Handling Difficult Teenagers

Are you a parent of a teenager? Or someone who works closely with one. If you find your teenager difficult to deal with, this one is for you. Let us zoom closely into this very unique and often self-contradictory group of people called teenagers, how difficult they can be, and how to effectively communicate your best intentions to them—all for the sake of harmony.


Upon entering their teenage years, a person searches for their identity by exploring their independence and capabilities. As they grow, they pursue individuality while seeking approval and acceptance from their peers. They project an image of knowing everything despite their lack of exposure and experience over things. Teenagers also feel invincible and insecure at the same time to the point of being prideful to take pieces of advice and even challenge authority. In their quest to become self-made individuals, some teenagers are bound to self-destruct. Sounds difficult?


While they deal with the changes they must undergo when growing up, they are also trying to cope with the expectations of their social circles—- their family, friends, classmates, and communities. Having that in perspective, we can see how teenagers tend to become difficult to handle in various situations. So what can we do? Here are some practical tips for handling difficult teenagers.


  1. Emotional Regulation: The Power to Control Your Reactions


Difficult teenagers tend to push things up to the edge before acting upon what is required. This often happens when they are asked to do something, and you, the adult, expect them to obey immediately or promptly. As teenagers as they are, they tend to delay things. Worse, they would even question, grunt, ignore you, or not pay attention. Sometimes, teenagers would back talk, dismiss, haggle and provoke you. These responses from typical difficult teenagers will push your buttons, but being reactive or emotional about it will not help. Being upset or showing anger does not establish your authority over them. In fact, that only shows your teenagers that you have no power over them. Instead, it is the other way around.


Emotional regulation suggests you keep your cool. Avoid being too reactive and stay calm. Instead of being reactive when you are challenged by your teenager, be in that space of calm by taking deep breaths. Deeply breathe in and slowly count to 10. Once you have regained composure, you can speak to your teenager and address the situation. Explain calmly the value of obedience and compliance and how it enriches relationships.


  1. Setting Clear Boundaries: Communicating Expectations


Teenagers will explore the ins and outs of rules and policies you try to enforce at home to get what they want. Though they know rules and regulations are for their protection and discipline, teenagers work and decide according to their preferences and style and do not like the thought of being controlled. But teenagers must value respect, authority, and obedience because these build character and are vital in building relationships and dealing with life.


Therefore, adults must consistently communicate these boundaries and model and enforce them. Teenagers need to understand the wisdom behind these regulations and to have a clear picture of the kind of behavior expected of them. Moreover, teenagers must be aware of the consequences of deviating from them. This way, these boundaries will become their compass in everything they do as they navigate their independence and selfhood.


Another way to make boundaries work is to include your teenager in coming up with such. Let them pitch in their inputs and come up with their own consequences should they deviate from the rules. This empowers the teenager to think about the correct behavior, consider others, and be true to their word. They will also learn how to walk their talk.


Suppose boundaries and expectations are not clearly articulated. In that case, teenagers will try to outsmart you with their arguments, turn things around to their advantage, and also take things against you just to get away with their irresponsible behavior. If you want to foster respect and constructive relationship, set your boundaries and expectations clear and realistic. Be consistent and model the expected behavior.


  1. Assertive and Effective Communication: Learning to Say Yes and No


Teenagers are prone to resistance, especially when they feel restricted or insist on getting what they want. Difficult teenagers will assert themselves, and adults may find this arrogant. When that happens, expect emotional arguments, eventually creating rifts in the relationship. Worse, teenagers may become distant and secretive, and we do not want that to happen.


But the fact of the matter is that teenagers need leadership. They must be guided by their choices and the possible consequences of their actions. Boundaries can help regulate their actions, but you must also utilize assertive and effective communication. Though you have the authority as an adult, you also need to communicate clearly and lovingly why you would say yes or no, why you will permit this instead of that, etc.


Assertive and effective communication fosters a win-win solution between the communicating parties. You, as an adult, must advocate open communication where one can clearly state their opinions and feelings without violating both your rights. It also involves respect for feelings and not attacking or judging the other. When you communicate with a teenager, you describe the behavior and how it affects you and then tell the desired change you want and clearly state the consequence if change does not happen. Then make a summarizing statement when a decision has been decided. By doing this, your teenagers will be invited to listen well, process, and see your best intentions why such a compromise must be made.


  1. Managing a Group of Difficult Teenagers: Turn to the Leader 


In managing a group of difficult teenagers, knowing what bonds them, how they influence one another, and who leads them is essential. Here is a perspective: teenagers are influential, strong-willed, and assertive. These are characteristics of a leader. With that, mentoring the leader of this group of teenagers can be of great help in promoting discipline and wholesome habits.


  1. Humor and Empathy: Understanding Teenagers


Dealing with difficult teenagers is not about defeating them. Instead, it is about understanding where they are coming from, where they are, and where they are heading. You want to connect with them, so managing your emotions will help you avoid unnecessary quarrels.

When teenagers are becoming difficult, and the situation seems mild, you may choose to respond with humor instead of ranting about it. “Oh, those ranging hormones again.”, or “It must be the weather.”, anything that will help shift your mood from being irritably angry to positively happy.


Learning to listen to your teenager can also help you develop empathy. You can try processing their behavior and give them the benefit of the doubt as to what that is so. Try seeing why it is difficult for that teenager to behave accordingly. Doing this is not to justify their wrongdoing; you just want to be mindful of what their struggles are as they grow. Then when you get the chance to talk to them about it, listen intently and with empathy, and avoid giving unsolicited advice or invalidating their feelings.


  1. Listening Means a Lot: Being There for Your Teenager


Some difficult teenagers feel they are not being heard or no one listens to them. Hence, they behave the way they do. As adults, we need to make a conscious effort to be there for them. Assuring teenagers that we are here for them from time to time will significantly help them gain the confidence to express themselves without feeling threatened or judged. It is also advisable to discern when it is time to step in or just let them come to you when they need you.

As you engage in this loving conversation, be a good listener, and avoid monopolizing the conversation. You may also ask first if the teenager would be willing to hear what you say. Then instead of you giving the solution, allow the teenager to take an active role in figuring out how to solve the problem. You may offer triggers or ask questions like, “What do you want to accomplish from this? How would you handle that situation?” Process possible solutions and consequences together with the teenager.


  1. Addressing Resistance and Uncooperative Behavior: Deploying Effective Consequences


Teenagers are considered difficult when they resist being controlled or even make rules and regulations for granted. When they refuse to be disciplined and would not take “no” for an answer, it is time to be firm and deploy the consequence. But make sure they are aware of this from the very start.


What kind of consequences would be appropriate and efficient to help develop the character expected from your teenagers? Remember, punishments do not always yield good behavior. Instead, it may establish fear, confusion, and even rebellion.


Consider deploying an effective consequence. This consequence is related to the actual behavior you are expecting from the teenager. You can also consider a task-specific and time-bound consequence for the teenager to see that you are addressing the ill behavior and the value you are trying to promote in the situation. This will give the difficult teenager a chance to pause, stand down, and eventually be compelled to cooperate.


For instance, if the teenager arrives an hour late from the set curfew, you can cut the curfew time an hour shorter. Suspending privileges is also a practical consequence, but not for too long. A week would be enough to teach them a lesson.


Teenagers may be challenging to deal with at times. Still, as adults, we need to remember that they are going to the phase of growing, that they are still trying to figure things out, establishing their own sets of values, and at the same time, managing their impulsivity. Be glad you are given the privilege to lead these teenagers as they seek to be great adults in the future.


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