As a teenager the thing I hated the most was having to listen to what adults told me to do. In my mind back then, I thought I had all the answers. I couldn’t wait until I got older so I wouldn’t have to listen to anyone. It was my foolish belief that my parents told me what not to do simply to control me and stop me from having fun. My irrational thinking caused me to despise my parents and rebel. By the age of 14 years old, unknowingly, I was on a fast paced track to self-destruction. Relentlessly I lusted after independence and respect. Feeling like I was grown, I no longer wanted to be treated as a child. I wanted to explore my options and make my own choices. Times have changed, but the cycles of life still remain the same. If you want to reach teens who typically think they “know it all,” you must attempt to dethrone their “stinking thinking.”
Teens don’t want to be spoken down to; they want to be addressed maturely. Young adults typically despise being told what to do. Therefore to get a better response, give them the freedom to decide how they will meet your demands. For instance, if the house has to be cleaned, dinner cooked or the trash set out, don’t just make forceful commands. Discuss the needs with your child as you would a respected peer and let your teen devise the schedule and plan on how they will get the tasks accomplished. That doesn’t mean you have to let your teen “run the show,” but make them believe they have some control over how they will handle the situation. This will make them feel respected and more mature.
It is important that teens know that their maturity will grant them more privileges. The more responsible they become, the more they should be allowed to do independently. This will give your teen an incentive to do the right things. Remember, most children desire freedom more than anything else. If they know that by behaving properly they will be given more freedom, you will gain their attention and cooperation.
When you have to say “no” to something or you must make a demand, be gracious and explain why you made your decision. Remember, most teens hate to be told what to do and have the preconceived notion that parents simply seek to block their enjoyment. Therefore, when you have to make demands that are not favorable to your child, don’t have a “do it because I said so” mentality; explain your decision. For example, if you decide that your child can’t stay out late, explain why, make your reason clear and deliver your message with love.
“Honey, I know you would like to have fun and stay out late tonight, but you have homework to do. I understand at this moment you may think your homework is not important, but it is. In order to maintain the lifestyle you have now you must get a good job to pay the bills. In order to do that you must get your education. The more you excel in your studies now, the more freedom you will have when you get older to make a better living. I only want the best for you. I recognize your potential and I know your future is going to be great. It’s my job as your parent to help you to achieve the success I know you deserve. Let’s work together to accomplish that goal.” You could offer this kind of dialogue in a warm tone.
Always be open to compromise or suggestions. You can successfully bargain with your child and gain great results. Some may think bargaining with a child is ludicrous, but it is not. Remember as your child gets older, he or she will desire independence. If you allow your teen to feel that you trust them and they have a sense of independence, you will gain their favor. This will help you both obtain more positive results in the relationship. Therefore, help your child to achieve a sense of independence by setting goals and rewarding your child with freedom for achieving them. For example, a good grade on an exam can be rewarded by an extra hour added to your teen’s curfew time. You will be amazed how this simple kind of privilege, given just once, can motivate a child to become responsible. Accordingly, by rewarding your child you will ultimately motivate him or her to become successful.
Parenting is a team sport. A coach needs a winning team to thrive in their profession, just as a parent needs to cultivate healthy family relations for long term results. Therefore, in developing your parenting skills be tactful as a coach. Don’t yell at your kids when they make mistakes, be sympathetic and learn all the facts. Get an understanding of the motive behind the adverse behavior, so you can help to correct the problem from the root. Take corrective measures to ensure your child’s safety, but maintain a relationship where your child is not scared to share the truth. Remember the truth can always be dealt with, but what you don’t know can not be addressed!
When you take disciplinary action be firm, but always explain your reasoning. Don’t leave it to your child to develop their own ideology behind your actions, which can be destructive to your relationship. Explain the terms and conditions of the punishment and how your child can gain back your trust and have the privileges that were taken restored. Always remain the respected voice of reason your child can count on to be fair and consistent. You want your child to always feel comfortable coming to you instead of turning to the streets for solutions.
If your teen is not receptive to your reasoning, show them a visual example they can better relate to. Teens often learn better through illustrative, practical examples. I’ve had remarkable success reaching teens in a prison public speaking group geared to at-risk youth. I can remember going into a detention home for adolescents where the children were very unruly. As we waited in our seats to speak, to my surprise one teen smacked the other on the back of the head, right in front of the staff. When the director of the facility scolded the unruly teen, she replied back “shut the @#$% up!” I sat in total disbelief of how rude the child was. I thought for sure it would be an impossible task to reach this particular set of children. Butterflies churned in my stomach as I approached the podium to recite my speech.
After I announced my name, my conviction and the fact I was serving a 12 1/2 year sentence in federal prison, the room came to a sudden screech of silence. You could literally hear a pin drop on the floor. I spoke to the teens as if I was talking to a friend who I cared earnestly about. I explained to them my past mistakes and how my lifestyle led to my imprisonment. I spoke about life in prison in detail, and I explained how my peers that I tried so hard to please, believing they were my true friends, abandoned me during my incarceration. Before I finished my speech, I reluctantly glanced at the young girl who was previously unruly. She starred attentively at me, yet it was hard to recognize if my message had in fact gotten through to her.
When the Question/Answer part of the session began, the young girl raised her hand to speak. In my mind, I thought she would say something rude, but she didn’t.
“I’ve been in and out of detention centers since I was 12 years old. I smoked weed, cut school and shopped lifted from the stores in my neighborhood. Kind of like you, I followed my friends and did things to please them. But, after listening to your story I don’t want to be bad anymore,” the child bellowed as she began to cry profusely. “I couldn’t imagine surviving in prison for 12 1/2 years like you. That can’t happen to me! I don’t want to live like this anymore!,” she wallowed as I exited the platform and made my way to her seat to comfort her. That moment changed my life. It made me realize despite my flaws and past mistakes, my story could make a difference! My experience mentoring at-risk youth helped me to develop a formula to get them to accept my advice.
To reach a rebellious teen, you must first overcome the challenge of leading them to believe their current behavior or way of thinking is irrational. Yelling and screaming or simply making demands will not suffice. When you respectfully enlighten your children to the reason behind your viewpoint and give them clear visuals that explain your rationale, they will get it! Visual examples will last way longer than your words. Even when you are not around, an enlightened child who understands the severity of the consequences of poor choices will take heed to your advice, because they understand it is truly for their protection.
Don’t just take my word for it. Try out the techniques written in this article. I guarantee you that you will be amazed by the results! Not only will you improve your relationship with even the most rebellious teen, your advice will hit home!