Parenting Articles

Rebellious Teens

Rebellious and Defiant Teens

One of the most difficult parenting situations that come up around the world is that of rebellious and defiant teens. It is true that most teenagers rebel to some degree. They are testing their limits, and learning to be individuals. It is only natural to rebel a little bit in order to develop a sense of self. However, asserting individuality and testing the boundaries is a different proposition from outright rebellion and defiance.

Rebellious and defiant teens have a disdain for authority, and show little desire to work with parents, teachers and others. They repeatedly cross the line, and may show outright disrespect, flouting rules constantly, or ignoring your strictures. Dealing with rebellious and defiant teens is difficult, and you can only do your best. Here are some ideas for trying to deal with rebellious and defiant teens:

Do what you can to enforce boundaries

It is important to show your rebellious teenager that there are still rules. This means doing your best to enforce consequences. No, you probably can’t stop him or her from sneaking out the window at night. However, you can take away computer privileges or video games. You can also remove car privileges and make it clear that if your child wants to benefit from the extra, “fun” things you have as a family, he or she needs to be a functioning and respectful part of the family. Try these teen behavior contracts.

Try to avoid big fights

This can be difficult, but you need to try to avoid big fights. Part of the reason that defiant and rebellious teens act out is to get a reaction from you. One of the best things you can do is react calmly. Explain that the poor decision that a teenager has made is resulting in a specific consequence (try to choose consequences that you can actually enforce), and that he or she can earn back your trust.

Big fights over a teenager’s hair or clothes will only put you in a losing position. Calmly state that you do’t approve of something your teen is wearing, saying, or listening to, and leave it at that. If the behavior is offensive, you can enforce consequences.

Be available to talk

Try to be available to talk. Listen to your teenager. If he or she comes to you with a problem, or confesses something he or she did, hold your tongue until he or she is done. While it may be difficult, try to avoid making judging statements. If your teen wants advice, give to him or her candidly and calmly. If he or she is admitting wrong-doing, calmly point out that there is a consequence attached to all such actions, and that it will be enforced. Try to help your teen, or just listen on occasion.

Be clear in your unconditional love

It is difficult, but when dealing with rebellious and defiant teens, you need to be clear about your unconditional love for your teenager. Make sure that you are clear that it is the behavior you do not approve of. Also, do your best to avoid comparisons between your troubled teenager and others. These comparisons will most likely only provoke more efforts to rebel as teens feel unloved.

Continue to invite your troubled teenager to family activities, and express a desire for your child to join the table at meal times. Be sure that you continue to provide the basics of life: Shelter, food and clothing. However, you do need to make it clear that you will not tolerate violence in your home, and that your teen should not endanger anyone else in the family.

Programs for rebellious and defiant teens

If your teenager has become so unmanageable that he or she is engaged in illegal activities, or becoming violent, you might have to look into programs for your teenager. Make it clear that you love your teen, and you want to help him or her, but you can’t have destructive behavior in your home. Programs for rebellious teens can help your teenager learn techniques to manage his or her anger issues and problems. In these cases, your teen might still have problems when he or she gets back from the program, but they might be more manageable.

It can be difficult to know what to do if you have a troubled teenager. You should do what you can to re-establish a good relationship with your teenager, and show that you are concerned and loving. In the end, though, all you can do is try your best, since rebellious and defiant teens make their own decisions.

Parenting Articles

Struggling Teens

Struggling Teens

The teen years are rife with difficulty. If you think back, it is likely that you will remember your own teen years as times that included painful scenes and a certain level of unhappiness. This is quite natural. Teenagers are dealing with rapidly developing bodies. Growth and development of the kind not seen since the earliest years of childhood are taking place. Even the brain is still developing at rapid rate.

In order for normal teen growth and development to take place, hormones must be released into the body. The hormonal and chemical changes that take place in a teen body can be sources of frustration, confusion and a myriad of other emotions that are normal during the teenage years. With all of this going on inside a teenager, it is little surprise that what goes on outside the body can affect teenagers as well.

Stresses related to schoolwork, extracurricular activities, a possible after school job, social pressures and anxiety about the future can all combine to push a teenager into troubled territory. Teenagers with challenging family situations, or who deal with a major upheaval in life (such as moving or a parent’s job loss), are even more likely to struggle.

Problems common to struggling teens

Struggling teens are those that are having a more difficult adjusting to what is going on in their lives. Struggling teens are beginning to act out undesirable behavior with increasing frequency. A certain amount of anger, withdrawal from family, mild rebellion and tension is to be expected during the teen years. However, struggling teens tend to exhibit such behaviors on an escalating scale. While normal teens might have mood swings and bad days, struggling teens tend to grow progressively worse in their behaviors as the struggles deepen.

Some of the problems that are common to struggling teens include:

  • Hopelessness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety attacks
  • Violence
  • Substance abuse
  • Disdain for authority
  • Withdrawal from all family life
  • Falling grades
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Increase in unsafe sexual activity
  • Drastic change in sleeping habits
  • Change in eating habits, leading to dramatic weight gain or loss 

If you see signs of the above with increasing frequency, there is a good chance that you are dealing with a trouble teenager. It is important to be on the alert for signs that your teenager may be struggling. This is because struggling teens can turn to illegal activities in order to attempt to fulfill some perceived need, or to help them deal with the problems of life.

