How to Handle Teen Defiance

During adolescence, teens can become defiant and frustrating when trying to assert their independence. How do you respect their need to grow, while also teaching your teen to be respectful of your authority?

It begins with a mutual respect. If you show them respect, you are modelling how you would like them to treat you. Always keep in mind that though your teen may be pushing you away, they still need you to care for them. More importantly, they need you to give them the tools to care for themselves, even when they are resistant to learning them.

Set Boundaries

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Make sure you know what your rules are for your teen, and stick to them. If your teen oversteps boundaries—if they lie about where they’re going, if they abuse substances, or if they put themselves and others at risk—make it clear that their behavior is absolutely unacceptable. Have a plan of action beforehand for dealing with such behavior.

When you’re trying to establish these boundaries, it can be helpful for you and your teen to decide on them together. It is easier for them to stay in line when they know what is and is not acceptable, rather than having to guess or make assumptions. And working together gives you a chance to reach compromises, explain your reasoning and show that what they think is important to you.

Focus on Problem-Solving

Your teen’s bad behavior isn’t necessarily about you. It could also be an expression of dissatisfaction with something else in their life.

Calmly ask your teen what they want to accomplish. Talk to them respectfully and try to cut through the bad behavior and find out what exactly the problem, is and let them know that the way they’re acting isn’t going to help solve it. Be straightforward and logical, and try not to get upset or show anger. Demonstrate that you want them to succeed and be happy, and ask how you can help them get there.

Be Consistent

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Once you start laying down the law, chances are you’ll experience a lot of pushback. Stay strong and keep to your word, and be clear about why they are being punished. If your rules are inconsistent, your teen might take liberties with them. If you punish them for something you were fine with last week, they will be confused and angry—and rightfully so.

Don’t Take it Personally

The teenage years are an emotional roller coaster. Your kids will say horrible things that they don’t mean. They might curse at you and tell you they hate you. Try to separate the teenage attitude from the person. They’re still your child and, even if they don’t want to admit it, they still depend on you for a lot.

Remind yourself that a certain amount of defiance is a part of your teen’s development, and it’s not going to last forever. Don’t be afraid to talk to a professional if you’re having a tough time.

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