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How To Handle Teenage Behavior Problems

   By: Kelly Nault

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.

Teenage Behavior Problems: Prevention Is the Best Medicine

It's common sense: prevention is always the best option. If you can create an environment that reduces the chance of teenage behavior problems, this is certainly ideal.

Notice that it's about creating an environment that reduces the likelihood of problems—not about single-handedly keeping those problems at bay. 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.

The Power of Choice

One of the most effective preventative methods is to give your teen choices. I discuss this on page 127 of my book When You're About To Go Off The Deep End, Don't Take Your Kids With You. Teach your teenagers responsibility by giving them choices such as the following:

- “What day are you going to do the grocery shopping this week?”

- “I've written a check out for this season's clothing allowance. Would you like to shop alone or would you like me to come along?”

- “You have $250 for activities this semester. Which will you choose?”

When teens are offered choices on a regular basis, they become better equipped to deal with the more difficult choices that life will inevitably throw their way, such as:

- To decide whether or not to take drugs.

- To stand up for themselves.

- To walk away from violence.

- To choose friends who support them.

- To end unhealthy friendships.

- To pick high school courses they will enjoy.

- To decide if and when to have sexual intercourse.

Since teenage behavior problems don't just crop up over night, it's important to start practicing your “preventative medicine” early on. Give your children choices—no matter how young they are. Toddlers can decide what color pants they want to wear, and school-aged children can determine whether to do their homework before or after snack time.

It's never too early to start giving your children choices. Such choices teach them responsibility and prepare them for the “bigger” decisions that lie ahead.

What to 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 moms 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.

On page 150 of my book, I suggest the following:

1. Set a 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!).

3. Discuss the 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.

Kelly Nault, MA author of When You're About To Go Off The Deep End, Don't Take Your Kids With You inspires moms to put themselves first—for the sake of their children. She shares time-tested tools that motivate children to want to be well behaved, responsible and happy! Sign up for her free online parenting course here.

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