How to Live With a Defiant Teen

By Tiffany Raiford
Living with defiant teens takes a certain kind of approach to parenting.
Living with defiant teens takes a certain kind of approach to parenting.

As a parent, you might expect your teen to defy your wishes and rules from time to time. After all, you were a teen once and you probably remember all too well how difficult life felt at that age. Despite that knowledge, living with a defiant teen is not exactly a walk in the park. You’ll find your patience tested, your anger manifested, and you may even feel a little lost when it comes to living and dealing with a defiant teen. Before you let hopelessness take over, take a deep breath and realize that you are the parent and you can change your teen’s defiant behavior.

Stay consistent with enforcing the rules and issuing punishments when your teen is behaving in a defiant manner, says Mary Muscari, co-author of two parenting books and teacher at Decker School of Nursing at Binghamton University in New York. Your teen is pushing your limits and testing your boundaries to get under your skin and to see how much she can get away with. To get a handle on her defiant behavior, you have to stay consistent with your rules. In fact, print the rules on a piece of paper or poster board and hang them visibly in your home as a constant reminder to your teen that you are not playing games.

Sign your teen up for a volunteer opportunity every so often. According to Mary Muscari, volunteering provides teens with a little perspective when it comes to what they consider a difficult life in comparison to what is actually a difficult life. If your defiant teen thinks you are a horrible mom who is out to get him, perhaps spending a few hours a month volunteering at a shelter for the homeless or abused children will make him realize that his life isn’t so bad in comparison.

Respond to your teen’s defiant attitude with empathy, humor or persuasion, advises Dr. Joseph Shrand. Dr. Shrand is a child psychiatrist and the medical director for an at risk teens unit called Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered, located at the High Point Treatment Center in Massachusetts. This approach, according to Dr. Shrand, is more effective than responding with anger or impatience. If your teen attempts to defy you by not performing well in school, respond with a humorous comment such as, “Awesome! With grades like this your dad and I won’t have to drive you to the eighth grade dance because you’ll be old enough to drive yourself.” Teens respond better to responses like this than they do anger, which merely incites their own anger even more.


Let your teen help you create the rules at home. Oftentimes, teens feel more willing to abide by the rules when they find them fair, which they are more likely to do if you team up to compromise on, and create, them.

About the Author

Tiffany Raiford has several years of experience writing freelance. Her writing focuses primarily on articles relating to parenting, pregnancy and travel. Raiford is a graduate of Saint Petersburg College in Florida.