Teenage Defiance

Does your teenager not follow though with your requests, not complete tasks or not follow though with general rules and standards of conduct that they used to adhere to? If so, your teenager is demonstrating some level of defiance. Defiance can mean noncompliance (not doing what is asked or following expectations) or resistance (blatantly challenging or opposing rules or expectations). In the moment resistance can feel much worse, however, over time both can be extremely frustrating and worrisome.

One of the questions I have been asked repeatedly by parents of teenagers is whether their teenager's behavior is "typical teenage behavior" or a real problem. This is a question that keeps parents up at night and causes them significant stress and worry (with good reason!). There is a distinction (although generally not completely clear) between typical teenage defiance and excessive defiance that may indicate a real problem.

Defiance can be verbal (yelling, whining, complaining, swearing, lying, arguing, insulting, crying, back talking, etc), physical (defying, throwing tantrums, running away, stealing, etc), aggressive (throwing things, destroying property, fighting, using weapons, cruelty towards others, breaking and entering, etc) or passive noncompliance (ignoring directions or requests, failing to complete chores or homework, ignoring basic day to day routines, etc). Your teenager's defiance may look like one or a mixture of these.

So, back to the question of whether your teen's defiance is normal or a real problem. The first thing you want to identify is whether your teenager's defiance is worse than most teenager's defiance. To assess this, answer the questions below with rarely, sometimes, often, very often:

During the last 6 months my teen has:
1. Lost his/her temper
2. Argued with adults
3. Actively refused to comply with rules or requests
4. Deliberately annoyed people
5. Blamed others for his/her mistakes or behaviors
6. Been touchy or easily annoyed by others
7. Been angry and resentful
8. Been spiteful or vindictive

If you had 4 or more questions with an answer of often or very often, your teenager is demonstrating more defiant behavior than the typical teenager. If you answered often or very often for two or three questions, your teenager is demonstrating slightly more defiant behavior than other teens.

Another factor you should examine is whether your teenager's defiant behavior is creating any impairment in their lives. In the following situations, rate how often your teen's defiance is creating impairment by answering rarely, sometimes, often, very often:

1. In home life with the family
2. In social interactions with peers
3. In school
4. In community activities
5. In sports, clubs, or other activities
6. In learning to take care of themselves
7. In play, leisure, or recreational activities
8. In handling daily chores or other responsibilities

A final factor you should examine is related to how much emotional distress your teenager's defiance is causing others. Emotional distress occurs when there are strong negative emotions which can include anger, sadness, depression, frustration, etc. Below, rate how your teen's behavior impacts your family's emotional distress by answering none, very little, moderate, a lot, or very much.

1. Emotional distress I feel
2. Emotional distress that my spouse feels
3. Emotional distress my other children feel

If you rated emotional distress as moderate or higher for at least one person in your home, your teen is likely demonstrating defiance that is above that of a typical teenager.

If you determine that your teenager's defiance may be above the "typical teen" threshold you can take steps to help this situation. Some communication techniques can be very helpful in such situations (see other newsletters / articles related to communication with teens) since in order for there to be defiance there needs to be at least two parties involved in the conflict. Sometimes professional help is necessary to help both with assessment and the treatment of whatever may be going on for your teenager. If your teen's defiance includes criminal activity, you should most definitely seek professional help. Finally, coaching can be helpful for parents who are looking for specific techniques they can use to change the patterns of behavior in their home. It is helpful to remember that your teenager could very well feel as miserable as you do when you are on the receiving end of their defiance. Most people don't like feeling like they are constantly in conflict or in trouble so learning some subtle ways of changing the dynamic in the home can reap very positive benefits for both you and your teen.

Much of the information for this article was taken from the book Your Defiant Teen: 10 Steps to Resolve Conflict and Rebuild Your Relationship, by Russell Barkley, PhD and Arthur Robin, PhD.

© 2009 Elite Life Coaching

For more information on Life Coaching or coaching for parents please visit [] or email

My name is Karen Vincent. I am a Certified Life Coach as well as a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker with a Masters Degree from Boston University. I have worked with teenagers / adolescents and their parents for the last 15 years in a variety of settings, including outpatient therapy, specialized schools, and in the home. I have developed and conducted numerous parenting classes and support workshops specific to parents of teens. I have also created and presented training for professional staff including teachers, therapists and counselors who work with adolescents in Massachusetts, Connecticut and in New York City. In my work, I partner with parents (usually through phone calls) who are experiencing difficulties in connecting with their teenage children and who are struggling to manage social, emotional or behavioral issues which arise during the teenage years. Through working with me, parents are able to:

• work through any self doubt they are having about their parenting

• develop action plans for addressing their areas of concern

• develop new ways of parenting their teens effectively

• discover new ways of connecting effectively with their teens

• eliminate sleepless nights and worries while Restoring Peace of Mind During the Teenage Years

Please call for a free Coaching Consultation: 774-245-7775

  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Reddit
  • RSS


Post a Comment