Have you been asking yourself…
What do you do with a defiant teenager?
Does your son or daughter have a bad attitude where they don’t respect boundaries and no longer listen to you?
Do you feel like you have failed as a parent and are unsure how to turn the situation around?
Are you and your child growing more distant where you don’t feel like you even know them?
In this article you are going to learn:
- The five reasons why your son or daughter is being defiant
- What you as a parent can do to regain control of the situation
- How to approach setting rules that your child will actually follow
- What you need to do the next time your child exudes poor behavior
- Why you should not resort to arguing or yelling with your kids
- That this is not just a phase that will magically go away on its own
Why Is My Teenager So Defiant?
The adolescent years can be a very difficult time for most parents.
All of a sudden your child can go from sweet and loving where they want to be around you all the time to not wanting to have anything to do with you.
When your child was between the ages of 4 to 11, generally speaking, they did as they were told.
You would ask them to do something and they did it.
However, there comes a time in every child’s life where they eventually want to assert their own independence and want to start making their own decisions.
However, there is a line that many kids cross where they can become defiant and disrespectful.
If you find yourself in a situation right now where you are constantly arguing and you feel stressed out because every conversation feels like a tug of war, then chances are your child has crossed that line.
If this is the case then you need to understand one very important thing…
Your relationship is broken and you need to do something to fix it.
Here are the five reasons that could be causing your boy or girl to be behaving in a defiant manner and some solutions to these issues:
Cause 1 – He or she does not respect you
At a certain point in your relationship, your child has lost some respect for you.
For any child to behave in this way and no longer listen to you means that they have lost respect for you as an authority.
Maybe they don’t think you are cool.
Maybe they are judging you for some reason.
Or maybe you have some unresolved issues in the past where they feel hurt and disrespected by you so now they are pushing back.
Whatever the case may be, they have simply lost respect for you and now feel it is okay to not follow your rules, do as they are told, or talk back in a rude or obnoxious way.
You are going to need to figure out exactly why they have lost respect for you and regain it from them.
If you are familiar with the dog trainer Cesar Milan, he uses the vernacular called “Being a pack leader”.
What this means is that a group of dogs will always follow the alpha in the group which means it is the dog they respect the most.
If your teen has become defiant and no longer respects you, it is because you are not being the pack leader which is why they think they can walk all over you.
So you need to identify the root cause of why they have lost respect for you, fix or resolve this situation, and reassert yourself as the pack leader (i.e. alpha).
Cause 2 – Seeking independence
If your child is at a point in their life where they are looking to establish their own identity and want to begin making their own decisions in life, this is natural.
The challenge that so many families face is that they do not have a process or plan put in place for this to happen in a smooth way.
Your child does not have the proper communication skills (nor the understanding) to come to you in a calm and rational manner and say:
“Mom/dad, it’s time for me to become an adult which means that we need to work together on helping me transition into this new phase of my life”.
Unfortunately what happens in most households is the child starts talking back and the parents continue to nag and hover over their children only making them feel even more angry which causes more defiant behavior.
You need to work towards changing the relationship dynamic within your family so that your child has a clear path towards earning his or her own freedom.
You need to set clear expectations from each other about how your relationship is going to start working so that they become self motivated and driven to do things on their own while still allowing you to be a part of their life so you can impart some of your morals and values.
Through your child’s consistent responsible behavior, you need to reward them with more space and freedoms.
At the same time, your child needs to understand that it is important that he or she remain considerate and respectful of your expectations while living at home.
So long as your child sees a clear path towards earning their freedom, they wont feel as though you are suffocating them which is why some kids become argumentative and rebellious.
Cause 3 – Lack of gratitude
Many kids these days are not learning one of the most important values that any human needs to embrace which is gratitude.
Very often kids are being given so much (phones, games, clothes, cars, etc) that they just think its no big deal.
Sadly, what this does is cause them to start behaving in a spoiled, bratty, and ungrateful way.
While this used to be mostly associated with wealthier families, this is no longer the case now.
Our society has evolved to the point where even middle class families can experience this type of situation.
If you feel that your child has become ungrateful, then you are going to need to change the relationship dynamic with them where you start sending them a clear signal that they are on their own.
Yes, continue to give them the basics (food, shelter, and some clothing).
But that’s it.
They need to start appreciating the simple things in life by having to work for them.
In many instances kids are lacking the signal that its time for them to grow up and do things for themselves.
In their mind they think the “gravy train” will be there for them for many years.
In a lot of the work I do, I have even heard my kids tell me how they will just stay in college so their parents continue to support them.
This is not good.
So while this may be difficult for you, you are going to need to “pull the rug from underneath them” and make sure they understand that for the most part, they are now responsible for their own financial well being.
And, you are going to need to use this as an opportunity to teach them the art of gratitude.
Cause 4 – Has unresolved family issues
If your child has grown up around a family that has had a lot of conflict, then this means they could be carrying a lot of pain and frustration within them.
