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How to Avoid Power Struggles with Your Teen

Get your teen to easily follow household rules.

Some parents seem caught off guard that their once adorable child, who adored them dearly, and in whose eyes, they could seemingly do little wrong, now questions their every other directive along with a demand for answers. For a parent who is caught off guard by this sudden change in behavior, the knee jerk reaction is tighten down of previously established boundaries.

The problem with this move is that the teen in question, has more than likely outgrown those boundaries, and you missed it. They are more fearless, or less fearful, they can now leave the home when they want to, they probably have their own network of friends, whose parents will let them stay at their place when they want to, and the list goes on.

For parents who find themselves caught up in power struggles with their teens, the first thing to understand is that you are playing a lose-lose game. As the adult in the relationship, you are saddled with all the fiscal responsibilities regarding your teen’s care taking and your teens isn’t. While in most cases, your teen’s future wouldn’t look so bright if he or she continues to defy you, the reality is that he or she isn’t thinking about their future while defying you, only you and the other parent are.

In my experience, most teens who habitually engage in power struggles with one or both parents, have for some reason or the other pretty much resigned themselves to a dull future. Often the parent or parents they quarrel with are the ones who are holding the teen to high expectations.

So, what do you do, the first or the umpteenth time your teen is overtly defiant towards you? Here are three steps to take.

Step One: Don’t Make It about You.

Ego deflation is very important here, the rules are not about you, and never where. The rules are about the teen, and where put in place to aide in your teen’s successful growth. In your own words, this is what you are going to relay to your teen. It can go something like this;

“The reason we put the curfew hours in place, is to keep you safe and provide you with the necessary structure you need to practice self-discipline. Are you suggesting that this isn’t working out? If so, I would like to learn why.”

This approach is compassionate and puts the onus back on your teen to explain his or her behavior without feeling attacked.

Step Two: Identify Your Teen’s Goals and Objectives.

Junior getting excellent grades in school in ideal, but why? Is there a path in Junior’s future you and Junior have agreed he take, which necessitates excellent grades? If not, once you find yourself being prompted an explanation for your rules, it is an opportunity for you and your teen to sit down and learn, what it is your teen desires in his future. If your teen has no clue, it would probably explain his lack of preparation for the future. Helping your teen identify goals and objectives for his or her future will also help strengthen the parent teen bond.

Step Three: Discuss and Agree Upon New Rules Appropriate for Your Teen.

For this step to be a success, step two must be an absolute success. If you and your teen don’t have time to figure out his or her goals and objectives for the future, then you can set some temporary rules down, until you two complete step two.

The reason step two is important, is that for your teen to agree and adhere to set rules in the household, he or she must see them self as having something to gain by following the rules, and subsequently a lot to lose by not doing so. Otherwise, when dealing with a defiant teen, who often tend to be self-reliant, the teen will see no reasons to follow any of your rules.

With realistic goals and objectives outlined for your teens’ future success, he or she will make it very easy for you when it comes to adhering to the rules of the household.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.

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