How to Deal With Unmanageable Teens

In the eyes of a parent, teens tend to be excessively self-absorbed. This makes them hard to manage. Yet the reason for this form of self-absorption is one of self-discovery. Parents who wish to effectively manage their teens must find a middle ground between control and permissiveness.

Managing Teens through Group Processes

While you may wish to manage your teen directly, teens have a tendency to exclude parents from major aspects of their lives. If you react in a controlling way, it may further distance you and your teen. At this time, teens are hanging out with friends and joining activities. Make sure your teen is engaging with trustworthy people and groups. Parents who give their teens permission to join certain activities or clubs show their teens that they respect their newfound independence yet can still have a say in what activities their teens engage in.

Avoid Labeling

When a conflict arises between you and your teen, avoid the urge to label your child or her actions. Instead of calling her “unmanageable,” “selfish,” or “lazy,” speak objectively about her actions and how those influence you or your relationship. Labeling a teen something she doesn’t consider herself to be may exacerbate the conflict, whereas discussing the undeniable consequences of certain actions may give way to a resolution. If your teen refuses to clean her room, avoid the ever-so-tempting “pigsty” label and discuss with her how having to clean her room for her adds to your workload, making it hard to get other things done.

Don’t Pretend to Understand

Even if you really do understand what your teen is going through, instantly letting him know that you understand may close the door to free communication, according to Michael Riera, psychologist and author of “Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers.” Because:

  • teenagers tend to believe that their experiences are unique
  • they may see parental understanding as phony 1

If your teen doesn’t trust you, it’s hard to get through to him. So, before giving advice, open your ears to your teen, even if you know what he’s going to say.

Because the teen years require parents to let go of their children to an extent, direct managing and monitoring become infeasible. But this is no reason to give complete reign to your teen. Knowing what’s going on in your teen’s life is the first step to knowing when to get involved. Too much stepping in will stifle your teen, so make sure that your teen absolutely needs your help before taking over. Realize that experimentation is normal during the teen years, but don’t overlook drug use, antisocial behavior or severe emotional problems.