As much as you may want to ship your defiant teenage son off to military school, there are less drastic measures you can implement to rein in that negative behavior. You probably won't see a dramatic turnaround overnight, though, and might have to try several tactics to see long-lasting results. Don't give up hope -- just keep trying.
Stay calm and breathe. Remove yourself from the situation in the heat of the moment to allow yourself to calm down, if needed. Countering the defiance with yelling, threats or negative talk will only fuel the fire. Plus, he learns by your example, so be a good role model even during the tough times. Show him how to effectively handle stressful situations and implement problem-solving skills.
Ignore the defiance, unless there's some sort of threat of harm to your teen or others. According to Dr. Alan Kazdin of Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, giving attention to the bad behavior is going to reinforce that behavior. This may increase the likelihood that he'll continue to be defiant.
Catch your son displaying positive behaviors and praise that behavior. Be sincere and truthful, otherwise your teen will sense the insincerity and scoff at your efforts. Be specific on what you're praising him for, such as "I appreciate you helping your little brother with his chores -- that was awesome" or "Thank you for taking the garbage out without being told, it shows responsibility." Smiles, hugs, pats on the back, shoulder squeezes or high fives are also forms of positive reinforcement.
Use your words. Define the problem and address it in a calm voice. You can state your concern along the lines of "I don't appreciate you calling me names and it hurts my feelings. Maybe you should calm down a bit before you talk to me. When you're ready, come find me and maybe we can talk about what's really bothering you."
Make positive statements. Instead of saying, "Don't do…" try rephrasing the statement. As soon as your teen hears words like "don't," he may go into defensive mode. Turn "Don't throw your socks on the floor" into "Can you please put the socks in the laundry basket?"
Give choices, not demands. Children, especially teenagers, want to feel like they have some control over their life. "Do you want to take the trash out before or after dinner" is a better phrase than "Are you ever going to take the garbage out?" The simple act of offering choices may help avoid some defiant power struggles.
Define the rules clearly so he knows what's expected of him. Sit him down, brainstorm some household rules and put them in writing. Have him sign the list as proof that he understands what you want from him. You can offer rewards for following the rules, as well as consequences for deviating from them. Be consistent by following up every time, and pay up when he has earned a reward. Hang the rules up on the fridge to serve as a reminder.
Take care of yourself and make sure you recharge your batteries so you have enough energy to give your son the attention he deserves. Get enough rest, take up meditation, get a massage or treat yourself to a pedicure. A happy you contributes to a happy household.
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