Why Does My Teenager Only Listen After I Lose My Temper


We’ve all been there. You tell your kids to clean up after themselves. You give them plenty of polite reminders. Then the reminders become a little more firm. Then comes the threat of consequences if they don’t clean up after themselves. The frustration builds. Then it all becomes too much, and you lose it.

You hate losing your temper on them, but it DID work. They actually got up and cleaned up, just like you knew they would.

Why does it have to be like this?

Why do teenagers only listen after we lose our temper?

Unfortunately, there’s no simple solution to this problem. There’s no magic wand that you can wave to make your teenager suddenly start caring about their chores and pick up after themselves.

However, there are a few strategies that you can try that might ease the tension in your house and give your troubled teen a little more ownership over their responsibilities.

Does your teen understand their rights vs. privileges?

Typical teenagers these days have a lot in their lives that they take for granted. Depending on what life is like in your household, some of these things might include:

  • Having a cell phone --- probably a smartphone
  • Having at least one video game system
  • Having a laptop or tablet
  • Having cool (or at least new-ish) headphones
  • Access to social media accounts
  • Access to TV, movies, and video streaming services
  • Access to multiple music streaming services
  • Having somewhat stylish clothes and accessories

Since today’s teenagers grow up already having many of these things, they take for granted that all of these things are a given in life. It’s as if they’re a right, not a privilege. As all of the grown-ups know, none of those things are rights --- they’re all privileges!

Your troubled teen needs to learn that privileges like these are often tied to your responsibilities.

For example, we have the privilege of having streaming video services delivered to our homes, but we pay the bills for those services. They’re not free. If we stop paying the bills, those services will disappear pretty quickly.

Tying privileges to responsibilities

Your teenager has responsibilities too. The responsibilities are toned down at their age compared to what they will face as adults, but the responsibilities still exist.

So, it’s super important that troubled teens learn how to follow through with their responsibilities independently. If they only listen after you lose your temper, that’s not a good setup for adulthood.

To help address this issue, have a family conversation focused on solving the problem at hand.

Tell them that you don’t like having to lose your temper for them to do their chores, and they probably don’t like getting yelled at either. That cycle isn’t fun for anyone involved, and it makes life more stressful than it needs to be.

If you all work together to break that cycle, life will be more peaceful for everyone.

Create a plan in your household that ties privileges to responsibilities. As long as your teenager follows through with their basic responsibilities, there’s no need for their basic privileges to change. They can keep all of the things they’re used to having, as long as they’re doing what’s expected of them. Make the expectations clear. Write them down and clarify any questions that your kids might have.

  • Example: Before you go to school in the morning, bring every dirty dish out of your room and load them in the dishwasher.
  • Then, set consequences tying their privileges to those responsibilities.

  • Example: If there are still dirty dishes in your room after you’ve left for school, you hand over your phone as soon as you get home from school. You will get your phone back the next afternoon if there aren’t dirty dishes in your room.
  • Here comes the hard part: follow through with the consequences.

    You can expect your kids to fight back when you enforce the consequences, and that won’t be fun. The difference is, it puts the control in their hands. They’re in charge of following through with their responsibilities to keep their privileges, which mirrors adulthood.

    What to do if nothing seems to work

    If your teenager does not care about their responsibilities or privileges, you may have a bigger problem. Some troubled teens are obstinate enough to completely flaunt the rules and disregard the consequences. Others seem to lack motivation entirely and don’t care if you take away every single privilege. They’re content to be lazy and never have privileges if it means never doing work.

    In either of those cases, consider seeking outside help. Your troubled teen might have more going on than regular teenage sloppiness. At Liahona Treatment Center, our therapists are trained to help teen boys overcome various mental health struggles and encourage a sense of responsibility.

    Contact us today to find out how we can help your family.

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