Raising any teenager can be tough, but raising a defiant teenager is especially difficult. It’s like a slap in the face to see the sweet child you raised morph into an angry, defiant teenager before your very eyes. Who is this person – this teenager screaming at you across the dinner table? What did you do to deserve such aggression and hostility? And, most importantly, what should you do? Should you ignore the behavior? Yell and scream yourself? Run away and hide until they are 30 and the phase has passed? While there’s no one right answer, I’m hoping that the suggestions in this article will help to make dealing with your defiant teenager just a little bit easier.
First, examine the underlying factors of your teen’s behavior. Many parents are in such a rush to “fix” things, that they end up treating the symptom instead of the cause. While some teenage defiant behavior is typical and even developmentally appropriate, there are many situations where the defiance is actually a symptom of something much deeper. Therefore, it is always a good idea to look closely to determine if there is a more serious issue. Could depression be playing a factor? Are drugs or alcohol a possibility? Are new friends to blame? Or could your teen just be trying desperately to get your attention? All of these are situations that may need to be handled differently than a typical defiant teenager situation, so it is important to try to figure out the root cause of the defiance if at all possible.
Second, realize that this defiant behavior does have an upside. I know, that sounds completely crazy, but hear me out. The biggest developmental task of being a teenager is to figure out who they are as a person and to learn how to live independently. By challenging your rules and pushing the boundaries, they are practicing what it will be like in the real world, one where they will be forced to make their own decisions and think for themselves. You have an amazing opportunity to show them the proper way to do this – to be in control of their own lives while still considering others and respecting authority. Even though it will be a long, tiring battle, if done properly, it is a battle with a purpose. Arguing with your defiant teen or watching them flat-out disobey you will probably always make you upset, but reminding yourself that this very process is shaping them into the wonderful adults they will turn out to be might make it just a little more bearable.
Third, hate the behavior…but love the teen. Although the eye rolls and backtalk might suggest differently, most teens really do yearn for attention from their parents. While this doesn’t necessarily mean they would give up going to the mall with their friends to hang out with you, it does mean that all those little things that you do are noticed. Do you praise your teen for any of the positive things they are doing? Do you take time out of your day to talk to them about their interests and things that they would like to talk about? Do you keep asking them to spend quality time with you…even if they always turn you down? These may seem minor and insignificant to you, but trust me, they may be huge to your teen. Remember when your teen was a toddler, and all the books told you to practice positive reinforcement? Well, it still holds true today! Teens would much rather be praised than fight, that much is obvious. But they would rather fight than be ignored. So make sure to take the time to show your love towards your teen. Even if it doesn’t seem to make a difference to them, it will ultimately end up making a huge difference in their behavior.
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