It is almost always difficult to parent an adolescent where experimentation, defiance and power struggles are often par for the course. It is particularly discouraging when a teen develops more serious behavioral issues that interfere with healthy development or day to day life. Parents in such situations need to approach their troubled teen with a plan of action for behavior modification that involves consistency and a clearly stated reward and consequence system. Behavior modification therapy is a series of techniques designed to encourage and reward positive behavior in teens while giving them the tools they need to overcome bad behavior. Having a strategy can help struggling parents get their troubled son back on track.
- Target the Problem – While you want to work with the big picture in mind, it is important to select only a few issues at a time to address, so your teen doesn’t get bogged down or discouraged. Start with a negative behavior or action that can be realistically changed in a relatively short time in order to help him begin the healing process with a sense of accomplishment. Behaviors that address health and safety should take high priority.
- Clearly Defined Goals – Discuss the goals for behavior with your teen and make sure that they are specific and clearly defined. Some parents have found it helpful to actually write down what is expected so it can be referred back to.
- Reward System – The main idea behind behavior modification is to encourage desirable conduct by offering an incentive in exchange. Therefore, it is important to allow your teen to have some say in his rewards and privileges. While they should be reasonable for his age and development level, they should also be of high value to him in order to offer motivation. Making your son part of the planning process makes him more likely to stick to it.
- Be Flexible and Positive – If the plan has stopped working or your teen no longer seems motivated, it may be time to change the reward or privileges offered. Rework the plan as much as you need in order to keep your son headed in the right direction. Just remember to always keep him in the loop about what is offered and expected as well as what the consequences are for breaking rules. Try to remain as positive as you can since your attitude can directly influence your son.
- Consistency – Behavior modification therapy is only successful when the parents or caregivers remain consistent. As your teen achieves his goals and works through the process, he will gain the tools he needs to effectively control his behavior rather than trying to control you.
- Be Patient – Many negative behaviors can take some time to change. Be patient with both your teen and yourself throughout the process and remember that even small victories are still steps in the right direction. Make sure you always give credit where and when it is due for both of you.
- Know Your Limits – Sometimes even your best efforts may not be enough to help your troubled teen turn his life around. If you feel as though nothing you do is truly helping, consider consulting professional help, such as a therapist or counselor. Some teens benefit from being removed from their regular environment and temporarily placed in a full time facility, such as a therapeutic boarding school or residential treatment center. In such facilities, teens can carry on with their behavior modification program without their usual triggers and distractions.
Liahona Academy is a residential treatment center located in southern Utah. We help troubled teen boys turn their lives around through proven behavior modification therapy techniques. Call us today for a free consultation (800-675-8101).