How Parents Can Stop Defiant Adolescents

by Lee Grayson
Vague rules leave room for defiant teens to interpret behavior standards -- with interesting results.

Vague rules leave room for defiant teens to interpret behavior standards -- with interesting results.

Teens learn about life by testing the boundaries parents, schools and society place on behavior. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry notes, "At times, all teenagers are oppositional, argumentative, and inattentive." The academy also finds teens occasionally respond with belligerence or passivity. Parents can reduce defiant teen behavior by establishing guidelines and consistently enforcing these rules. Professional assistance helps teens with oppositional defiant disorder, an emotional condition marked by regular hostile and defiant behavior that seriously disrupts the teen's life.

Communicate Clearly

Teens with a set of clear rules for behavior have less room for defiance based on confusion about home and school rules. You may view your teen's behavior as defiant, but your teen may simply be exhibiting normal risk taking. Fairfax County Department of Special Services recommends involving teens in establishing rules to avoid what appears as defiant behavior. Teens agreeing to the rules make occasional mistakes, but the cooperation involved in the rule making makes it less likely your teen defiantly rebels against the standards. Lynn E. Ponton, board certified psychiatrist, says all teens take risks and use these risks to "define and develop his or her identity." Clear rules for the adolescent help define healthy risk-taking key, keep your teen safe and reduce parent-teen tensions.

Define Punishments

Punishments for improper teen behavior outline specific actions for misbehavior. Your teen then understands and expects specific punishment after failing to act appropriately. Adolescent psychologist Don Fontenelle suggests involving your teen in defining punishments for inappropriate behavior as a way to reduce misbehavior and teen defiance.

Enforce Consistently

Teens sometimes feel the need for defiance when standards become impossible to predict. Parents may give the teen restrictions for violating the home curfew one night, for example, while ignoring when the teen misses the required curfew time on another evening. The punishment in this case appears random and arbitrary. Consistent enforcement reduces defiant teen behavior, according to the Missoula City County Health Department.

Offer Incentives

Incentives use rewards to change defiant behavior. The Fairfax County Department of Special Services recommends opening channels of communication with teens and offering unconditional love, respect and appreciation. Open communication channels require listening by both parent and teen. The department also recommends including your teen in determining the incentives for good behavior. Licensed psychologist Jeffrey Bernstein claims rewards show you appreciate your teen and also appreciate your teen's appropriate behavior. This also shows your teen that your appreciation involves two separate issues -- your teen as a person and your teen's behavior.

Model

Adolescents learn behavior by watching adults. Parents who model meeting important rules encourage teens to also follow the standards. Adults who flaunt rule breaking encourage teens to do the same. When teens receive reprimands for modeling the same behavior as the adult, the adolescent may become defiant when faced with the obvious dual standard, according to the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension.

Resources

About the Author

*I have written chapters and articles for Oxford and Harvard University Presses, ABC-CLIO, and others. Arcadia Press published two of my local history texts and I have also written for numerous "article sites," including Pagewise in 2002. My "How to become a...real estate agent" is available as an online text from a Canadian publisher. *I taught writing courses at a branch campus of Indiana University. *I held a California real estate license and have remodeled four of my own homes and advised others on financing homes, repairing credit to qualify for loans, and managing construction (including meeting local, state, and federal regulations for restoration and development grants). *I served as an AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer and wrote nearly $75,000 in small education grants (under $1,000). *My travels include frequent road trips in Canada, Mexico, U.S., and Europe. I attended school at Cambridge University and used this as a base to explore the UK and Europe.

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