, they will start pulling away from their moms and dads — especially the parent whom they're the closest to. This can come across always seeming to have different opinions than their parents, or not wanting to be around them in the same way they used to.

As adolescents mature, they start to think more abstractly and rationally. They're forming their moral code. And moms and dads may find that teens who previously had been willing to conform to please them will suddenly begin asserting themselves — and their opinions — strongly and rebelling against parental control.

Adolescence can be a confusing time of change for all family members. But while these years can be difficult, there's plenty you can do to nurture your adolescent and encourage responsible behavior. Use the parenting tips below to deal with the challenges of raising a difficult, defiant adolescent.

40 tips for parents with defiant teens:

1. Avoid punishing your adolescent when you're angry.

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

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

4. Be a good role model. Your actions -- even more than your words -- are critical in helping adolescents adopt good moral and ethical standards.  If teens have a good role model from early on, they will be less likely to make bad decisions in their rebellious adolescent years.

5. Be concise. Keep your rules short and to the point.

6. Be consistent when you enforce limits. Whatever disciplinary tactic you choose, relate the consequences to the broken rule and deliver them immediately. Limit punishments to a few hours or days to make them most effective.

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

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

9. Be reasonable. Avoid setting rules your adolescent can't possibly follow. A chronically messy son or daughter may not be able to maintain a spotless bedroom overnight.

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

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

11.  Choose your battles wisely. Doing themselves harm or doing something that could be permanent (e.g., smoking, getting a tattoo) -- those things matter. Purple hair, a messy room -- those don't matter. Don't nitpick.

12. Decide rules and discipline in advance with the other parent. If you have a two-parent family, it's important for both mom and dad to have their own discussion so they can come to some kind of agreement and stay on the same page. Whether you ban your teens from driving for a week or a month, whether you ground them for a day or a week, cut back on their allowance or Internet use -- whatever -- set it in advance. If the teenager says it isn't fair, then you have to agree on what is fair punishment. Then, follow through with the consequences.

13. Discuss "checking in." Give adolescents age-appropriate autonomy, especially if they behave appropriately. But you need to know where they are. That's part of responsible parenting. If it feels necessary, require them to call you during the evening to check in.

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

15. Encourage your adolescent to talk to other supportive adults (e.g., an uncle, older cousin, or grandparent) for guidance.

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

17. Give adolescents a game plan. For example, tell them, "If the only option is getting into a car with a drunk driver, call me -- I don't care if it's 3:00 AM in the morning." Or make sure they have cab fare. Help them figure out how to handle a potentially unsafe situation, yet save face. Brainstorm with them. Come up with a solution that feels comfortable.

18. Give teens some leeway. Giving adolescents a chance to establish their own identity, giving them more independence, is essential to helping them establish their own place in the world.

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

20. 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.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

21. Keep the "communication door" open. Don't interrogate your teens, but act interested. Share a few tidbits about your own day, and ask about theirs. For example: How was the concert? How was the date? How was your day?

22. Let teens feel guilty. Too much is made about self-esteem. Feeling good about yourself is healthy. But people should feel bad if they have hurt someone or done something wrong. Teens need to feel bad sometimes. Guilt is a healthy emotion. When teens have done something wrong, they should feel bad ...they should feel guilty.

23. Minimize pressure. Don't pressure your adolescent to be like you were (or wish you had been) at his or her age. For example, 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. As you allow your adolescent some degree of self-expression, remember that you can still maintain high expectations and the kind of person he or she will become.

24. Monitor what your teens see and read. TV shows, magazines and books, the Internet — teens have access to tons of information. Be aware of what yours watch and read. Don't be afraid to set limits on the amount of time spent in front of the computer or the TV. Know what they're learning from the media and who they are communicating with online.

25. 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.

26. Only punish the guilty party, not other family members, when punishment is needed.

27. Prioritize rules. 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. Before negotiating with your adolescent, however, 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.). Make sure your adolescent knows early on that you won't tolerate tobacco, alcohol or other drug use.

28. Put rules in writing. Use this technique to counter a selective memory.

29. Put yourself in your youngster's place. Practice empathy by helping your youngster understand that it's normal to be a bit concerned or self-conscious, and that it's OK to feel grown-up one minute and like a kid the next.

30. 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.

31. Respect your teens' privacy. Some moms and dads feel that anything their teens do is their business. But to help your adolescent become a young adult, you'll need to grant some privacy. If you notice warning signs of trouble, then you can invade your youngster's privacy until you get to the heart of the problem. But otherwise, it's a good idea to back off.

32. Set a positive example. 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.

33. Show your love. One of the most important parenting skills needed for raising healthy adolescents involves positive attention. Spend time with your adolescent to remind him or her that you care. Listen to your adolescent when he or she talks, and respect your adolescent's feelings.

34. Start with trust. Let your adolescent know that you trust him or her. But, if the trust gets broken, he or she may enjoy fewer freedoms until the trust is rebuilt.

35. Talk to adolescents about risks. Whether it is drugs, driving, or premarital sex, your teens need to know the worst that could happen.

36. 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, explain to your adolescent the behavior you expect as well as the consequences for complying and disobeying.

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

38. When imposing additional restrictions, take away a privilege or possession that's meaningful to your adolescent (e.g., computer time, a cell phone, etc.).

39. When showing disapproval, make sure you reprimand your adolescent's “behavior,” not your adolescent. Avoid using a sarcastic, demeaning or disrespectful tone.

40. When your adolescent needs a consequence for misbehavior, have him or her suggest a consequence. Your adolescent may have an easier time accepting a consequence if he or she played a role in deciding it.

Good Luck!


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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