Redirection techniques are familiar to most parents of toddlers. It is a way for them to help their child change his behavior when he isn’t mature enough to understand the consequences. When it comes to adolescents, many of the same ideas apply, even when they are implemented a little differently. For instance, you can tell your teen a thousand times that he should stay away from alcohol and he can probably parrot back all the reasons that you give, but is not likely to actually understand your urgency on the subject until he is mature enough to comprehend the consequences to his health and development. Redirection for teens requires a plan of action for behavior modification that is consistent and has a clearly stated reward and consequence system. Some of the strategies include:
- Targeting the Problem – While you always want to work with the big picture in mind, you should focus on just a few issues at a time, so your teen doesn’t get discouraged or overwhelmed. It may help to start with negative behavior or action that can be realistically changed quickly in able to help him develop a sense of accomplishment. That being said, anything that compromises his health or safety should be addressed right away.
- Clearly Defined Goals – The idea behind redirection is to encourage your teen to focus on positive actions and behaviors rather than harmful ones, so goals should be discussed and clearly defined. Write down the final results so that both parties can refer back to it as needed.
- Reward System – The incentive in exchange for good behavior or the consequence as a result of negative behavior should be of high value to your teen. What you are offering has to be stronger than what they are doing, so it is important to talk with her about her ideas for privileges and punishments. Use your judgement when it comes to the severity or gratuitousness of anything that is on the table. Making your teen a part of the planning process may help her more willing to participate.
- Be Flexible and Positive – Teens are notoriously changeable, so if he no longer seems motivated, it may be time to alter the rewards and consequences offered. Rework your strategy as needed to keep him as interested and engaged as possible and always keep him in the loop about changes. Be as positive about the process as you can since your behavior can influence his.
- Consistency – Redirection is only successful when parents and caregivers are consistent. Like toddlers, teens learn very fast what it takes to work a situation to their advantage and your best hope of success is to stick to your plan, no matter what. As your teen gains success and achieves goals, she will also gain the tools she needs to control her behavior, rather than trying to control you.
- Be Patient – Negative behaviors don’t disappear overnight and change can take some time. Be patient with your teen and make sure that you note the little points of progress along the way. Remember that even small victories are all taking your child in the right direction.
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