Teenage Rebellion - Is There a Cure?

Is your teenager mouthy, disrespectful, argumentative, and just plain unpleasant to be around?

If you're like many parents, the picture you held of parenthood included very little of what later turned into reality. Who could have imagined that the sweetest little girl or boy ever born would turn into a monster by the time he or she reached their teens?

The times we live in certainly don't make parenting any easier, but learning to set limits from the beginning will. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way that may be helpful.

1. Spend lots of time with your kids.

Having children, like marriage, is something that should not be entered into lightly. If you don't have time to invest in a child, think about waiting until later to have one. Unless you make your spouse and your children your top priority, you are asking for problems ahead.

2. Don't expect your children to know things they haven't been taught.

A new baby knows only what you choose to teach him. Most of us are only too anxious to teach our children to walk, to eat, and to use the potty chair, but when these tasks are accomplished, we often neglect to teach them things like being kind, telling the truth, showing respect, etc.

Teaching involves more than just telling a child something. "We told him not to lie," we say, but did we model truthful behavior in front of him? Did we point out instances of lying, disrespect, bullying, and rudeness by others, and talk to them about better ways that person could have behaved; or did we just wait until our child did it themselves and punish them for it?

Spend time picking out and reading books that illustrate the traits you want your children to adopt and that show the consequences of not behaving in acceptable ways. Take time to reinforce the lessons in these stories by discussing them as you are reading, and by referring to them later.

3. Screen who and what your child is exposed to.

If the kids next door are rude, mean, foul-mouthed, etc., you have every right to limit your kids exposure to them. Tell the visitors what is expected when they are in your home and, if they continue to behave poorly, send them home.

I once worked for a woman who refused to talk to her kids about anything she deemed controversial---things like religion, politics, drugs, and abortion, because she thought they should make up their own minds about such things after they grew up.

Her idea might have some merit. The problem is that kids will be influenced by what they do hear and see along the way to adulthood. If you don't exercise some control over that, your child may end up following a path that is harmful not only to themselves but also to others. Failing to teach your children good values ranks right up there with child abuse in my opinion.

4. Have some family rules that are set in stone.

Every family is different. You may think that kids should be allowed to date at 12 while other parents would shudder at the thought, and insist that 16 is the minimum age for dating.

The point is, decide what the rules are in your family, and post them or make a family booklet containing the rules. Yours might read something like this.

a. Our family members will support every other member of the family.

b. Every family member will keep his or her own room clean.

c. We do not yell in our home. (Unless the house is on fire.)

d. We will be polite to each other at all times.

e. We will meet together once a month/week to discuss any problems.

f. No TV or Computer games until ALL homework is done.

g. Whining will get you nowhere-except sent to your room.

h. No dating on school nights.

i. Curfew is____ p.m. on date nights.

Your list may be a lot different and a lot longer, but there should be a list. That way, there is no excuse for arguing over something that has already been decided. If your family attends church, put that on your list so that when the time comes, (and it will) that a child would rather do something with a friend than go to church, you can point to the list and tell him that this family goes to church. Period. (But he can invite his friend to come along if he likes.)

5. Don't hesitate to get outside help if your kids do get out of control.

Schools usually have counselors that are willing to meet with both the teen and his or her parents in order to resolve a problem.

Having someone the teen respects talk to him about his behavior. A pastor, Sunday school teacher, grandpa, grandma, aunt, uncle, family friend, etc. are all possibilities. Teens are often more willing to take advice from someone other than their parents. Don't take it personally if your child talks to others more than he talks to you. After all, don't we as adults frequently unload our problems on a friend?

Read about what other parents have done in similar situations to see if you can implement some of their solutions in your own home. Check out Amazon or Barnes and Noble for e-books on the subject.

Finally, consider professional help. If that sounds too expensive, look for a counselor that will adjust his or her fee to your income. Doing nothing while hoping the situation will improve is often worse than no solution at all.

If you already have a rebellious teen, don't despair. Many of today's fine young adults, (and older ones, too) were once rebellious teens. They managed to overcome whatever was responsible for their irresponsible behavior, and your teen can, too.

Jeanne Gibson writes from Springfield, OR on subjects ranging from cats to kids, marriage to divorce, and rechargeable electric bikes to model airplane fun. Check out her blogpost called, "Do Your Teens Hate You?" at

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