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3 ½ Tips for Dealing with Teenagers

Mother helping stressed teenage daughter looking at laptop

Have you ever walked away from a conversation with your teenager wondering whether you are both speaking the same language? Do you find that a simple question can lead to a negative emotional response or total resistance? Maybe you can’t seem to talk with your teenager or get them to answer a simple question. Does it feel like your teen is withdrawing physically or emotionally?

If you are experiencing any of these situations with your teenager, take a deep breath. You are not alone. This article provides 3 ½ tips for how to deal with teenagers.

Dealing with Teenagers Tip #1: Stop Trying to Control Their Behavior

Dr. William Glasser, the author of Choice Theory® reminds us that communicating with our teen does not have to be difficult. The communication breakdown that occurs between many parents and teenagers happens when both parent and teen choose to behave differently.

Part of a teenager’s changing behavior is because they are maturing, experiencing hormonal changes, and finding themselves becoming (or wanting to become) more and more independent. The common parental response is to change our behaviors to control their behavior. This is where the behaviors of both impact communication. The motivation of parents is love—an attempt to protect our teenagers from harm and steer them towards a prosperous future. But what most often happens is a separation of “them” from “us”, and difficulties when we try to communicate.

We need to change our view and actions. We cannot control our teenager’s behavior, and trying to do this creates problems. The first step in dealing with teenagers is to stop trying to control their behavior. What we can control is our own thoughts and behaviors and< by extension< our feelings.

Dealing with Teenagers Tips #2: Let Them Access Their Power

Dr. Glasser states that teenage behavior changes when they try to meet one or more of the five basic needs—Survival, Love and Belonging, Power, Freedom, and Fun. For example, if a teenager decides not to eat, they might be trying to meet their basic need of Power. A teenager who feels powerless might choose to stop eating as a way to feel powerful. This is also evident in teens experimenting with drugs and alcohol in an attempt to meet their need for Love and Belonging, Fun, or both.

Dr. Glasser gives some excellent suggestions for how to work with teenagers to help them find healthy ways to meet their needs. For us as parents, one of the most effective ways to address school problems is to stop trying to control their academic environment. Rather, parents can help empower teenagers to do well in school by allowing them to choose this behavior instead of making it clear we expect (or even demand) that they do so.

We can suggest options, such as offering to arrange for tutors, but the key is that we choose to remain hands off unless asked by our teenager to take some particular action. Intentionally communicating with our teenagers, rather than barking orders and expectations, is usually a new approach. This method reminds them that we are there to support them in any way we can, but gives them the power they are seeking in their life.

Give your teenager the power to choose how they deal with their academic lives, how they dress, and even the friends they decide to hang out with. With this power, they will begin to realize the consequences of their choices, both positive and negative. Face it, now is the time to observe how well our teens put into action everything we have taught them.

Dealing with Teenagers Tip #3: Give Them Someone to Connect With

Teens are loving, caring, rational human beings. Teenagers need someone they can trust; someone who is not always harping on them because their homework is not completed, or because of the way they behave, dress, or wear their makeup. They want someone to spend time with them, someone who connects with them instead of counseling them. Sometimes, all they need is a single active person who will listen to them, spend time with them, and acknowledge the positive things they do rather than bringing up the things parents or others see as negative. Parents want to be this person for their teenagers, and they can work toward this. But parents also need to be open to other people their teenagers can positively connect with and support these relationships.

In one case study on how to deal with teenagers, Dr. Glasser recommended a peer mentoring program where same-aged teenagers were paired up: a teen who was perceived to be a challenge is paired with a teen who was their polar opposite. One teen who had resisted the efforts of adults to talk to him and help him got a strong “telling off” by his same-aged mentor. He listened (even though he had ignored all previous messages), and began working on change instead of working against everyone. A connection might come from the most unexpected place, but the benefits can be life-changing.

Teens need someone to connect with—someone who will listen to them, spend time with them, and acknowledge the constructive or good things they do. If this is a parent, great. But it does not have to be. The most important thing is to find someone for them to connect with.

Dealing with Teenagers Tip # ½: Choose Not to Control

Trying to control our teenagers is a strategy that does not work. When we realize this, we begin to reap the benefits of having more fruitful and productive relationships with them. In the same vein, we can choose control over ourselves, the way we speak, and the way we respond to our teens. It is still true that actions speak louder than words, and when we choose to control ourselves and not our teens we are sending a powerful message.

This is easier said than done. Parents need to learn practical strategies to gain control in their own lives and establish healthy relationships with their teenagers and the people in their lives.

The parenting approaches Dr. Glasser recommends are unconventional but very relevant. Parents stop trying to control their teenagers. They give power to their teens to make choices and experience natural consequences. They learn to connect with their teenagers and allow others to make connections as well. Parents learn to control themselves, and their teenagers learn from them.

Dr. Glasser gives parents permission to take an approach to parenting that is based on sound principles, psychological research, and results-based teaching. When we take this approach, we start to empower our teenagers to take control of their own behavior.

Are you ready to learn more about empowering your teenagers, and yourself? We offer practical and realistic solutions to the challenges parents face today. Our courses are based on careful research and proven strategies that work. Register today for the Internal Empowerment Program. We are looking forward to meeting you!

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IECAST is a 501 (c)(3), Public Benefit, non-profit organization dedicated to perpetuating productive and mindful individuals, families, and organizations. We bring this vision into reality by developing diverse, internally empowered leaders who use the principles and practices of Choice Theory® as taught through the Internal Empowerment Coaching program. Our goal is to teach individuals, families, and organizations to reframe, reorganize, and reallocate resources to become effective coaches and leaders.