Rebelling against much of what your parents stand for or instruct you to do is often an expected part of being a teenager. This type of behavior is frustrating for parents. Still, it’s a developmentally expected behavior for teens to push back, test boundaries, and figure out their path forward as they approach adulthood. There are, of course, situations where boundary testing and rebellious behavior go too far. Parents may find themselves with troubled teens struggling with their mental health or getting into trouble with poor decision-making, bad behavior, and even drugs and alcohol. Some teens may even find themselves getting into legal trouble that can potentially haunt them long into adulthood.
How can you, as a parent, help save your teen from going down the wrong path as he tests his boundaries and flexes some of his independence? We’ve got four tips that can help you guide your troubled teen along the way.
The importance of communication
It may feel like a cliché, but the importance of communication between parent and teen can’t be overstated. Your teen may pull back on communicating with you, but that doesn’t mean you should stop doing your part to be open and honest with him. Teens often feel like their parents are lecturing or nagging, so they’ll tune out much of what is being said. How do you continue to communicate with a teen who is pulling back, shutting down, and tuning you out?
o Keep a calm, even, and consistent tone when communicating with your teen. If you approach him with the frustration and anger you are likely feeling, it will immediately put him on the defensive.
o Remind your teen often that you love him without condition and will always be on his side and in his corner. Teens sometimes get to a point where they feel that they’re facing their stress and struggles all on their own. Remind him that he is not alone, even when he feels like he is.
o Find ways to communicate that he is comfortable with. You may prefer face-to-face interactions, but this might not work well for a teen who has anxiety or is embarrassed by what he needs to talk about. It may not be your first choice, but texting could be an option that allows for better communication with a teen who is much more comfortable with this method.
o Don’t give up but also know when it’s a good idea to back away from a teen who is not receptive to communication or even a conversation.
As your child grows into a teen and young adult, you may find yourself needing to adjust and adapt your communication style to meet your teen’s needs and his own style of communication.
Family and one-on-one time together
One of the major adjustments for parents of teens is realizing their teen would often rather spend time alone in his bedroom or be out with friends. While this is also one of those natural milestones of being a teen, it doesn’t mean parents should stop encouraging teens to spend time with their families. If your teen once enjoyed hikes, bike riding, camping, or even video gaming with you and other family members, encourage these continued experiences.
Expect to receive resistance, eye-rolling, and arguing from your teen when you ask him to spend time with you and with his family members. Again, stay calm and collected when interacting with your teen. Family time shouldn’t be a punishment for him, but it also shouldn’t make everyone else miserable because of his anger and attitude. You may want to consider looking for activities your teen would enjoy, whether as a family or just with you. Engaging with your teen doesn’t need to be a constant battle of wills if you adjust your demands on him and your expectations of what togetherness used to look like.
Household rules and boundaries
Does your teen know what the expectations are of him in terms of the rules of the house and behavioral boundaries? As our kids grow up, we know that we need to adjust the house rules and the behaviors we expect from them. This goes hand-in-hand with the consequences of not sticking to those rules and boundaries. While an age-appropriate time out may have worked well for your toddler, your teen will be only too happy to spend time alone in his bedroom as a consequence of his behavior.
Here are a few things that you could try.
o Evaluate the current rules of the house, chores lists, and expectations of everyone in your home. Are they still age-appropriate for your kids?
o Can they be adjusted to consider the ages and abilities of everyone in your home? For example, your teen’s bedtime may be adjusted a bit later than his younger siblings, as could his curfew.
o Make sure that everyone understands what is expected of them. If everyone has assigned chores, make sure that they know when these chores should be done and have the ability to get them done.
o Be willing to adjust and adapt the rules and boundaries as your children grow and as their maturity levels change. Whether this means tightening up some of the rules or loosening them, it’ll depend on how things are going in your home.
o Make the consequences clear to your teen. This way he’s not overly surprised when he loses access to his phone or tablet for poor behavior or for breaking curfew. He’ll still likely be upset about it but he has no excuse because he knew what the consequences would be.
o Listen to feedback from your teen when it comes to the rules, boundaries, and expectations. Does he feel that they are fair? Does he have any suggestions about how they can be changed in a way that is fair to you, his siblings, and to him?
As always, communication is such a key part of your relationship with your teen. Neither of you should feel like it’s always you speaking in his direction without him being comfortable to respond and chime in with his thoughts.
Most of us tend to thrive better in an environment of consistency. Your teen, in particular, will likely respond better to consistency at home. The teen years can be such a roller coaster of emotions and other changes, such as going to a new school and meeting new people, that he may be lashing out at home to any type of changes or unknowns. This is why it’s so important to work with your teen to establish the rules and boundaries of the home, so he can feel that his voice is heard and it’s less of a roller coaster situation for him.
By putting in the groundwork with your teen, from communication to establishing and reinforcing boundaries and consequences, you can remain consistent as you move forward to help your teen navigate the challenges he’s facing.
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