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Behavior Modification for Teenagers

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

If you have a teen, you are probably well-acquainted with teens' often less-than-desirable behavior. During the teen years, kids are focused on fitting in and asserting their growing independence. Some behavior, such failing to do homework, being overly emotional, listening to loud music and questioning authority are normal, according to Mark Gregston, longtime youth minister, writing for The Christian Broadcasting Network. They can still be hard to cope with, but behavior modification techniques can help limit them.

How it Works

Behavior modification for teens involves changing undesirable behaviors to desired ones by using a system of rewards and punishments. By offering an incentive or carrying out discipline, you can get your teen to do what you want her to do -- finishing her homework on time or not breaking curfew, for example. Clear guidelines for your teen regarding her behavior and consistent consequences for breaking the rules help her change her behavior over time.

Appropriate Rewards

Rewarding your teen with age-appropriate incentives is a valuable way to help her change her behavior. This is called positive reinforcement. It involves praising your teen or giving her a prize when she engages in desirable behaviors. For example, if she cleans her room without having to be asked several times, reward her with a movie or extended curfew on the weekend. Getting something she wants as a direct result of positive behavior makes it much more likely that she'll do the same next time. Keep in mind that the reward has to be something she cares about. A handful of chocolate candies might have worked when she was 2, but it isn't likely to change her behavior now that she's a teenager.

Appropriate Punishments

Time outs might have worked to change behavior when your child was a toddler, but they aren't that likely to produce a response in teens. Just like with rewards, punishments must be age-appropriate if you want them to change your teen's behavior. In addition, teens need consistent consequences to help them figure out right from wrong, according to Georgia Family magazine. Revoking privileges is one effective way to change your teen's behavior. For example, if she stays out past curfew, she must come in an hour earlier for the next week. Or, if she chooses to watch television instead of doing homework, she isn't allowed to watch her favorite programs for three days. If the same consequence occurs each time a rule is broken, it won't be long before your teen starts to change her behavior.

Special Cases

For teens who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or other conduct disorders, behavior modification is often carried out to help them stay calm, limit impulsive activities and help them succeed in social situations. If your child has one of these conditions, help from professionals is valuable for making behavior modification as beneficial as possible. In these cases, it is often combined with medication and cognitive therapy, according to the National Youth Network.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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