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3 Steps to Dealing With Defiant Teens
3 Steps to Dealing With Defiant Teens
Dealing with defiant teens can be frustrating. You want the best for your child, but how do you guide him in the right direction when he’s obviously off track? And how do you know when a teen is just going through a phase or when he needs outside help? In this article, you will learn three important tips for progressively getting back the child that you know and love and how to help a teen who you can’t seem to make an impact on.
First, you must understand that defiant teens’ behavior is a function of brain development and hormones. Adolescence is a time of neuronal pruning and brain reconstruction. During this time, the brain gets rid of entire neural networks and builds the prefrontal cortex, which is that part of the brain that once fully developed, allows young adults to make healthy choices.
Problem is during the teen years, your child’s brain goes out the window. This is why formally responsible kids can suddenly start making shockingly poor choices. Couple this with the surge of hormones during adolescence and you get behaviors like disrespect, aggression and teen defiance. Choices made while in a rebellious state can be a recipe for disaster for kids and the parents who are responsible for them.
As parents, we know full well that decisions made during the teen years can affect a person for their entire life. For instance, the decision to make good grades can be the springboard to college and the ability to earn a good living at a satisfying career and support a loving family. The choice to dropout can lead to a lifetime of low paying jobs and barely scraping by.
We love our kids, but defiant teens and their choices frighten us and make us worried about their future. Below are three tips that will help. (Note these tips apply to teens who get along with people most of the time, not with teens who are chronically mean-spirited and rebellious. Read to the end of the article to learn how to get help for this type of teenager.)
Give your child kudos for the good choices he makes. If you are always on his back about what he does wrong, he will end up feeling like he can’t do anything right, so why bother? In some ways, teenagers are like two-year olds—you need to acknowledge the small steps they take in positive directions and define firm limits. So give your kid a “good job” when you catch him studying or when he takes his dinner plate to the sink, but don’t be over the top about it. Let him know that you appreciate the good things he does with small expressions of approval. Sometimes a nod, or a pat on the back will be all he needs. Do not rescue your child from the consequences of his behavior. If he acts like a typical defiant teen and backtalks one of his teachers, do not call and make excuses for his behavior. Let your teen learn on his own that his behavior has consequences in the real world for which he must be responsible. Talk to him about making choices that serve him, rather than those that ultimately make him miserable, but don’t preach. Ask him the questions that will help him find the answers on his own. One of the most difficult tasks we face as parents is to let our children learn the tough lessons in life, but ultimately, this will make them responsible human beings. Trust in teen development. Remember what you were like when you were a teen. In some ways, when defiant teens reject us and all we stand for, they are desperately trying to find themselves. Yes, this may involve making some poor, reactionary choices, but as long as we help them learn and clearly define the limits, we should be able to steer our teens away from those choices that permanently alter the course of their lives. Trust in the seeds of love and wisdom you have planted in your teen. In time, they will sprout and flourish.
Of course, these suggestions will only work with kids who are basically good kids, but act like defiant teens from time to time. For kids that have been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder, you need a different tact. These kids have adopted a behavioral style that is chronically negative and combative. Even if your teen has not been diagnosed with this condition, but he shows this teen behavior, you should get help.
Don’t wait because as your teen grows in stature, strength and psychological power, this behavior usually worsens, so it’s important to get help now. Studies have shown that this type of teen behavior can even lead to criminal behavior in adulthood. The solution for a defiant teens is to get them into therapy or use an at-home behavioral program that will teach you the skills to help your teenager turn his life around. The benefits of a behavioral program is that it creates measurable changes in behavior and is a tool that you can use to educate yourself, so you’ll know what to do when your teen acts out.
Another possibility, although a lot more drastic is military school or teen boot camp, but most parents consider this only as a last resort.
As parents, we love our kids and want the best for them. That’s why we must pay attention to the cues that our teens give us and learn when they just need patience, limits and guidance and when defiant teens require outside help.
Laura Ramirez is an advocate who helps troubled kids get their lives back on track with an at-home behavioral modification program called Total Transformation which was developed by a therapist who was once a troubled teen himself.
She is also the award-winning author of the parenting book, Keepers of the Children: Native American Wisdom and Parenting which teaches parents how to raise kids to develop their strengths and lead fulfilling, productive lives.