When a teen acts up, even the most enlightened parents can feel like pulling out their hair. Many parents don't know what to do to get the family back to its normal functioning. It can seem like you've tried everything. Below we've collected some proven behavior management techniques that you can use to help manage your teen's behavior at home.
1. Set reasonable limits and boundaries
Teens need boundaries -- which is exactly why they test them so often. Making rules like no phones at the dinner table or shutting down wi-fi an hour before bedtime are good limits if the reason for them is explained to your child. However, an 11 p.m. curfew for a teenager might be too strict if all of his friends' curfews are 12:30 a.m. and as a result he has trouble getting home on time.
2. Be consistent with consequences
Make sure your teen knows the consequences of breaking the rules you've agreed upon and that the punishment is equal to the infraction. When rules are violated, it's important that the expected punishment is enforced by both parents and that it be consistently applied. For example, grounding a teen for violating curfew one week, but letting it go the next time will only anger and confuse your child.
3. Help your teen express his/her needs
Check in with your teen often and ask her how she's feeling. When she tells you what she needs, it's important that you empathize with her and validate that her feelings exist. By doing this, not only can you nip some issues in the bud, but you become a role model for empathy and understanding which will strengthen your bond and improve her relationships with her peers.
4. Take charge, yet remain calm
Respect breeds respect. If you expect your teen to respect you and your rules, you must also respect his feelings and needs. Thanks to increased hormones and a still-evolving brain, teens often feel like their lives are out of control which is, as you might remember, sometimes terrifying. Knowing that no matter what chaos is going on in his life, your teen can come to you for help with his mistakes or problems -- and you won't freak out -- will calm him and inspire confidence.
5. Own up to your mistakes
Building respect also involves admitting your own parenting mistakes. For example, in the curfew adjustment described in point #1 above, it's okay to admit you were wrong about the 11 p.m. time. Explain to your teen exactly how you came to the decision to extend her curfew time and don't resort to authoritarian explanations like, "Because I said so." Remember that you're modeling the behavior you'd like to see your teen emulate and come clean when you discover your own mistakes.
6. Make predictable routines
When your teen feels overwhelmed with his life, establishing predictable routines can bring him some comfort. It shows him that not everything in his life is out-of-control. Routines like "dinner is always served at 6:30" or "mow the lawn every Saturday" also help set your child up to win, which improves his confidence.
7. Be immediately available to reconnect following a conflict
Withholding love is probably the worst and most terrifying punishment for a teen. Even though she wants to be independent, she also craves knowing that there's a safety net if she falls. "The cold shoulder" also sends the message that if she acts independently she won't be loved, which will impact her future relationships. After an argument or a punishment has been given, don't give your teen "the silent treatment" or storm out of the house. Make sure your teen knows you're emotionally available and you don't hold a grudge.
8. Listen, help, hug, and play
Most of all, partake in opportunities to have fun with your teen and let him know he's a valuable part of your everyday life. Show positive interest in his activities and his friends. Keep in mind that hugging releases the bonding hormone oxytocin, which not only helps your relationship but it feels good to both the hugger and the hugged!