Discipline for Stubborn Teenagers

Discipline for stubborn teenagers requires a firmer hand, often with a greater show of love than her obedient, well-behaved sibling. Don’t despair if you have a stubborn teenager with intense opinions and a demanding nature. Although your teenager’s determined attempts to control her own life can frustrate and exhaust you as a parent, there’s hope. You can come to understand your teenager and learn to shape her will without breaking her spirit.

Here’s how you can help your stubborn teenager:

1. Always follow through. Understand that your stubborn teenager can take advantage of you if you do not follow through because you are too busy or too tired to stand firm on what you have previously stated. If, for example, you have said that you will not allow your teenager to watch television if she does not cooperate, then you must take this privilege away from her for some time.

2. Avoid power struggles by using routines and rules.  That way, you aren't bossing them around, it’s just that, "In our house, we finish homework before computer, TV, or telephone time."  In this way, the parent stops being the bad guy.

3. Direct your stubborn teenager's energy into constructive activities like volunteering in the community or playing on sports teams.

4. Discipline through the relationship, never through punishment. Teens don’t learn when they’re in the middle of a fight.  Like all of us, that’s when adrenaline is pumping and learning shuts off.  Teens behave because they want to please us.  The more you argue with and punish your teenager, the more you undermine his desire to please you.

5. No matter how hard the battles become, never give up. Understand that your teenager doesn’t hate you – she is just more persistent in testing you than a more compliant teenager would be. Know that your teenager longs for you to provide consistent, firm, and loving discipline, because that provides the security needs.

6. Choose your battles wisely, considering what truly matters and what doesn’t affect your core values. Be as clear about instructions as you are about consequences.

7. Do your best to exercise patience in the midst of conflicts with your stubborn teenager. Recognize the fact that your yelling will only add fuel to the fire. Stand firm without provoking your teenager to fight against you.

8. Don't push your teenager into opposing you.  If you take a hard and fast position, you can easily push her into defying you, just to prove a point.  You'll know when it's a power struggle and you're invested in winning.  Just stop, take a breath, and remind yourself that winning a battle with your teenager always sets you up to lose what’s most important: the relationship.  When in doubt say, "Ok, you can decide this for yourself."  If she can't decide, then say what part of it she can decide, or find another way for her to meet her need for autonomy without compromising her health or safety.

9. Keep in mind that your teenager is a gift with great potential. Realize that a stubborn temperament can be an asset just as much as a drawback. Know that a stubborn teenager can apply his determination to something as noble as finding a cure for cancer, or as destructive as organizing a crime ring. Recognize that the key lies in directing your teenager’s stubbornness toward positive purposes rather than negative ones.

10. Give your stubborn teenager choices.  If you give orders, she will almost certainly bristle.  If you offer a choice, she feels like the master of her own destiny.  Of course, only offer choices you can live with, and don’t let yourself get resentful by giving away your power.

11. Give your teenager responsibilities. Remember that stubborn teenagers are born leaders with exceptional abilities to solve problems. Give him as many responsibilities as you can that are appropriate to his age, such as pet ownership, household chores, and a paper route or other part-time job. Show your teenager that you respect his abilities.

12. Know that you’re not alone. Understand that a stubborn teenager isn’t an anomaly. Recognize that plenty of other stubborn teenagers exist, and get to know the moms and dads of a few of them to support each other.

13. Leave the room when your stubborn teenager losing his temper (as long as he is not in danger of being harmed if you do so). Understand that once your teenager realizes that his anger does not affect you, he will eventually stop this behavior on his own.

14. You, as the parent, might reasonably presume you know best.  But your stubborn teenager willful partly as a result of his integrity. He has a viewpoint that is making him hold fast to his position, and he is trying to protect something that seems important to him. Only by listening calmly and reflecting his words will you come to understand what’s making him oppose you. Encourage your teenager to express himself. Show a genuine interest in his thoughts and opinions as you discuss them together.

15. Look your stubborn teenager right in the eye when you speak to him to block out any surrounding distractions. Do this whether you are disciplining him or engaging in a normal conversation. Understand that your teenager needs to know he has your full attention.

16. Most stubborn teenagers are fighting for respect.   If you offer it to them, they don’t need to fight to protect their position.  And, like the rest of us, it helps a lot if they feel understood.  If you see his point of view and think he's wrong, you can still offer him empathy and meet him part way while you set the limit.

17. Recognize the tender teenager underneath the tough behavior. Remember that your teenager, like everyone else, wants to be loved, appreciated, and respected. Catch your teenager doing something right as often as you can, then encourage him to keep it up. Affirm your teenager through your words and actions. Show him regular affection. Be your teenager’s advocate in challenging situations at school and elsewhere. Help prevent him from being mistreated or ridiculed. Surround your teenager with grown-ups who understand and encourage him. When helping your teenager deal with a conflict, don’t always assume that your teenager is either right or wrong. Instead, carefully evaluate the situation to search for the truth, and discuss it honestly with your teenager.

18. See it from her point of view.  For example, she may be angry because you promised to take her and her friend to the Mall.  To you, she is being stubborn.  To her, she is justifiably upset, and you are being hypocritical, because she is not allowed to break promises to you.  What should you do in circumstances like this?  Apologize for breaking your promise, reassure her that you try very hard to keep your promises, and take her to the Mall.  Just consider they way you would want to be treated, and treat her accordingly.

19. Let your teenager save face.  You don’t have to prove you’re right. You can, and should, set reasonable expectations and enforce them.  But under no circumstances should you try to break your teenager’s will or force him to acquiesce to your views

20. Understand that stubborn teenagers need to experience the consequences of their actions (instead of simply listening to your reasoning). Figure out what matters the most to your teenager to create the most appropriate consequences for him when his behavior gets out of control.

21. Your stubborn teenager wants mastery more than anything.  Let her take charge of as many of her activities as possible.  Teens that feel more independent and in charge of themselves will have less need to stubborn (not to mention they take responsibility early).

Discipline for Defiant Teens: Parenting Course

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