Updated: Dec 31, 2019
Is interacting with your teenager like walking through a mine field and you never know what will set them off? And you sometimes feel they're only nice when they want something from you.
Are you even wondering what you ever did to deserve their behaviour and maybe how you can get back some control.
And do you miss the younger child that used to love and adore you.
You're not alone.
There are a multitude of parents who are struggling to parent their teenagers. Some feel their teenagers are entitled, disrespectful and impossible to parent. Others are afraid they're losing them to poor behaviour, bad friendship choices, potential alcohol and drug abuse and bad life choices.
And some parents are just plain afraid of their children.
If you can relate to some of what I'm saying here are some suggestions.
I think a great place to start is to examine with your child what is a right and what is a privilege in life.
Rights are things like: food, water, a safe environment, clothing, love and respect.
Privileges are things like phones, video games, T.V. or streaming programmes, designer or fashion clothes, makeup, take away foods, eating out, movies, concerts, holidays, etc.
Considering that your teenagers often rely upon you for many of their privileges, this gives you some bargaining power if you put strategies in place to use them.
For example: Does your child expect you to supply a phone, pay for calls and internet and then treat you with disrespect if you ask them to put their phone away for meal times.
Does that make sense to you? Would your child see that as fair if the roles were reversed?
Instead of giving your child a phone as a right, explain that it's a privilege and it will be treated as a privilege. The phone remains your property and there will be rules and expectations governing its use by your teenager.
Some suggested rules could be for example:
The phone (which you purchased and made available for your teenager to use) can only be used between 8:00 in the morning until school commences and after school until 8:30 at night.
Homework must be kept completed and if phone usage impinges upon schoolwork, the hours of available phone usage will be reduced. This also ensures quality sleep.
Phones passwords are to be made available to parents and for young teenagers parents need to be able to check phones periodically to ensure they're happy with the way they're being used.
Phones need to be turned off during meal times. Parents need to model this behavior too as teenagers are quick to spot hypocrisy.
Usage costs are expected to be kept below what you agree they should be. My husband and I use Amaysim for $10 a month. And if it's good enough for the adults of the family and teenagers want the privileges of being an adult...
Discuss there are codes of behaviour for phone usage. Swearing, online bullying or sexting are things that will not be tolerated and will result in immediate loss of phone privileges. This could be for a minimum of one week but for online bullying or sexting it could be much longer. The reinstatement of privileges would also require parent monitoring. (For example: I was talking to a parent whose 14 year old son was sexting. After removing phone privileges for a time he now has to voluntarily turn over his phone to his parents whenever they ask to check it. Either that or not use it at all.)
Remember by law you have to maintain your teenagers rights, but privileges are a bonus.
The other concept is if your teenagers want all the rights of being an adult, with that comes with the responsibility of being an adult.
For example: If they tell you they have the right to do whatever they want (the rights of an adult,) let them do their own washing, cooking, ironing, transport, etc (the reality of being an adult.) And let them earn their own money to do it with.
Let them experience what it's really like to be an adult.
Scenario One: Your child doesn't value their belongings (or your belongings) and they often lose or break things or demand upgrades.
Possible Solution: Let teenagers experience natural consequences. If they lose something or break something let them experience what it's like not to have it. And when they tell you about their loss or breakage, expecting you to replace it, instead say something like: 'I hate when things like that happen,' or 'Bummer' or ' That's annoying for you.'
And then walk away. Don't jump in to create a solution for them.
Let them experience the loss and solve the problem they've created themselves or experience what it's like to continue to go without.
For example, even though you've asked him not to your son often leaves his expensive guitar on his bed in the sun all day when he heads off to school. One day he leaves his window open. It rains and the guitar gets wet, warping the neck. He needs the guitar for a school concert. What do you do?
