Choose Your Battles with Your Teen Wisely

Avoid Power Struggles and Address the Most Important Behaviors

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As teens begin to develop their own identities, they often exhibit a wide range of behaviors. Certainly, parents don’t need to address every single behavior.

In fact, if you try to address each annoying, obnoxious, or disrespectful behavior you see, your teen may learn to tune you out. It can also lead to further rebellion.

Instead, it’s important to choose which behaviors to address carefully. This can help you avoid a lot of power struggles with your teen.

Avoiding Power Struggles

Getting into power struggles with a teen isn’t a good idea. Most teens can outlast any adult when it comes to a battle of the wills.

You can’t win a power struggle with a teen. Yelling, arguing, or trying to force your teen to do something won’t get you anywhere. If you lose your temper, you’ve already lost.

Even if your teen does eventually comply because you yelled or nagged, it won’t be because he is choosing to make a good decision. Instead, he may comply just to get you to leave him alone. In the long-run it can cause more harm than good.

A power struggle will damage your relationship. Don’t argue with your child or try to “win” in a battle of the wills. Instead, establish clear rules and follow through with the consequences when the rules are broken.

Accept that you can’t force your teen to do something. You can’t yell loud enough to make your child clean his room.

You can’t argue well enough to convince your child to his homework.

Instead, you can offer clear consequences that discourage misbehavior. Instead of yelling at your teen to clean his room, tell him he can’t use any of his electronics or go anywhere with friends until he completes his homework. Then, leave it up to him to decide when to get his homework done.

Make your teen take responsibility for his behavior. The goal should be for your teen to make a healthy decision on his own, not because you begged and pleaded with him to do something. When your teen learns to do behave responsibly, he’ll make better decisions when he’s on his own, which should be your ultimate goal in disciplining your teen.

Address the Most Important Behaviors

Teens need some freedom to make mistakes and try new things. So it’s important not to jump in and address every single behavior that you see.

If your teen’s behaviors are safe, aren’t going to hurt anyone, and aren’t likely to have long-term consequences, consider letting it go. For example, if your 16-year-old dyes her hair purple, it might not be your taste, but it isn’t likely to cause any terrible long-term consequences.

If your 16-year-old doesn’t do his homework one night, it likely isn’t a big deal. But, if it becomes a pattern and it is negatively affecting your child’s grades, it’s likely an issue worth addressing.

If your teen outright breaks your rules, there should be some sort of consequence. If you’re finding that your child is breaking the same rule over and over, it may be worth re-visiting the rule. You may find that either the rule is too strict or your teen needs to learn some new skills to help him make better choices.

You should never ignore serious behaviors, like smoking, drinking, or skipping school. However, minor issues, like a messy bedroom or interesting wardrobe choice, may be better left unaddressed. It may be only be important to address these issues if your teen shares a bedroom with a sibling or if your teen’s wardrobe choice is offensive or inappropriate.

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