Because children do not know how to express their emotions in a healthy and constructive manner, they will bottle up these emotions until they reach the teenage years where it eventually begins to come out through defiant and disrespectful behaviors.
Has your child been traumatized when they were younger?
Did he or she see you and your spouse constantly arguing?
Did he or she get picked on by older siblings?
You are going to need to get to the root cause of this issue and help them heal it through counseling or therapy so that they no longer have pent up anger or aggression.
Cause 5 – Dealing with issues at school
Another reason why your child may be behaving in a defiant manner is because they may be dealing with issues at school.
Have they been bullied?
Are they having problems with a teacher?
Do they struggle in class?
Is he or she having a hard time making friends?
Figure out what is going on in school and help them deal with it.
Learning Communication Skills
Something that is very important for you to understand is that whatever you are going through right now, it is a “teachable moment”.
While it may be frustrating and difficult, it is important that you see this as an opportunity to teach your child how to communicate more effectively.
While your child may have some basic understandings of communication, one of the most important things you can teach your child is this:
“It’s not just what you say but how you say it”.
Whatever situation you are dealing with, your child’s emotions are valid. They are just not doing a good job of expressing them in a constructive way.
So use this situation as an opportunity for both you and your child to learn and grow.
Rules For A Defiant Teenager
Setting rules for your teen is important.
But the real question you need to ask yourself is this:
“Will they buy into it and respect them?”
Remember, rules only work if they respect you as an authority.
Otherwise you can set all the rules you want but they will eventually bend or break them.
Before you try to impose any kind of rules you need to focus on repairing your relationship with them because right now it is broken.
Once your relationship is rebuilt, then you can establish some guidelines for them that they need to follow.
Remember, it is also important to set expectations between the two of you so that he or she understands how your relationship dynamic is going to work moving forward.
Once you get them to buy in to these expectations and guidelines, you are going to see things run much more smoothly.
How To Discipline A Defiant Teen
Very often parents resort to “bribing techniques” where they think that by taking away a phone, video game, or something of value is the best way to to discipline their child.
This could not be furthest from the truth.
Sure, it may work in the short term, but in the long term it will not.
Either your child will just become more “crafty” where they figure there way around your punishment.
Or they become more hostile and angry until you give in.
If you want to teach your child structure and discipline then they are going to have to buy into you as being an authority they will listen to.
One of the most common mistakes I hear parents say is this…
“My child won’t listen to anyone and does not respect authority”.
Once again, this could not be the furthest from the truth.
Kids hunger for structure and discipline (which is why so many young kids end up in the army), but they want it from someone they respect.
Just watch a video of at risk youth at a basketball camp led by someone they admire and you will see kids who are well behaved and do as they are told.
So if you want to be able to discipline your child in a way that they will follow, you need to fix your relationship with them and the first step starts by you gaining their respect.
How To Handle Your Defiant Teen
Besides the tips mentioned above in this article, here are some other suggestions on how to handle your defiant teenager:
1. Accept your child as is
Whatever situation you are going through right now with your child, you need to accept him or her as is.
You cannot change that which you do not own.
So wherever you are with them right now, you both got there together.
Accept the situation and him or her as is and then you can begin the healing process.
2. Acknowledge them
I am always amazed at the power of a simple thank you or acknowledgement has on people.
Humans are starving for praise and acknowledgement.
This is why so many have become addicted to social media likes.
They crave validation.
Chances are you may have spent most of your energy focusing on what is “wrong” with your child.
Try spending some time focusing on what is “right” about them and acknowledge them for it in an authentic way.
3. Stay calm and centered
As difficult as this may be, you need to stay calm and centered when dealing with their defiant behavior.
If you lose your self control and start arguing with them, not only will they lose more respect for you, but you will lose your power because if your child sees that they can “throw you off your game”, they will learn that this is a way to manipulate you and get what they want.
So no matter what the situation is, stay calm and centered.
Learn to focus on your breathing when you get into an altercation with them
4. Stop being attached to the outcome
This is another difficult one for most parents because so many are attached to needing their child to behave in a certain way.
If your child wants to be defiant or disrespectful, then let them.
Make it clear to them that you will speak to them again when they decide to speak to you like an adult.
Don’t “need” them to respond a certain way otherwise they will pick up on it and use it against you as a mechanism for controlling the dynamic.
If they see that you are unattached to the outcome, then they have no leverage by being rude or obnoxious because they will see that their behavior has no effect on you.
Is This Defiant Behavior Just A Phase?
No it’s not.
If they have crossed the line and are being disrespectful, then this is not a phase.
You need to take this very seriously and do something about it.
It will not just “pass” on it’s own.
Sure, maybe it will subside a bit where you have some good days and bad days.
But you need to remember that if they have crossed that line with defiant behavior then it means they have lost respect for you as an authority which means your relationship is broken.