Another concern is actually to do with health and wellbeing. Not all struggling teens lash out at their parents, becoming rebellious and turning to extreme sports or illegal drugs. Not all struggling teenagers turn physically violent toward others. Indeed, some troubled teens become suicidal, sure that the only way to escape the problems besetting them is to take their own lives. It is vital that you watch for signs of depression in teenagers, since it could lead to death.

Another health concern might be an eating disorder. Some teenagers turn to food for comfort during times of trouble. Overeating can result in a number of health problems now and in the future. The social consequences of rapid weight gain can also contribute to the complication of depression as a teen’s self image plunges. Anorexia is another eating disorder that can cause health problems. Some teenagers deny themselves food, or engage in bulimic behaviors, as a sign of struggle. These disorders come with their own set of health problems, some of which are long term.

The teen years can be tough on everyone. However, as a parent, it is up to you to watch your teenager for signs of struggle. There are programs that are designed to help struggling teens. Check with your local social services to find out about local support programs. You can also look into residential facilities and programs that specialize in helping struggling teens. The important thing, though, is to get help for struggling teens before the problems get completely out of hand and affect a teen’s future.

Parenting Articles

Single Parenting

Parenting is a hard job, and single parents face extra challenges. Though every family’s situation is unique, there are some tips that single parents can try to overcome some of their challenges.

Some single parent statistics show the prevalence and challenges of single parenting in America:

  • Slightly more than 1 in 4 children in America is being raised by a single parent.
  • About 40% of children born in 2007 were born to unmarried mothers.
  • 23% of kids live with only a mother, 4% live with only a father, and 4% live with neither parent.
  • 3% live with unmarried parents.
  • Black children are the most likely to be raised by a single parent, followed by Hispanic, then white children.
  • Children living with only one parent have financial and educational disadvantages compared to children with both parents, especially if their parent is the mother and if she did not finish high school. 

Parents may be single due to separation, divorce, or death, or they may have never been married. Also, some parents may have a partner who is not able to help with parenting due to a disability or a job that takes them away from their family most of the time. Parents in different situations face different challenges, but in all of these cases it is hard for both the parent and his or her children to parent alone.

Having a single parent can be hard on children and teens, who often wish they could have more of their parents’ attention and may have emotional issues to work through. Though every situation is unique, here are some tips that might help a single parent whose child or teen is struggling:

  • Tell your children every day that you love them.
  • Encourage your children to recognize and express their feelings. Younger kids especially may need help recognizing feelings like sadness, hurt, and fear that can come as a result of the loss of one parent, and teens may also need help dealing with these emotions. Even teens who grew up not knowing their other parent may at times feel a sense of loss over his or her absence. It’s okay to get help from someone else to talk to teens, including a relative, clergy member, or professional counselor.
  • Let teens ask questions and give them honest, age-appropriate answers. Be honest when you don’t know an answer – there are some questions only the absent parent would be able to answer.
  • Don’t say negative things about the absent spouse. This may be very hard, but it’s not good for children or teens to hear one of their parents say bad things about the other, and may lead to feelings of anger. This doesn’t mean a parent should make up good things, but they should refrain from saying bad things.
  • While you may be too busy working and trying to be both mom and dad to spend as much time with your teen as you would like, make time for special activities together. Try to eat at least one meal together as a family every day, even if it’s breakfast or a late dinner. Also, consider finding one time each week that you can set aside as family time to do fun activities together. Activities don’t have to be expensive or elaborate to have a positive impression on teens.
  • If you work in the afternoon when teens are out of school, make sure your teens have somewhere to go and positive activities to do. The time right after school is when teens are most likely to get into trouble, but if they are with a responsible relative or neighbor or in an after school program they are less likely to get into trouble. Summer programs are also available in many communities for times when parents are working while school is not in session.
  • Have clear, consistent rules, and enforce the consequences when the rules are broken. It may be especially tempting for a single parent to “let things slide,” but its very important for teens to have clear rules and consistent consequences.
  • Emphasize the importance of education to your children. Get help for teens who are struggling in school.
  • Do as much as you can to be supportive of teens’ positive activities, like sports or music. You may not be able to be there for every game or performance, but go when you can, and talk to teens about their interests to show that you care.
  • Be patient with teens when you are starting to date again or getting remarried. This can be a difficult process, and it may take time for teens to adjust to it. Keep talking to them about their feelings.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek support for yourself or your teens. Support groups like Parents Without Partners can help single parents feel support. Family and friends can also help, and being involved in community or church groups can relieve loneliness for parents and give teens positive role models.
  • Be aware of signs of depression, aggression, drug or alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts and behavior in teens or in yourself. Talk to teens about concerning behavior, and seek counseling if you are still concerned. Many communities have free or low-cost counseling for those who do not have insurance that covers the costs. 

Single Parenting Tips and Single Parent Statistics Sources:

Nemours, KidsHealth, “Tips for Divorcing Parents” [online]
Nemours, KidsHealth, “Living with a Single Parent” [online]
U.S. Bureau of the Census, Census Brief, “Children with single parents – how they fare” [online]
Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-being, 2009” [online]