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How to Handle Disobedient Teenagers

by Freddie Silver

It's not uncommon for your previously polite and well-mannered child to turn into a rude and disobedient teenager. But you shouldn't have to live with an ill-mannered young adult; you can develop some techniques to handle this new, unwelcome behavior. If you work on developing appropriate responses to the disobedience, you can expect to see some positive results.

Set clear expectations about the kind of behavior you want to see from your teen -- and make sure you communicate what these expectations are to your teen. Also, clearly communicate the consequences that you will implement if your teen doesn't meet your expectations.

Ensure that your expectations for your teen's behavior are realistic. Check with other parents to see if your rules are reasonable. If most of your teen's friends are allowed to remain out on school nights until 9 p.m. and you impose a curfew of 6 p.m., your teen might view you as unreasonable and feel justified in disobeying.

Consider involving your teen in the process of setting rules and consequences. Although it's unlikely you'll agree on everything, your teen will at least feel heard -- and you'll have had the opportunity to explain your rationale behind the rules. Make sure your consequences fit the offense.

Put the disobedience into perspective. Breaking curfew by a few minutes is not as serious as taking the family car without permission. React accordingly.

Decide what is really important and what is not. Pick your battles and try to let go of some things that you realize are not worth an argument. For example, if you don't approve of your teen's hairstyle, it might be wise to just ignore it rather than demand he change it.

Be consistent. Each and every time that your teen disobeys an important rule, you need to respond immediately and consistently. Don't let major rules slide -- this will just teach your teen that you don't really mean what you say.

Avoid nagging. Make your requests only once. Give a last-chance warning and then implement the consequences.

Remember the teen years are a difficult, turbulent time. Be empathetic -- and don't react with anger when your teen disobeys. Don't shout, insult or make threats.

Take time-out for yourself if you feel you're going to blow a fuse. Step back and try to put the behavior into perspective. Remind yourself of all the good things you teen still does.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities to praise your teen for good behavior. Everyone, including teenagers, loves getting compliments. Seize all opportunities to say something positive as this will help improve your parent-child relationship.

Model the behavior you expect from your teen. Always demonstrate respectful behavior yourself. Keep your promises and apologize when you make a mistake, are late, or have to cancel an outing.

Keep the lines of communication open with your teen. Talk often and listen as much as possible.

Warning

  • Consider the level of seriousness of your teen's disobedience. If your child is rebelling against school authorities as well as at home, or is engaging in criminal behavior, seek professional help.

About the Author

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

Photo Credits

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