Dealing with Teen Defiance and Disrespect
The cliché of a teenager: the grunting, mono-syllabic, defiant creature that has appeared where your sweet little son or daughter used to be.
Not all teenagers are going to manifest such behavior, but clichés are usually clichés for a reason, and, as a parent/guardian, if you manage to run the gauntlet of the teenage years without encountering some troublesome behavior, you’ve lucked out big time.
Defiance is an exceptionally common trait for a teenager to exhibit: from the bog standard refusal to tidy a bedroom to more complex behavior around rules and shifting attitudes in relation to privacy, relationships and responsibilities. There’s a lot going on in those young brains. No wonder they’re so angry.
Why It Happens
The teenage years are a momentous time in brain land. While some neural pathways are diminishing, new ones are growing and existing connections strengthened. The prefrontal cortex is the last part of the brain to reach full maturity (and this often not until the early twenties), and so decision making duties are farmed out until then to the amygdala; this ancient part of the brain is linked to impulsive behavior and aggressive or emotional reactions, as opposed to the prefrontal cortex’s ability to provide a more rational, logic based approach to the steering of the ship.
“Added to the biological changes going on inside your teen’s grey matter, other issues can also prompt defiant tendencies: a growing desire for privacy can cause tension in terms of shared spaces and the extent to which your child wishes to engage in conversation,” says Katherine Oliver, an educator at Assignment Help and State Of Writing.
The new responsibilities that come with getting older can also lead to stress and uncertainty, and peer pressure, too, adds to this heady mix and can further elicit troublesome behavior as your teen struggles to negotiate her place within the family and social structure.
What You Can Do About It
Keeping lines of communication open, and being able to offer an empathetic and supportive ear, is crucial in terms of handling defiant behavior. By listening to him carefully, and without necessarily reacting to rudeness, you will be modelling desirable behavior, and also endorsing feelings of safety and validation.
If you can help your teen to navigate the feelings he is experiencing, to understand them and to help find solutions to any issues that may be at the root of them, you are giving him valuable tools with which to build resilience, communication skills and emotional strength.
Of course, there comes a point when a consequence or two need to come into the game. The key thing here is to have set out beforehand what the expected behavior is, and the consequence of what will happen if this is not met.
Fundamentally, ensure that a consequence, once given, is followed through on in order to maintain clear boundaries, which is vital for both the wellbeing of your teen and for the wider family group; equally, use praise as necessary, for when expected behavior has been met or exceeded.
Accessing Additional Support
Sometimes, defiant and difficult behavior can cross a line. Sometimes this behavior can become very difficult to manage, or can indicate a deeper problem or issue that needs exploring. Perhaps your teen is missing lessons, or has become withdrawn, or their mood is unaccountably altered. If this is the case, it could be time to access additional support, in the form of talking with your teen’s school about what’s happening, or speaking with your guidance counselor.
“Discussing the issues as a family can be beneficial; you could try drawing up an agreement together on acceptable standards of behavior, and setting household rules. Other parents can also provide an invaluable source of support and advice,” says Ian Paul, a writer at UKWritings and Revieweal.
This Too Shall Pass
Your teen’s brain is a stormy place right now; hormones are swirling around, new synapses are firing and old ones fizzling out. Compliance is replaced by defiance, rudeness becomes the standard method of communication and battle is joined seemingly at every opportunity. But keep in mind the mantra of every parent or guardian: from the endless sleepless nights of babyhood, through to the toddler tantrums, to the fears as your child grows and begins to explore their world independently, and into the teenage years: whatever is happening, however rough the ride: this too shall pass.
Have you exhausted your local resources and reached your wit’s end? Learn more about how residential therapy might be able to help your defiant teenager. Contact us today for a free consultation.