Behavior Problems

The teenage years are perhaps the most difficult years for parents and kids. As with any relationship, your relationship with your kids goes through different cycles and stages. While you were their “hero” in the toddler years, by the teen years you may become just an “advisor to the board”—someone you hope they will consult on crucial decisions!
Add teenage behavior problems to the parenting mix and things can be downright tough. How you, as a parent, handle these potentially tumultuous years is important for your own well-being and your child’s.

How can I avoid having behavioral problems with my kids?

Prevention is always the best option. If you can create an environment that reduces the chance of teenage behavior problems, this is certainly ideal. No matter how great a parent you are, you can’t control your teen, just as you can’t control the decisions or behavior of any other human being.

But while you can’t control your teen, you can control your own behavior. You can decide how you will interact with your teen—and this is where dealing with teenage behavior problems begins.

Two things you can do to improve your chances of a successful relationship with your teen are to be consistent and practice effective discipline.

  • Be Consistent: Almost everyone will tell you that as an effective parent you need to be consistent. Who would argue that point? The problem is, most people are inconsistent! One way to become more consistent is to develop a “parenting plan”. Such a plan would include developing ways to consistently reinforce desirable behavior in your child. Another way to be consistent is to provide structured time, both for your child and for yourself. Creating routines and providing structure often reduces conflict and gives children a sense of predictability in the home environment.
  • Practice Effective Discipline: Previous generations of parents often relied on reward and punishment as a way to discipline their children. In fact, most people think of “punishment” when they hear the word discipline. Another definition of discipline is “to teach”. If parents are going to use discipline to teach, what are the lessons children ought to learn? For one, children need to learn from their mistakes. Experience can be a great teacher! By providing choices and using natural and logical consequences, parents can help children to learn by making good (and sometimes not-so-good) decisions. Parents who rely exclusively on reward and punishment may be preventing their children from learning valuable lessons about making choices. To read about the 11 mistakes parents make with teen discipline, click here.

For more information about the use natural and logical consequences, visit the following websites:

What can I do when teenage behavior problems happen?

Teenage behavior problems are bound to come, even to the parents who faithfully practice “preventative medicine” and regularly extend choices and decision-making power to their children. One problem area is curfew. Curfew is a big trigger, especially because parents want to keep their kids safe. It is essential to be clear with your boundaries while also giving your teens the opportunity to discuss alternatives. Consider following this three step strategy.

  1. Set a specific time. Be certain that it is clear.
  2. Discuss ahead of time what to do if they are late. Have them call you by telephone so you don’t worry. If they need a ride or are in a dangerous situation, ask them to call you (if this happens make certain you don’t yell at them the entire ride home!). Consider filling out a Contract for Life with your teen, a document provided on the SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) website.
  3. Discuss the parenting commonsense consequences of being late. A common one is that their curfew will be an hour earlier for the next week until they prove that they can be responsible with time. Once they do this, then go back to their original curfew. It is important that this is not used as a punishment. You may also decide to give them the option of having their friends over until the time of their regular curfew. These steps for handling curfew ensure your teens will keep actively making choices about their behavior, which is crucial.

No matter what the issue is, whether it is about their curfew or something else, try to implement the same principles outlined here. As much as possible, create an environment in which your teens can make decisions about their own behavior.

Finally, take teenage behavior problems in stride. An over-the-top reaction from you will guarantee an over-the-top reaction from your teen—which is usually an over-the-top attempt to not “get caught” the next time. Instead of inspiring good decisions, such heavy-handedness discourages teens and prompts them toward making more poor choices. Be gentle; be firm; be patient; be loving. You’ll find teenage behavior problems will be a lot less problematic.

For tips on troubleshooting the following teen behavior problems, see the following WebMD article.

  • Your teen seems to hate you
  • Communication devices rule their lives
  • They are staying out too late
  • They are hanging out with kids you don’t like
  • Everything’s drama