What all parents should know:
“I love you, but I don’t love your choices.” This is your motto when parenting a rebellious teenager. Your love for them should never go away, no matter how frustrated, angry, upset, or embarrassed you may be as a parent. Easier said than done. But if you can, keep this motto close and even express it to your child: “I love you, but I don’t love your choices. My love for you will never go away and there is nothing you can do to take it away. But right now I don’t love your behaviors and I don’t love the choices you have made recently.”
Now, there is no perfect teenager. As a matter of fact, rebellion occurs in ALL teenagers; but not all teenagers rebel the same way. Rebellion can either be constructive or it can be destructive. Some teens rebel in ways that do not hurt friends, parents, siblings or themselves. These teens choose a wiser way to test adulthood and are good stewards to the freedoms they are given. Remember there is purpose in rebellion. Some of the most important lessons your child will learn in life will come from the lessons learned from their rebellious behaviors in their teens.
Why does rebellion occur?
Both spouses are not on the same page: The number one reason for rebellion is that both parents are not on the same page. This is when parents can’t agree on consequences, house rules, expectations for grades or sports, allowances, driving, or church and spirituality. The parents stand divided instead of standing as one. The most common example of this is when one parent is the “disciplinarian” and the other is the “fun parent.” When children see their parents on different pages, they have to choose one parent to side with. Usually the child picks the parent who is the most lenient and gives them the most freedom. You can’t blame the child for their decision, the responsibility is on the parents to enforce the same rules. Usually when parents don’t agree about parenting, it’s because they are not on the same page in their marriage. There seems to be a direct correlation between a poor marriage and poor parenting. Until the parents are on the same page and get the professional help they need, the rebellion of the child can’t be resolved. A great book to help get parents on the same page is Boundaries for Teens by Townsend (see below).
Inconsistent parenting: This occurs when parents do not follow through with their promises, consequences, and what they say. In this case the child develops an ambivalent relationship with their parents, causing the child to distrust the parent and engage in rebellious behaviors. When there is no trust between the child and the parent, the result will always be rebellion.
Modeling their peers: Have you ever wondered where your children learned to be disrespectful or where they picked up their foul language? Try their friends and peers. Unfortunately, and you may already know this, some of your children’s friends may get away with disrespecting their parents and using foul language around their family. Your child sees that and now questions why he/she can’t behave like that with their own family. As a result, they start testing the new behaviors they saw their friends model.
A distant parent-child relationship: This is self-explanatory. If you don’t have a relationship with your child, then your child will do whatever he/she wants. Furthermore, when there is a distant parent-child relationship it usually results in a “parentified" child. This means that the child starts telling the parent how they should behave, how their relationship should be, and what they want from their mother or father. If this occurs, take it as a sign to start reconnecting and spending more time with your child.
Spoiled child: This happens when you give your child everything he/she wants without them earning it. You have now created an entitled teenager who believes one thing: “I deserve and expect to get whatever I want, whenever I want it, and if I don’t, I will make life miserable for everyone at home.” An entitled attitude is difficult to overcome, but is possible with the help of a counselor.
The key to overcoming rebellion is to stop it as soon as you notice it. Don’t let your child get away with their troubled behavior over and over again. Once you see the signs of rebellion, confront it and have a heart-to-heart conversation with your child right away. Rebellion can turn into entitlement if not confronted immediately!
How Do I Handle Trust?
Trust is very important to both parents and children, as it usually dictates how much freedom the teenager is allowed. Trust should constantly be communicated, but especially when your child becomes a teenager. The following is an example of a proper way to express trust in regards to your relationship with your teenager: “You have my trust. The only person who can take that away is you. I’m going to make a decision to trust you, and if something happens where I question that decision, I’m going to check it out. I’m not going to automatically stop trusting you. But if the trust is damaged, then we will discuss what needs to happen to restore it.”
When trust is broken there should always be specific guidelines as to how your teenager can earn it back. I suggest the following:
- Choose a specific action/behavior you want to see from your teen and make it appropriate to the way they lost your trust.
- Choose a specific time limit in which you want to see that behavior change.
