Tuesday October 2 2018

Keys To Handling Difficult Teenagers

Teenagers are a unique and often self-contradictory breed. As a group, they strive for individuality yet crave peer acceptance. They act like they know everything and yet lack much experience. They feel invincible and yet are often insecure. Some teenagers thrive on testing and challenging authority. A few may be self-destructive.

It’s not easy when you have to deal with difficult teenagers in your life.

1.  Avoid Giving Away Your Power

One of the most common characteristics of difficult teenagers is that they love to push your buttons and make you react negatively. This can be done in a variety of ways, including and not limited to teasing, disobeying, not listening, back talking, temper throwing, rule breaking, dismissing, haggling, and provoking. During these moments, the more reactive and upset you become, the more the teenager will think he or she has power over you – she has succeeded in pushing your buttons!

The first rule of thumb in the face of a difficult teenager is to keep your cool. The less reactive you are to provocations, the more you can use your better judgment to handle the situation. When you feel upset or challenged by a teen, before you say or do something that may worsen the situation, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In many instances, by the time you reach ten, you would have regained composure, and figured out a better response to the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of exacerbate the problem. If you’re still upset after counting to ten, take a time out if possible, and revisit the issue after you calm down.

2. Establish Clear Boundaries

Since most teenagers want to experience greater independence and selfhood, some will inevitably challenge you in order to test the extent of their power. In these situations, it’s very important to set boundaries in order to maintain a workable and constructive relationship. The boundaries need to be articulated clearly and specifically.

The most effective boundaries (they can also be called ground rules, house rules, team rules, or codes of conduct) are those which are fair, reasonable, and can be applied consistently. If you’ve been dealing with a difficult teen for some time without communicating clear boundaries, state that from this point forward things will be different, and back up your statement with actions.

The first and foremost boundary in almost any situation is that you will be treated with respect. This means if the teen(s) is respectful towards you, then you will also accord her or him certain respect and privileges.

In addition to respect, and depending on the situation, there may also be a list of interpersonal, family, classroom or team, ground rules. The list of boundaries should be relatively short but clear, and indicated in writing whenever appropriate.

Of course, some teenagers may deliberately challenge your boundaries to see if you mean what you say, and test how much they can get away with. Should this happen, apply the communication skills and strategies which we will cover over the next few weeks!

Excerpts from Preston Ni M.S.B.A.