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  • Terri White, LPC

3 Mistakes a Parent Makes with a Defiant Teen

In working with teens, the one issue they share that is common is that they feel their parents don’t listen to them. Teens share that they want a relationship with their parents, but they feel so misunderstood. Teens feel like no one “gets” them and that their feelings are isolated and different from everyone else. The issue that parents mostly share is the feelings of being disrespected, unappreciated, and dismissed. I want to share 3 mistakes a parent makes with a defiant teen.

Don’t be shocked at what the teen says. We have all heard parents say the famous line “not my child” or “my child would never…”. But the truth of the matter is that a child is still a child and they can make some very impulsive decisions. Don’t forget, their brain is not fully developed and even though they may have made some pretty good decisions about other things, there may come a time when they just had to try weed for the first time or they really felt the pressure from peers and took a drink of alcohol. Just listen to what they are telling you and don’t show that shocked disapproving looks at whatever they tell you. That look tells them they are being judged; it tells them that you don’t love them any more or that they are not accepted. His/her perception is reality to them.

Punishing too soon. Most of us adults have been in situations where we’ve done something wrong as a child and were immediately punished. Think about the results you want to get from punishing your teen. You will also need to think about if their crime fits the punishment. Some parents make decisions out of anger, escalated emotions, and fear and then later must adjust the punishment or remove it all together. You and your spouse will need to come together and talk about what types of punishments you will use and for what type of situations they will be used.

Not listening. Most parents will say, “I heard you” but are they really listening? Did you hear what your teen is not saying? Adults have a difficult time being expressive and identifying specific emotions which makes it 10 times harder for a teen to do the same. They may not be able to share with you that they feel confused, numb, hopeless or frustrated so it may come out in their behavior. Remember hormones are all over the place, they are embraced by other confused teens and they are trying to make sense of life. Find out if they want you to respond, listen or help them. Don’t assume they want you to fix their problems, don’t assume they feel listened to. Ask them what they need when they sit down to talk to you.

There may be a good reason why your teen is defiant, and it would help them and you to get them the support they need. Just because life is good for you don’t mean life is good for them.


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