If he directly asks you for help to replace it you might assist him, but there will be conditions attached (similar to what I provided above) and it needs to be clearly stated that said item will not be replaced by you again. An alternative could be he could earn the money for the replacement by completing chores. Or you could buy a second hand one and let him earn the money at a part-time job to get the standard of guitar he previously had.
When something is earned the value is greater.
Scenario Two: Your child yells or screams until they get what they want. If they don't get what they want their behaviour gets progressively worse. Some may even swear at you or even get in your face attempting to intimidate you.
Possible Solution: Both parents get on the same page and work together as a team, even if there is family separation. Teenagers can be quick to spot 'the gap' and will exploit it if there's an opportunity.
IMPORTANT: When there's no issue as a family, discuss the type of family you would like to have. Explain that each person in the family has responsibilities to ensure that the family functions well and supports each other. Explain to your child that you are attempting to be the best parent you can be for them. By allowing them to yell and scream you are not doing your job properly. Own any ways you've contributed to the lack of disrespect between you and your teenager.
And revisit this over and over to see how you're going.
And it's an expectation that all people in the family will be respectful, including parents.
Model the type of behaviours you would like your children to exhibit. Choose kindness with your teenager where ever possible.
Explain that you want to be good parents and from time to time you may need to say no if you think something is dangerous or age inappropriate. But you explain that you will always try to be fair.
And be fair.
Notice all of the positive things they do. Reward good behaviour. Teenagers want to know what's in it for them if they do the right thing. Make praise specific. E.g. You remembered to put your phone away at dinner time today without being reminded. Thank you for doing your bit to help us all get along better.
Behaviour can be difficult to change. Its like a rut in the road. You mightn't get it the first time, or second time but don't give up. If you continue to do the same things it will become habitual.
TROUBLESHOOTING TOOL KIT:
If your child starts to get a little disrespectful nip it in the bud by just stopping and waiting for them to adjust their tone. If that's too subtle say something calm like: 'Please watch your tone. We agreed to be respectful.' Or 'I didn't think you were talking to me. We're respectful with each other.'
If they seem cross with you or out of sorts you could ask: 'Have I done something to upset you,' or 'Is there something wrong?' Often this is an opportunity to learn something that's bothering them.
You can postpone a difficult decision until later saying 'I need to think about it.'
If they continue to pressure you say 'If I have to decide now, it'll have to be ' No.'
If they still persist or begin to raise their voice ask them straight 'Are you trying to bully/ intimidate me? Most kids don't like to be called out for being a bully even those who are engaging in being bullies.
Yet if that still doesn't pull them up, and they continue to escalate their behaviour, you need to begin to draw the line in the sand.
I suggest you hold up your hand as a warning. That means they need to stop or they will begin to lose privileges. If they don't stop, shake your head, turn and walk away from them. They can't argue in a vacuum.
If they still persist at this point turn back towards them, lower your voice a little and calmly say. 'If you continue you're choosing to lose privileges.'
And if they persist ensure that the privileges they lose will really matter to them. You can begin by saying something like 'Last warning or no T.V for a week. Again if they persist 'Would you like to make it two?'
If this is a regular event you may need to get your partner onside and discuss the reduction of privileges further. You can ground teenagers, take away phone privileges, remove makeup or video games you have purchased, remove their fashion clothes, or many other items and/or events that you've given them as privileges.
As an adult if you aren't willing to work for things, or look after your things you have, no one will do it for you. You either do it for yourself or miss out.
Bullying others as an adult can have serious consequences. Both of these points are valuable lessons for teenagers to learn early.
And once you put consequences in place, you and your partner have to follow them through, every time, so don't choose natural consequences that are so great you will never follow them through. Make the consequences a natural one where ever possible/
Change is never easy. But even mountains can be climbed one step at a time. Your child is worth your best effort.
Good Luck With It
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Disclaimer: Best Parenting Advice provides some examples of what worked for me and you are welcome to use them as you see fit but you do so at your own risk. This site does not guarantee that information suggested will work in every instance or with every child.