The teenage years are a common battleground for defiance and acting out. The years where adolescents are making the change from children to adults can frustrating for both teens and their parents. Physically, the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, or the part of the brain that makes decisions and thinks rationally, does not fully develop until the mid twenties. On one hand, teens think they are old enough to be entrusted with adult decisions, however, their thought process and decision making is still fairly underdeveloped and irrational. This leads to teens lashing out at parents who set firm and healthy boundaries for them. So, how do you navigate the defiant teen years? It is a frustratingly fine balance between allowing your child enough freedom to help them learn to be responsible adults, without allowing them into situations that could be dangerous and damaging. Fortunately, there are methods of parenting that allow you to keep your sanity, while helping your teen work with you.
1. Keep The Lines Of Communication Open – It may often seem like your teen would rather talk to anyone in the world but you, but it is important to continue to make the effort to understand what is going on in their world. Defiance is often the result of insecurity and their behavior gets misdirected at you. Do your best to make sure your child can feel comfortable talking to you about problems they may be having with teachers or their social life. Spending time with your teen will also help them feel noticed and safe.
2. Keep Your Teen Busy – Determine what your child's interests are and give them ample opportunity to hone them. Teens who are involved in activities such as sports, art or drama tend to have a higher sense of self worth and a more positive outlook on life. Make sure you are their biggest supporter.
3. Pick Your Battles – There is no doubt that teens can quickly become masters at pushing every one of your buttons, however, if you let everything become an argument, they will stop giving weight to any of your words. Although there are things that shouldn't be allowed to slide, such as speaking respectfully and being safe, ask yourself when you are ready to head into battle if the argument is worth the effort or if you want to wait and save the “big guns” for something else.
4. Be Consistent- Teens are a little bit like toddlers. They will test you over and over in order to see if there is ever a different result to a situation. Being inconsistent with punishments and rules will only make them feel less secure. Your job as a parent is to be the safe place for your teen, even if he doesn't initially see it that way. Set firm rules and make sure that your child knows the consequences of disobeying.
5. Give Praise Where It Is Due – Although it may seem like every day with your teen is a series of push and pull, don't forget to praise them sincerely for both big and little things. Making sure they know that you appreciate the efforts they do make to be responsible and respectful will hopefully give your words more impact when you need to call them out on bad behavior.
Dealing with defiant teens requires a lot of patience, love and consistency. It can be extremely trying at times, but it won't last forever and you console yourself that it is a natural part of growing up and the work will be worth it when you contribute another successful adult to the world.If your child is showing a consistent and excessive amount of defiance, he may need some help working through a core issue. Contact us at Liahona Academy, 1-800-657-8101 to discuss program options.
Tyler Clark is the Online Outreach Coordinator for Liahona Academy. Liahona Academy is located in Utah and specializes in behavioral management for teen boys.