How to Improve the Defiant Behavior of Teenagers

By Amy Morin
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When teens begin asserting their independence and separating psychologically from their parents, they might start to engage in defiant behavior. Although some rebellion is developmentally appropriate, defiant behavior can get worse if it's not addressed appropriately. Whether your teen ignores your requests, argues when given instructions or breaks the rules on purpose, take disciplinary action to prevent the behaviors from becoming destructive.

Establish Appropriate Rules and Consequences

Step 1

Create rules that clearly state your expectations. Establishing a list of rules and ensuring your teenager understands them can prevent a lot of disagreements later on.

Step 2

Discuss negative consequences for breaking the rules ahead of time. Make it clear what will happen if he's late for curfew or if he doesn't do his chores.

Step 3

Address one behavior at a time if there are many behavior problems to contend with at once. Focus on the behavior that you are most concerned about first. If you've got a teen who is skipping school, not doing his chores and swearing, you might decide to focus on his school attendance first and worry about the chores and swearing later. It may be overwhelming to you and your teen if you attempt to address every misbehavior at once.

Address Misbehavior with Negative Consequences

Step 1

Actively ignore minor behavior problems such as whining, sulking or complaining. Ignoring shows that you aren't interested in arguing, nagging or justifying the rules and consequences when your teen doesn't discuss his concerns and feelings in an appropriate manner.

Step 2

Remove privileges when your teen breaks a rule. Take away whatever privilege is meaningful to your teenager, such as spending time with friends or using the computer to play games. Clearly specify the length of time that the privilege will be removed or the steps your teen needs to take to earn the privilege back. For example, take away TV for 24 hours or allow your child to earn back his ability to go to a friend's house only after he has cleaned his room.

Step 3

Impose additional responsibilities if a serious rule has been broken. For example, if he gets kicked off the bus for two days, make him do extra chores to make up for the time you'll have to spend driving him to and from school.

Reward Positive Behavior

Step 1

Provide plenty of positive attention so that you aren't always focusing on the negative behavior. Praise good behavior when you see it and focus on your teen's efforts.

Step 2

Reward good behavior with tangible rewards. For example, motivate your teen to complete his homework on time by offering him a chance to go to the movies on Friday night if he's completed his homework every day without being told to finish it.

Step 3

Increase privileges when your teen exhibits responsible behavior and follows the rules. If your teen shows he can be home each night in plenty of time for his curfew, allow him to stay out 30 minutes later the next time. Show your teen that he can earn other extra privileges by showing a willingness to follow the rules.

About the Author

Amy Morin has been writing about parenting, relationships, health and lifestyle issues since 2009. Her work appears in many print and online publications, including Mom.me and Global Post. Morin works as a clinical therapist and a college psychology instructor. Morin received her Master of Social Work from the University of New England.