As teens try to figure out who they are and their place in life, they can become rebellious. Your once sweet, loving child can suddenly feel like a stranger. You might deal with serious mood swings, rule-breaking, risk behaviors, and various manifestations of a rebellious teenager toward any authority that you or others have.
While dealing with a rebellious teenager can be exhausting, emotional, and downright difficult, there are ways that you can make it better for everyone involved. You won’t be able to snap your fingers and change your teen overnight, but there are boundaries you can create and steps that you can take to help your teen (and yourself) through this transition.
Stay Calm and in Control
The most important thing you can do is stay calm. One of the worst things that you can do while dealing with an out-of-control teen is to lose control of yourself. If your rebellious teenager sees you losing your patience and yelling at him or her, they can begin to question the boundaries and consequences that you have set. Also, if your teen’s goal at the moment is to get a rise out of you, he or she will see it as a victory rather than as poor behavior. Instead, take a deep breath and even walk away if necessary. Count to 10 and then revisit the situation with a clearer mind. Reacting in the heat of the moment could leave both of you with regrets.
Decide on Fair, Age-Appropriate Rules
One thing you have to remember in all of this is that you are the parent. You are the adult in charge of the household. Your teen may try to exhibit adult-like tendencies, but at the end of the day, you are the one with the life experience necessary to make important decisions.
This means setting boundaries. Even if your teen rebels, deep down inside he or she wants the comfort of boundaries. They need help telling right from wrong; although your teen wants to make decisions on his or her own, remember that an adolescent’s brain is not yet fully formed and they still need guidance. If you need to, write the rules down, that way there is no question about what is acceptable and unacceptable in your home. Don’t worry about hurting your teen’s feelings or giving him or her more reason to rebel. Sensible rules might upset your teen at the moment, but they will have a positive effect over the long term.
Decide on Appropriate Consequences for Breaking Rules
Just as you have rules and boundaries put in place, you need consequences for breaking them. Again, putting this in writing can be beneficial. This way it’s in black and white. Your teen knows that if he or she does X that Y will happen. Your teen can’t accuse you of making up rules as you go along or being unfair if you all are clear on the rules ahead of time.
It’s a good idea to work on the consequences together. This way, you know that your teen has a full understanding of what will occur if he or she breaks a rule. When your teen has some say regarding the consequences, it isn’t just you laying down the law and being unreasonable in the eyes of your teenager. Instead, it’s a way to set the boundaries or limits of what you will and will not accept. Having it in writing also makes it easier for you to stick to those consequences, as you know your teen is fully aware of the outcome of his or her choices.
Focus on Your Teen’s Good Behavior
Positive reinforcement is a strategy that works not only when your child is a toddler but also during his or her teen years. No matter how rebellious your teen may get, he or she still wants to be loved. One way that you can show love is through positive reinforcement.
Take the time to recognize your child’s accomplishments and good behavior. Even if it’s something small, showing your teen that you are proud of him or her could motivate good behavior moving forward. Sometimes a rebellious teenager can look for negative attention because it’s the easiest type of attention to get. If you only pay attention to your teen when he or she does something wrong, the chances of your teen doing something right are slim. Instead, point out the positives and the negatives may start to diminish.
Seek Counseling for Your Rebellious Teenager
Even the most dedicated and savvy parents can’t manage all of their teen’s emotions, particularly when depression, anxiety, a substance abuse issue, or an anger management disorder is contributing to the behavior. If your child has a mental health issue that is contributing to the rebellion, you need a professional to help you fix it. The same would be true if your child had diabetes or a broken leg: You couldn’t fix it for him; you would enlist the help of the medical professionals.
Counseling can be the safe place that your teen needs to let things out and start to get back in control of his or her own actions. You can start with the school guidance counselor or social worker, or you can take your teen to his or her pediatrician for a referral to a therapist who specializes in adolescent mental health.
Seek Counseling for Yourself
Don’t forget about the importance of self-care. This includes counseling for yourself. It’s easy to blame yourself for your teen’s rebellion. It’s also easy to make excuses for him or her. Having an outside source who can help you see the problems for what they are can help you be a better parent. If nothing else, a counselor can help you learn how to communicate better and how to care for yourself as you help your teen navigate this stage of life.
Dealing with a rebellious teenager can feel like an uphill battle, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Remember that these adolescent years are just a small part of your teen’s life. Working with your teenager now can pay off by helping him or her to move into adulthood with good coping mechanisms and a stronger relationship with you.