You probably have high hopes for your teen, but it's important to remember that your teen has his own ideas. A wayward or troubled teen is testing his boundaries and working to prove that he can make his own choices -- even if you don't agree with them. By offering a listening ear and giving your teen room to make some of his own choices, you show your teen that you trust him to take care of himself, while still maintaining a steady influence in his life.
Find a possible reason for the troubled or wayward behavior, particularly if it seems like a sudden shift in behavior. Teens aren't inherently bad, but rather react to certain situations around them. Anything from issues at school, problems with friends or changes in your family can be enough to cause a teen to rebel against rules or a way of life. By finding the root cause of the behavior, you can address it rather than simply working on the behavior alone.
Listen to what your teen is telling you when you talk together. If your teen says that she hates going to school, it could mean more than just disliking her classes. It could mean that she's struggling with her grades, being bullied, or any number of social and emotional issues. Avoid interrupting, scolding or downplaying your teen's feelings when you talk. When her emotions are downplayed, she's more likely to act out to get your attention and prove her point.
Offer your teen choices when it comes to activities, family events and chores. Simply being told what to do can trigger a reflexive obstinate reaction that teens are famous for. By offering choices -- "Would you rather mow the lawn or clean the bathroom?" -- you give your teen autonomy, within reason. When he's able to make his own decisions, you'll enjoy fewer fights and a more independent teen.
Create a behavior contract that you both sign to keep your teen in check. In a behavior contract, you outline expected behavior, but you also promise certain rewards and then uphold your end of the bargain. Your teen might promise that she pulls up her grades while you promise to give her quiet time to do her schoolwork. Or, she promises to speak respectfully to you and you promise to be more open when she comes to you with an idea or question.
Instill natural consequences for misbehavior. Of course, you want to protect your teen from anything unpleasant. But taking away the consequences when he's disrespectful, doesn't listen or skips his obligations teaches him that you'll pick up the pieces when he acts inappropriately. If your teen knows that a lack of schoolwork nets him bad grades and missing curfew means you no longer trust him to stay out late, he may be more equipped to make the right choice in the future.
- Seek professional help if your child's behavior or disposition has changed suddenly. Mental health professionals, education programs and parenting programs are all available to help address what could be a mental issue with anxiety or depression.
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