- For example: If your teen was late for a 10pm curfew, then an appropriate behavior to earn back your trust would be having your teenager come home at 8pm for 2 weeks.
- Once your teenager has shown you the behavior you want for the designated amount of time, trust has been restored.
How Should I Discipline My Teenager?
When to discipline:
- When both you and your teen are no longer emotionally reactant. It's okay, and can actually be beneficial, to allow space and time before disciplining your teen. Remember nothing can be fixed when there is still anger in the air.
- When you and your spouse are on the same page. You and your spouse must agree on what the discipline should be, and decide to enforce it equally.
What should the consequences be?
- A consequence can either be removing a desirable object or adding an undesirable chore or assignment to the teen's life.
- Remember it's Consequences vs. Nagging. This is not a time to nag, complain about or make fun of your child. Don’t welcome an argument either. You are the parent, and once you welcome an argument you are on equal grounds with your child.
- Be consistent (if you say you are going to do it, then do it).
- Be specific.
- It must matter to the teen for it to be effective. The teen must be emotionally invested in the object you take away. For example: If your teen is a gamer and likes XBOX 360, then taking away the gaming system for a few days would be an appropriate action to take. If you have a child who is more of a loner and loves music, restricting them to their room with an iPod wouldn’t be the best consequence. This is where being attuned to your child and what they enjoy is important.
- Do not intervene with natural consequences (don’t save your child) because these are the best consequences. For example:
- Losing a friend for being selfish or gossiping.
- Getting kicked off the sports team for low grades or not going to practice.
- Spending the night at the police station for loitering after curfew.
- Missing out on going to the movies due to spending their allowance earlier in the week.
- It’s also good for the consequence to be related to the crime:
- If your teen acts out with their friends…then restrict them from their friends.
- If your teen uses their cell phone/computer past curfew…then take it away for a period of time.
- If your teen has a party and trashes the house… then add extra household chores for a period of time.
Consequences should never remove something that has a positive influence in your teen's life (i.e. sports, music/art lessons, or church activities). But if your teen is involved with drugs or alcohol, support groups trump sports and art lessons.
Rule of thumb: The correct consequence is the least lenient consequence and will cause a positive change in behavior over time (but don’t go overboard). If the consequence is too lenient, it could create more disrespect from your teen.
What if no consequence works?
This could be a sign that your child is too disconnected from you to care about the consequences you have created. If this is the case, it is important to take the time to rebuild your relationship before any disciplinary actions are taken. If that still doesn’t work, don’t hesitate to call a professional for help.
Book recommendations for parents of teens:
From bestselling author and counselor Dr. John Townsend, here is the expert insight and guidance you need to help your teens take responsibility for their actions, attitudes, and emotions and gain a deeper appreciation and respect both for you and for themselves.
Positive Discipline for Teenagers
Over the years, millions of parents have come to trust Jane Nelsen’s classic Positive Discipline series for its consistent, commonsense approach to raising happy, responsible kids. This new edition is filled with proven, effective methods for coping with such parenting challenges as:
-Fostering truly honest discussions with your teen
-Helping your teen handle the online world
-Turning mistakes into opportunities
-Keeping your sanity while raising your teen—and making sure your own teenage issues aren’t weighing you down
-Teaching your teen how to pursue the goal that makes them happy…and a few that make you happy too (like chores)
-Making sure you’re on your teen’s side, and that they know that
-Avoiding the pitfalls of excessive control and excessive permissiveness
Parenting Teens With Love & Logic
Parents need help to teach their teens how to make decisions responsibly―and do so without going crazy or damaging the relationship.
Parenting Teens with Love and Logic, from the duo who wrote Parenting with Love and Logic, empowers parents with the skills necessary to set limits, teach important skills, and encourage decision-making in their teenagers.
Covering a wide range of real-life issues teens face―including divorce, ADD, addiction, and sex―this book gives you the tools to help your teens find their identity and grow in maturity. Indexed for easy reference.
The Digital Invasion
Drawing on psychological and neuroscience research, the authors reveal the shaping effects of digital technology, equipping readers and their families with a balanced faith-based approach.