Parents of teens have to deal with a number of behavior issues that are part of the normal adolescent experience. Defiance, depression, anxiety and substance abuse are all common challenges; however, when teens experience any of these extremely enough that they are interfering with healthy development, further steps are required. Behavior therapy is an ideal way to help your teen learn to control his actions and communication in a healthy way and it is favored by therapists for its effectiveness. Behavior therapy is essentially a system of reward and punishment techniques designed to replace undesirable behaviors with desirable ones. Successful behavior modification requires several steps.
- Set Goals – Sit down with your teen and discuss the behavior that needs to be changed and select a few initial goals. While issues of health and safety should take precedence, it may be helpful to start out with something that is manageable and reasonably fixed. This will help your teen get off on the right foot with a sense of accomplishment. Make sure the goals are clearly defined and understood by your son. Some parents have found it helpful to write it down, almost like a contract. While you want to keep the big picture in mind, try to only focus on a few goals at a time in order to keep it manageable.
- Determine Rewards – Each goal should have a reward or privilege that is considered high value to your teen. For this reason, it is important to include your son in the process of deciding what the positive and negative consequence system will be. You want them to be realistic, but motivating.
- Re-evaluate – As your teen works through the program you have set out, you may need to re-evaluate the parameters. Be flexible when it comes to finding the right balance for your son and remember that even small steps in the right direction are still victories. Be vocal about his positive progress in addition to the promised rewards.
- Be Consistent – While the basics of behavior therapy are familiar to most parents, the key to success is consistency. By the adolescent years, teens have become masters at manipulating their parents and other authority figures and the only way behavior therapy will work is if they see consistency in the results of their choices. Remain as calm as you can, but be firm about the rules you have determined. Eventually, your teen will master the skill of controlling his actions rather than yours.
- Be Patient – Negative behaviors can sometimes take a while to overcome. Be patient with both yourself and your teen as he works through the process. If you have reached the point where you feel as though nothing you are doing at home is helpful, it may be time to consider a full time facility, such as a residential treatment center or therapeutic boarding school. In these environments, teens are removed from their daily triggers and temptations in order to work through their behavioral modification plan with trained counselors and therapists.
Liahona Academy is a residential treatment center located in southern Utah. Through successful behavior modification treatment techniques, teen boys are guided toward turning their lives around and gaining healthy self-confidence. Call us today for a free consultation (800-675-8101).