Positive Parenting with Difficult Teenagers

Troubled Teen Positive ParentingParenting difficult teenagers is a real challenge.  It is a high stress, full time job that can sometimes turn even the most patient person into an anxious mess.  After a while, the term “positive parenting” becomes almost comical, especially when your teenager always seems to be in trouble.  Sometimes, however, all it takes to effectively get through to your child is another approach.

At first, as with anything new, this may seem “difficult” or even silly, but with time both you and your teenager will understand and adapt and ultimately improve behavior dramatically.

Some theorize that children, even teenagers act out to get attention – even if it’s negative attention.  While that may have some merit, one thing we know for sure; continuing negative parenting never works.  It just isn’t effective.  The following are a few ways you can apply positive parenting into your daily routine…

Catch Your Teen Being Good

Those who have been through parenting difficult teens understand that it is like always waiting for “the other shoe to drop.”  Some parents of troubled teens get phone calls every day about their child’s behavior and it seems like every conversation with teens ends up in an argument.  It’s a pattern that most parents of difficult teens get into, and it is tough trying to break it, but it can be done.

Part of positive parenting is learning to catch your adolescent child being good or finding good (even in typically “bad” situations).  Think in small terms here.  Even the worst of kids will do something thoughtful, however small, from time to time.  For example, when I apply this, I might find my teen throw her candy wrapper in the trash instead of leaving it on the table or floor…or she might clean up the kitchen table or wash the dishes without being asked.  These might seem like no big deal, but they should be.    And its simple too…say something positive about it like…“thanks for throwing that away…” This would definitely be a step in the right direction.

They may not say anything but your teen will notice your comment and “take note” that you recognized something good.

Choose Your Battles Carefully

Parenting difficult teens often leads to daily arguments.  I know for me, even our 10 minutes conversations on the way to school in the morning almost always ended up in arguments…over relatively trivial…or even rather dumb things.  Think in terms of baby steps.  Not every situation or negative comment uttered by your teen is cause to argue.  Let some things slide.  Face it, they know (probably better than anyone) how to push your buttons, and you continue to let them “push” by arguing over every little thing.

Positive parenting doesn’t mean letting them get away with everything, but you do have to let go of some of the reactive anger and the petty arguing.  Once they realize they will not get a reaction out of you every time they do something, they will most likely stop some of their negative behaviors.  It’s important to recognize that while we are trying to stop the teen’s negative behavior, we need to work on our own as well.

Turn Negatives into a Positive

This concept may take a little time to wrap your mind around, but it makes sense.  There are situations teens get themselves into that make positive parenting difficult at best.  However, suppose that instead of always seeing the negative side of a situation, you found something positive?  Here are some examples that may help…

Jenny got suspended from school for arguing with a classmate:  While this would cause concern for any parent…before you react, think for a moment how, while addressing the negative, you could find the positive.  While she may have gone about handling the situation the wrong way, Jenny was speaking up for herself, or something she believed.  That is a trait many more people need.  You could explain to her that it should have been done in a different manner, but speaking up is a positive thing.

Tommy got caught stealing shoes from the mall.  OK, theft, big “no-no.”  However, he was going after what he wanted (again, in the wrong way, but that just needs direction).  He is a risk taker.  Again, it will take some teaching to show them how to use these skills in better and more productive ways, but they are good skills to have.

Mary snuck out to go to a party.  Hmm, another rule breaker, but wait…she was willing to go after what she wanted.  If exhibited in another situation, this would be a good thing.  The negative must be addressed, but there is almost always a positive side to every situation.  It is easy to take a moment to mention the positive side and it will pay dividends in the long run.

Yes, the negative needs to be addressed.  It is important, however, that the teen realize that you see some good in them.  You see something positive, even if it was expressed in the wrong way.  Granted, some situations make it very difficult to find the positive, but in most cases it can be done.

Parenting troubled teens is not easy.  No child comes with a manual explaining how to deal with these situations.  Positive parenting is all about reacting positively instead of negatively.  Does this mean the teen does whatever they want?  Absolutely not!  It means you react more positively and try to bring more harmony into the home.  Take some time to think about how you can turn parenting a troubled teen into a positive parenting experience.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Veronica Trejo-Aguilera May 3, 2012 at 6:14 PM

Part of positive parenting is learning to catch your adolescent child being good or finding good (even in typically “bad” situations)—Every one needs words of affirmation…even teens.

Positive parenting doesn’t mean letting them get away with everything, but you do have to let go of some of the reactive anger and the petty arguing—–So true! We all need grace in life. So important to remember as a parent we were also a teenager.

Love turning a positive into a negative— Great tool for our teens to be exposed to as they head into adolesence. There will always be storms but it’s learning how to dance in the midst of them.

Great stuff Andrew!

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TroubleTeenNoMore May 4, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Thank you Roni! I love how you said to “learn how to dance in the midst of the storm.” With all of the wind and fire in raising teens, we sometimes forget that the rain can actually be really fun too. Here’s to dancing more in the storm. AR.

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