It’s no secret that the teenage years are often characterized by rebellion—there is, however, an ongoing argument about how parents should properly handle this phase. Should they step in or back off? Do they need to crack down on the rules or prove their trust? What’s the most effective approach? The answer to these questions vary from person to person, but the pros are here to say their piece on the matter. Here are four effective ways to manage your teen’s rebellion, whilst maintaining a healthy relationship with them, according to therapists, counselors and coaches alike:
1) Educate yourself on stages of adolescent development.
“Early adolescents (ages 12-14), middle adolescents (ages 15-17), and late adolescents (ages 18-20) all have different needs from their caregivers based on where they are at developmentally,” explains Sandi Lindgren, clinical social worker, therapist, and professional life coach. “Developmental differences include: physical, social/emotional, cognitive/thinking/learning, and morals/values. However, there are some common needs: a safe place to live, plenty of sleep, and parents or guardians who love them regardless of their behavior.” Lindgren goes on to offer a few additional tips for managing rebellious teens: “limit screen time for younger teens; show interest in them, their ideas, opinions, dreams; engage teens in conversations about choices, relationships, and future plans; and provide opportunities for them to explore their own point of view through conversation without judgment.”
2) Know that ‘one size does not fit all.’
Teen therapist Jaynay Johnson says that it’s important to remember one size does not fit all when it comes to disciplining teens. “Since every family and teen is different, different interventions can be applied for optimal results. For some teens, they need structure to thrive. Other teens may need more freedom to exercise their ability to show responsibility.” Additionally, she says that the following three tips are helpful in raising your teens: “1. Consider what your parents did that you liked or didn’t like when raising you and adjust accordingly; 2. Ask your teenager what they need from you. Again, all teens are not made equally, not even equal to you. Just because that method may be helpful to you, it may not be for your teen; and 3. Get positive reinforcement. In the event that you are struggling with your teen, try connecting them with a mentoring program, teen group, or therapist. This will also teach them the benefit of seeking outside support when it is needed.”
3) Employ natural consequences.
According to Dr. Clayton Lessor, Licensed Professional Counselor, “the best way to deal with teenage rebellion is (employing) natural consequences. If natural consequences are established, it eliminates the parent or guardian from having to ‘step in’ or ‘crack down,’ Employing natural consequences puts the choice in the teen’s hands!” Dr. Clayton explains the notion of natural consequences in greater detail: “Natural consequences are when something automatically happens because of something else happening (like a sunburn when you choose not to wear sunscreen). Start by sitting down with your teen and lay down the rules of the house. Tell them, ‘these are the rules. If you follow these rules, you get to do what you want, within reason.’ This puts them in control of outcomes. They’ll reach a point where they’re tempted to step the wrong way and suddenly remember, ‘oops, I should have made a right instead of a left, now I have consequences for that.’”
4) Understand that teens make mistakes.
Former teacher and school counselor and current ADHD coach, Brendan Mahan, says that it’s important you remember that kids are bound to make mistakes. Instead of holding them to unrealistic expectations, you should focus on helping them make better decisions: “Teens are supposed to push for more independence. That’s where they’re headed, after all. The tighter you hold the leash, the less comfortable and capable they’ll be when they’re inevitably on their own. In teenage years, you want to steer them toward healthy choices and away from unhealthy ones. But understand that they’re going to make a bad call every now and then. When they do, manage it with trust, empathy, and problem-solving so that they have the skills needed to make a better choice next time.”