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How to Confront a Defiant Teen

by Tiffany Raiford

It doesn’t seem like such a big deal when your toddler or preschool behaves defiantly, telling you she’s not going to pick up her toys or she’s not going to take a bath. However, when it’s your teen behaving defiantly it turns into a big deal very quickly. Defiance should probably be considered a teenage rite of passage, since it seems the vast majority of teens have their moments. However, that doesn’t make defiance any less aggravating or any more tolerable, leaving you with the task of confronting your teen about her unacceptable behavior.

Write up a contract outlining exactly what you expect of your teen behavior-wise, and make him sign it, advises professor and author Mary Muscari, with Decker School of Nursing at Binghampton University in New York . This is a non-confrontational method of confronting your teen about his defiant behavior, because you aren’t accusing him of behaving poorly. You are simply asking him to sign a household contract stating that should he decide to defy these rules, you will impose these penalties. It’s less stressful and less confrontational.

Take your teen out for lunch or some other type of activity that allows you two to be alone, advises Dr. James Dobson, Ph.D., psychologist and radio talk show host. This allows you to have her full attention when you talk to her about her defiant behavior, as well as ask her to sign your behavior contract. Additionally, being in public helps ensure that your discussion will remain civil, as it is likely no one wants to cause a scene, which might occur at home, in public.

Tell your teen that his defiance is unacceptable and that is why you are providing him with a tangible list of rules, such as no back talking and no disrespect, advises Gregory Ramey, a psychologist at the Children’s Medical Center of Dayton in Ohio. When you are firm with your requirements, confronting your teen about his defiance becomes easier. You are leaving no room for argument but you are opening the lines of communication, which may help your teen open up and provide you with the mysterious reasons behind his negative behavior.

Reassure your teen that you love her, advises Dr. Dobson. When you confront her, it may make her feel ganged up on, as if you are against her. Reassuring her that you do love her very much tells her that you aren’t confronting her out of hatred or dislike, but out of love. Make it clear to her that you will always love her, but that it is her behavior you do not love.

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