Dealing With A Difficult Teenager

Are you frustrated with your teenager? Are you getting to the point where you don’t have the energy to deal with them? How do you as a parent respond to your teenager? It seems that teens today are growing up in a prosperous society with so many career opportunities and have access to virtually limitless information. Yet, these teens feel more disconnected than any generation before them. Even teens from a good Christian home feel alienated from their parents, from adults in general.

Let’s take a look what happens when children enter the stage of adolescence. First adolescence means change. It seems like almost overnight your cute, charming little bundle of joy, who was always a delight to be around is now moody and often an unruly teenager. It is pretty difficult when one minute they are smiling and the next minute they get upset, stomp away, become sullen and silent. Our once perfect children are now forgetful, irresponsible, insolent and confused all in the same day. That sure is difficult to deal with isn’t?

So how do you as parents respond to your teenager? Most of the time parents think that the teen needs more structure. More rules, lay down the law and tighten the screws. Parents also have a tendency to think it is their job to fix the problem, correct misbehavior and enforce the rules. The parent’s well meaning effort often leave their child feeling more disconnected from the family. Clearly, parents must provide clear guidance and hold their children accountable for their actions even when the kids feel confused and disconnected. Teens need to follow the rules even when they think that they have the right to make up their own.

The question remains then, how do you as a parent provide appropriate rules and guidelines for them without prompting them to disconnect from you? The answer is related to how the rules are presented. You must present them in the context of a loving relationship. Teenagers do not respond to rules but they respond to relationships.

Rules - Relationships = Rebellion

Rules + Relationships = Response

If your kids perceive that you are more concerned about the rules than about them, then they will be tempted to disregard the rules. When kids know that they are more important to you than the rules, that you love them no matter what, they are more likely to follow your guidelines. Relationships are very important to God. Speaking for God, Moses said, “And now Israel, what does the Lord your God require you to do, but keep the commandments of the Lord and His statues which I command you today for your good?”{ Deut. 10:12-13}. As rebellious as Israel was at times, God always treated them like a loving Father, doing everything for their good. The Ten Commandments we’re given as a safeguard and a blessing not a burden. The law was God’s loving effort to protect and provide for His people.

Telling your kids “that I am doing this for your own good” doesn’t cut it especially if they don’t see or hear the unconditionally love through time and attention. So remember rules within a loving relationship usually leads to a positive response. Now just to let you know that not all children will rebel, but many will, but of course in various degrees. For the adolescent it is a time of discovering their individuality and what God is preparing for each and everyone of them. It is a time of uncertainty, they wonder about the future, desiring to be cared for yet at the same time wanting eventually be on their own. With love, open communication and constant prayer, you as a parent can get through these turbulent times, preparing your children to be responsible and God honoring adults.


Paula W. Thomas, BMHC

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