Parenting Tactics That Don’t Work on Troubled Teens

One of the frustrating aspects of parenting during the teenage years is when the parenting tactics that you used during your teen’s childhood no longer work. Suddenly, you have a troubled teen on your hands, and nothing is helping them behave better.

The problem is, some parenting tactics that have been passed down from our parents, grandparents, and further aren’t as effective in helping your teen and may need to be dropped.

Drop These Parenting Tactics

It can be difficult to critically examine parenting tactics. Children don’t come with an instruction manual, so parents are doing the best they can, often drawing from their own upbringing. However, not all parenting tactics, no matter how well-intentioned, will bring you effective results.

Below are four of the main parenting tactics that should be removed from the parenting playbook to help prevent the breakdown in connection and discipline that can often occur during the teenage years.

Corporal Punishment

The old saying “spare the rod, spoil the child” is often taken to mean that children need to be disciplined with corporal punishment, or they will grow up spoiled and unmanageable. However, the rod mentioned in the saying can just refer to discipline in general.

Children do thrive with discipline, but parents don’t have to resort to hitting, spanking, pinching, and other forms of corporal punishment. All this type of discipline teaches a kid is that someone bigger, older, and stronger calls the shots—and children don’t stay young and small forever.

For instance, say a parent used spanking as a form of punishment for any kind of misbehavior, from slamming a door to not finishing homework. However, as their kid develops and becomes a teen, how effective will spanking be? A mother trying to spank her sixteen-year-old son is not likely to have much of an impact if he even allows her to punish him.

Coercion Through Taking Away Belongings

Forcing children to obey by taking belongings away can lead to kids feeling backed into a corner and hopeless. It can also disrupt communication between parent and child, as the child may feel like at any moment, their parents can take away the child’s things.

For example, say a teen is doing poorly in school. Their parents decided to take away items from their teen’s bedroom until the grades come up. Slowly, almost all the teen’s clothes, furniture, and other possessions are taken, yet the grades remain low.

Rather than driving home a lesson about personal responsibility, this type of parental discipline just communicates to teens that everything they have can be taken away. When adults feel that level of hopelessness, they often resort to things like substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, self-harm, and other dangerous methods of escape. Teens are not so different in their reactions and are more likely to turn to unhealthy escapism if they feel cornered.

Shame and Ridicule

A harmful parenting tactic has trended on social media. While it may seem harmless to shame and ridicule children on social media, it can leave lasting damage. Frankly, when it comes from someone other than family, that kind of behavior is called bullying.

Even if the shame and ridicule are not made public, children and teens can suffer. Shame can prevent teens from developing healthy self-esteem, leading teens to seek approval from others. This approval-seeking behavior can lead teens to do inappropriate and harmful things to gain the admiration and respect of others.

An example of this would be a parent who constantly shames their teen for being overweight, ridiculing their teen in front of others, and putting them on restrictive diets. Regardless of gender, this kind of shaming can be incredibly damaging—and depending on the teen’s gender, the results could be drastic. Teen girls seeking approval and self-worth will often engage in sexualized behaviors, while teen boys can become more aggressive and turn to bullying to gain power and confidence.

Alternative Strategies Parents Can Try With Troubled Teens

Rather than use parenting tactics that lead to discipline dead-ends and resentful teens, there are alternative strategies that parents can use to more effectively discipline their troubled teens.

Work with your teen on discipline - Working with your teen concerning discipline doesn’t mean you have to allow them to run the show. However, it may be time to look at discipline differently.

For one thing, depending on the age of your teen, they may not be home much longer. The focus of discipline should change from trying to control the actions of your teen, and instead, helping your teen understand how to appropriately self-governed. Finding the right balance will take work and many conversations, which can be facilitated by a therapist if needed.

Get involved with therapy - An essential component of finding effective parenting strategies is therapy—both individual and family therapy, if possible. With family therapy, it can help both the parents and teens openly discuss sensitive matters with a trained third-party that can help guide the conversation.

Listen for the communication under the back-talk - Even if your teen is back-talking you, it is still a form of communication you can use. It is when teens shut down and refuse to talk when the trouble starts. With back-talk, listen to what your teen is saying, rather than the disrespectful tone.

Maybe your teen complains that you are too controlling or overly harsh. Take a moment to reflect and see if there is any merit to the complaint, then use the back-talk to facilitate a conversation about both your actions and those of your teen.

Maintain your trustworthy status - If you are working on getting rid of old parenting tactics that don’t work, it is essential that you avoid falling back into old habits. It is an easy way to destroy any fragile trust that you have developed between yourself and your teen.

Consider a behavior modification program - For teens who are struggling with many behavioral and emotional issues, these parenting tactics may not be enough. If the issues are deeply entrenched, a behavioral modification program can help.

If you believe your teenage son could benefit from attending our behavior modification program, feel free to contact us for more information. One of our program advisors will be able to tell you more and help you figure out if your son is a good fit for our program.

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