Five ways to handle defiance in teens

Your obedient, polite child has turned defiant and rude. Worried? Don’t be! These are teen issues. Here are tips to de-stress this period:

By Susan Philip

Five ways to handle defiance in teens

When your child hits teenage, you are likely to notice major personality changes. A normally sweet-tempered child may become self-willed and quarrelsome. A child who routinely responded to your instructions may start questioning even the smallest thing, and arguing about it. Your happy home will suddenly feel like a war zone. Don’t lose heart, you are not the only parents to go through this situation.

Teenage is turbulent for every child. He will be coping with a lot of physical changes, and trying to find his identity as a person as well. In the process, he will challenge your authority, try to push the limits you set, and refuse to be reasoned with. It is up to you, as parents, to steer your teens through the mood swings and tantrums so that they emerge as disciplined and responsible adults. Here are five ways to cope:

  1. Be a role model: Almost overnight, you may have changed from being a hero to an enemy in your child’s eyes. But deep down, you’re still her role model. So she will imitate the way you handle a situation. Her behaviour may frustrate you, but practice remaining calm. Don’t insult or humiliate her. She will be more willing to listen to you.
  2. Have a plan ready: Try to anticipate problem situations. Your child may want to stay out late with friends on New Year’s Eve, for instance. Prepare a strategy in advance. You could plan something even more attractive to him, and present that before he makes his demand. The conflict situation will not even arise!
  3. Choose your battles: Your child may want to pick a fight over every issue. Don’t allow that to happen. Decide which issues you are not willing to compromise on – politeness and honesty, for instance, and be firm about those. Give in, at least to some extent, on other issues. This will show her that you are not trying to micro-manage her.
  4. Follow through: Set limits, and make it clear that there will be consequences if they are crossed. Your child is likely to test this out. If a limit is crossed, enforce the penalty. Don’t choose unreasonable penalties, and don’t give ‘grace periods’. Ever.
  5. Check for hidden issues: Sustained defiance over a particular issue may indicate an underlying problem. A refusal to study a particular subject, for example, could mean that the child is having a problem at school. Get the child or his friends to open up, and take necessary action.

Respect, understanding and a willingness to take their feelings and opinions on board are valued by teenagers. When you introduce these qualities in your dealings with your children, you are automatically setting a template for them to follow into adulthood.

And on days when you feel that your lovable child has turned into a monster, hold on to this thought: “This too shall pass!”