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How to Raise Difficult Teens

by Tiffany Raiford

Having a hard time raising your teen? Well, it is a part of the parenting job. As your teen gets older, she begins to view herself as more independent and more responsible. While she believes she can handle anything thrown her way, you know that she still needs your guidance. However, she may become more difficult as she navigates the teenage years because she feels frustrated at still being treated like a child while believing she is practically an adult. If your teen is exhibiting difficult behaviors, you may need to adjust your parenting style.

Stay present in your teen’s life as often as possible, according to Mary Muscari, co-author of the books, “Everything Parents Guide to Raising Adolescent Girls” and “Everything Parents Guide to Raising Adolescent Boys." According to Muscari, if your teen feels that another aspect of your life takes precedence over him, he will exhibit difficult behaviors. You don’t have to spend every minute of the day by his side, but being available when he needs you will lessen his frustrations and ensure a feeling of security during a time in his life when life is changing at a dizzying pace.

Pick your battles. Teens are prone to opposing as much as possible to test their limits and capture your attention. According to Dr. Gregory Ramey, PhD., Child Psychologist at The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton, parents must choose their battles with teens because making a big deal of everything makes everything seem unimportant in a teen's eyes.

Stick to short-term consequences for both minor and major offenses, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. These punishments work best because your teen has to endure the punishment, but it’s over before he has time to become more difficult. For example, if he starts skipping school and you ground him for a month, he might begin to think that since he’s already grounded for a month, he might as well just sneak out of the house. Instead, ground him for a week to get the point across without overdoing it and giving him the opportunity to make more mistakes.

Impose consequences only if they are ones you are willing to enforce, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. If you threaten something drastic to get her difficult behavior under control, you have to be willing to impose that consequence. Before telling her you will take away her driving privileges for the rest of the school year, think about whether that consequence is really appropriate. Consider how she will get to school and practice, or who will pick up your younger children from daycare if you’re running late. Being consistent with enforcing consequences for poor behavior is an important part of teaching your teen that her negative behavior will not tolerated, and remember that empty threats don't teach lessons.

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