Every parent who has raised (and is raising) a teenager would find comfort in the words “it’s just a phase.”
Dealing with a teenage child is hands-down one of the toughest challenges a parent has to deal with. It’s just sooo difficult to get through them. They demand independence but need constant supervision. And they can get really moody, defensive, and often disrespectful. So often we hear parents say, "My child is just downright disrespectful. How did that happen? They were perfectly nice sweet kids five minutes ago!"
So most of the time, you are in the dark, wondering what’s happening. Why is my teenager acting out? Is it really just a phase? What can I do about it?
There are a number of reasons behind your teenager’s behavior.
- They are experiencing a period of development
Apart from the growth spurt, experts say that the human brain also gets super active during adolescence, which is typically somewhere between 11 and 19 years old. This is just about the time they are starting to express themselves, explore their own ideas, trying to make sense of the world on their own.
- Hormonal changes
Along with brain development, your child is also experiencing hormonal changes, which is responsible for these sudden burst of intense emotions, like anger, rage, fear, excitement, etc.
- Peer pressure
Your teenager is already a handful on its own, but when you throw “friends” into the mix, it gets all the more challenging. Having friends is actually good for your child; they provide a great opportunity to learn how to cooperate, to compromise, to interact, and all other important life skills. But their friends have so much influence on your child’s behavior that it sometimes gets out of control, most especially when they start taking risks and doing things they won’t normally do just to be accepted in this social circle.
What can I do?
We can convince ourselves all we want that “this is normal, this is just a phase,” but clearly, something has to be done. If your child is simply not in his/her best behavior, you can deal with it by:
- Being more understanding. If your teen gets angry or cross, try to understand where this behavior is coming from. Did she have a bad day at school? Is something bothering her? Try not to also respond in anger, too, because that just doesn't help anyone (see below).
- Not holding back on praises. Saying words of encouragement will help boost their self-esteem and confidence, and at the same time encourage them to be positive.
- Setting clear rules and consequences. Have an open discussion with your child about what rules need to be set and what the consequences are, and have him/her agree to it. When they know which lines to cross and what the consequences are for crossing them, they will definitely think twice before pushing boundaries.
- Trying not to argue. Anger makes us say nasty things and it can only make things worse. So instead, give your teenager some time to collect himself and then offer to talk.
- Listening. The more you nag your kids, the farther they retreat from you. Make it a habit to actively listen to them, and they will eventually return the favor.
- Being a good example. Try to act and speak the way you want them to towards you. Are you also addicted to your phone? None of that 'not as bad as them!' excuses. Be the example you want your children to be!
It’s a challenging period of growth and it’s also a little difficult to make sense of as a parent. Just remember that no matter how awful their behavior can be, they will always value talking and connecting with you. Open up to them and you will discover how funny, smart and wonderful they are.
What are your best parenting strategies? We’d love to hear them!