How to Deal With Difficult Teenagers

The teenage years are the ones that often prove most difficult for parents, according to the American Psychological Association 1. You love your teen, but her difficult behavior is challenging to deal with. During these trying years, teens attempt to assert their independence, leave their childhood behind and prepare for adulthood. They tend to view themselves as more mature than they actually are, which often leads to difficult behavior as your opinions and views on their independence clash. Your job as his parent is to ensure that you handle the teenage years in a manner that keeps your teen safe and healthy, and hopefully makes everyone happy.

Say exactly what you mean, how you feel and what you want to see in the future. According to Mitch Abblett, Ph.D. in his piece, “A Special Education,” for Psychology Today, teens are a lot smarter than adults give them credit for, and dealing with your difficult teen is more difficult when you aren’t being genuine with them 2. Your teen can tell when you’re being fake or condescending or patronizing, which means you need to get real. When dealing with your teen’s difficult behavior, take the honest approach.

Stop using the word “but” when conversing with your teen, according to Mitch Abblett, Ph.D. When dealing with your difficult teen, it doesn’t help to end every conversation with this word followed by a long list of everything they’ve done wrong. If you are discussing your teen’s maturity and how she wants to amend some of the household rules because she believes she’s mature enough to have more freedom, don’t tell her you’d love to and then add an addendum to the end with a "but" and everything she’s done wrong in the past. Sometimes it’s best to keep that to yourself and avoid further confrontation.

Allow your teen to help you set the rules, according to professionals at the Mayo Clinic. Allowing your teen to help you set the rules and the consequences that go along with breaking them is a way to help him respect the rules. When your teen respects your rules and consequences, he’s more likely to follow them. Letting him have a say in the rules makes them more reasonable and easy for him to follow. He’s less likely to break rules he agrees with than he is to break ones he views as unreasonable, unfair and ridiculous.

Make your teen your priority. According to child psychologist Gregory Ramey of the Children’s Medical Center in Ohio, staying connected with your teen helps you both avoid conflict. Your teen may not act like she wants you around, but that’s not necessarily true. Instead of listening to her when she tells you she doesn’t want you around, make it a priority to keep connected with her by planning family outings, being the loudest, proudest parent at her games or performances, and by offering positive reinforcement when she behaves well. Showing your teens constant love and affection shows them they are important to you, which helps with their difficult behavior.

Use humor. According to psychiatrist Dr. Joseph Shrand, the medical director of the Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered intervention unit at the High Point Treatment Center in Massachusetts as well as a father of four children, sometimes humor is the appropriate tool in dealing with difficult teen behavior. The next time your 13- or 14-year-old eighth grader brings home a bad grade, say, “Don’t let me forget to ask the principal tomorrow if they have a student parking lot at the middle school, since you seem to want to stay there for the next few years.” Teens understand humor, and jokes like this may very well embarrass them into realizing what their behavior means or have more of an impact on them than your typical parental disappointment.