The odds are great many parents have tried various unsuccessful methods to change a teenager’s behavior or habits. You may be all too familiar with several of the unsuccessful tactics. They include, but are not limited to, yelling, nagging, and making empty threats. These don’t typically accomplish the goal of changing a teenager’s behavior or habits.
Add to the list sarcasm. It is our opinion that sarcasm is never appropriate. It is disrespectful and can easily be mimicked by your teenager. Name-calling is also something that should be avoided. Telling a child he or she is lazy or irresponsible gives that child a negative label that is difficult to erase – especially if it is heard more than once.
With all of those options off the table, let’s take a look at some strategies that are more effective.
The first step is to pick your battles wisely. Parents often major on the minors when it comes to certain issues. Is it really crucial that your son make his bed each morning? Are you bombarding your teenager with so many demands that he or she is overwhelmed? Take time to evaluate which ones are really important and drop the rest. The more battles you choose, the more insignificant each one becomes.
Now that you have eliminated the desire to change a number of aspects of your son or daughter’s behavior, you can concentrate on the few that remain. Establish consequences that are natural or logical. An example of a natural consequence is the following – If your teenager is speeding and is stopped by an officer, she will receive a ticket. An example of a logical consequence might be the following – If your teenager is required to put her basketball uniform in the dirty clothesbasket to be washed and she fails to do it, the logical consequence is a dirty uniform for the next game. No need to nag or yell or threaten to have her removed from the team. If you as the parent have decided putting it in the basket to be washed is her responsibility and you have communicated that to your teenager, then it won’t be washed if it isn’t there.
Here is another thing to remember. If you are having a strong disagreement with your teenager about a certain behavior, it is usually best to table the conversation until both of you can approach it with a calm attitude. Wait an hour or two or even an entire day and then talk about the issue – adult to “emerging adult.” Your goal is not to create or engage in conflict, it is to change behavior that is dangerous, destructive, or defiant.
Learn to listen and try to understand your son or daughter’s point of view. And if it is appropriate, compromise with your teenager. Remember you’re not raising an adolescent. You are raising a “former teenager turned responsible adult.”
What have you found that WORKS to change a teenager’s behavior?