Tips for Dealing with a Defiant Teen
Written by Craig Rogers, in Section Help for Parents
It can happen to anyone. Your child starts out sweet and eager-to-please. You’re a team; you understand each other. Then, adolescence hits, she morphs into an angry troublemaker, and you’re left feeling completely hoodwinked, and a little betrayed. Resist the urge to fight fire with fire, and try these studied approaches instead for dealing with your defiant teen.
Get to the Bottom of the Problem
When a smart teen with a stable home life goes through a rebellion, there is often an underlying cause. Adolescence is often a time of big social upheaval—old childhood friendships might not continue into adulthood, and there is the added pressure of romantic relationships. Pick a time when your teen is relaxed and having fun, and initiate a light-hearted conversation about how things are going. Listen first, then assess what it is your teen needs from you:
- Empathizing or understanding that they’re in a tough situation
- Reassurance, or reminding them that their talents/personality make them unique
- Helping them to handle the issue (such as bullying) in a more productive way, even telling them what to say in some cases
- Getting yourself involved in the situation if things are beyond your teen’s control
Get Them Involved
Teenagers who are involved in extracurricular activities of their own choosing are more likely to see themselves in a positive light, and less likely to get in trouble. Some ideas for places your teen can get involved:
- Volunteer someplace that is compatible with your teen’s interests
- School activities: plays, sports, clubs, dance. Check out the school’s website to see what’s available.
- Civic groups such as 4-H, Rotary, or church youth organizations
- Tutoring. Pick your child’s best subject and suggest they might be able to use their talents to help out a classmate whose grades are slipping.
- Involve Yourself
Often, a Teen’s Rebellion is Really Just a Cry for Attention
- Assess your own schedule:
- Have things been especially chaotic at work,
- Have you be preoccupied at home?
- Has a younger sibling’s activities taken precedence over your teen’s interests?
- Set aside a Saturday or Sunday for a one-on-one “date” with your teen—let them choose the activity or the restaurant, stay laid back and positive, and see how things unfold.
- Choose Your Battles
As easy as it can be to react strongly to every one of your teen’s transgressions, try to reign yourself in. A teen’s reaction to constant goading or nagging is likely to be negative; if their chosen behavior has no serious negative consequences, but is merely annoying, try ignoring it.
If you can’t control the situation, then control yourself. This can be the hardest rule in the book. It can be so tempting to maintain your authority by out-yelling your teen, but that approach is likely to devolve rather quickly into a shouting match full of name-calling. As much as possible, stay firm and grounded, speak calmly, and don’t let your teen get the better of you.