April 2012

Teenagers can sometimes be difficult to deal with…nobody is going to argue with you on that.  As a parent, you are most likely aware that teens somehow find a way to get under your skin.  There are so many changes going on with them emotionally, psychologically and biologically  that it’s almost impossible to understand them…

Their unpredictable temper and natural instinct of reclusiveness makes communication oftentimes difficult.  Also, for the first time in their lives they are experiencing a new level of independence and “enjoying” all of the advantages while not fully understanding consequences of their actions.

They want to do different things because they see what’s “out there” and do not want to be constantly directed by their parents or other authority figures.  Oftentimes they are stubborn too.  This may already be obvious to you in your experience.

As you can imagine, these and many other things cause conflict between you and your teenager. Typically, while parenting difficult teenagers, a central conflict arises.  One side (your teen) is trying to break free…while you on the other hand, want to keep your child under “control” and safe.

If this is a challenge that you are facing with your teen, here are a few tips to help you positively parent your difficult teenager.

Give Them Responsibility

Slowly ceding responsibility to your child will give them a sense of confidence and empowerment while still allowing you to retain a certain amount direction.  Give your teen some “room” to take on responsibility hold him accountable yet don’t be overbearing.  Should she fail in their duties, approach with concern and understanding while driving home the point rather than approaching as a dictator.   Take time to discuss the issues. You can always assist with the task of responsibility if a certain situation doesn’t work out.  This will convey to your teen that you are expecting something from them but at the same time are willing to assist.  This will help to reduce stress in your relationship with your child.

Allow Them to Make Decisions

Ultimately, you want a child that makes “good decisions”.  Allowing your teen to make decisions will give them a sense of control and responsibility for their own actions.  This conveys trust and communicates love.  This can greatly improve your problems as your child becomes happier with the level of trust and leverage they are being given.  Keep in mind that what is given may be taken away so if things do not turn out well.  Responsibility can be misused by your teen and as such, use your judgment on when you should reverse your decisions.

Always involve your teen in the conversation, always make ensure that you are letting them make the decision and they will feel much better about it when it comes along.

When Giving Them Tasks Keep It General

Let your teen handle their own work and schedule do not make them work at any time but give them a job and a deadline.  Whether they do it in the first few minutes or in a while let them know it is up to them and they get to decide.  You should also allow them to experiment with different methods in doing a task.  Even if something is not the way you would do it, allow them to try.  You can advise them on method but never ever impose yours on theirs. See if you can get them to try it and learn it that way.

Keep the Volume to a Minimum

In arguments always try to keep the volume down even if you get frustrated.  If you are anything like I used to be, your voice level might have a tendency to go off the chart.  If your volume rises, your teen will shut down and there will be no way to convey your ultimate message.  By keeping the volume down, you maintain a certain level of control of the situation and don’t shit the issue.

Listen and Understand

Try to understand your teen’s point of view.  This allows you to empathize with her and let her know you care.  If it has appeared you’ve listened to her and you know her reasons for a decision she will trust you more and be much more likely to listen to your point of view in return.

This is a great method to come to an agreement over many arguments with a teenager. It communicates to them that you respect their thoughts and their decisions.  Even if they don’t eventually agree with your logic they will often agree with your point just to show that they respect you also.

See Them “Real” People

You can’t shoebox your teen as a non-entity just because you are the parent.  You have to take them seriously and listen to their desires and decisions.  They are experiencing emotions as strong as yours if not stronger.  In order to convince them that you care, you must treat them the way you want them to act.

Maintain Control

The entire message of this work has been leading up to one major tip in dealing with difficult teenagers. Always maintain control of the situation.  This does not mean micromanaging their daily lives but instead being the architect of their direction.  You are the parent and are responsible for guiding them through this sometimes difficult phase in their life.

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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.

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