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Keys to Handling Challenging Teenagers

Reposted with a permission from International Nanny Association (

The teenage years can be challenging – not just for the teen, but for their parents, guardians, and other people that love and care for them. Their bodies and brains are growing rapidly, they are learning more about who they are, and they are testing out what works and what doesn’t. If you have a teenager in your life that is challenging you with bad behavior, here are some helpful tips on how to deal with that.

Set boundaries. Setting boundaries, rather than strict rules is important. Rules can imply that the teenager has no say in anything, and this can sometimes lead to rebellion. Boundaries, however, could have some leeway. In other words, they are allowed to do something, but within a limit. Be clear about what your boundaries are but do it in a positive way. For example, when it comes to a curfew, instead of stating “You have to be home by 11pm” you could state it like “You can come home anytime, as long as it’s before 11pm.” This implies that they have some freedom, but there is still a boundary in place. The same goes with technology. Give them a time limit each day for online usage. You can even agree that they can be on various sites or apps (within reason) but let them know that some sites are off limits and parental controls will be on. There are real dangers with social media and communicating that their safety is your highest priority is important.

Let them be independent. Once boundaries are in place, give the teenager in your life the ability to be safely independent. If arbitrary rules are forced on them, they will likely act out. So, give them opportunities to be independent. Maybe this means letting them get small jobs around the neighborhood to earn money, or even get a part-time job outside of the house. Discuss with your teenager what things are important to them when it comes to their independence and see if you can come to a solution that both of you are comfortable with.

Keep in mind that it’s not usually personal. Remember your teenage years? Think about how many emotions you felt daily – the highs and lows seemed so intense. Sometimes teens say things that they don’t mean, just to get a negative reaction from you. If you give them that reaction, then that could potentially fuel them for another similar situation later. So, even though it might hurt or get you on-edge, remember that emotions are powerful, and your teenager might not have intended to say something disrespectful or hurtful. So, try to keep the communication lines open and after things have cooled, try to have a conversation about it.

Remember that the behavior is bad, not the person. There will be times that teenage behavior will make you sad, angry, with every feeling in between. In fact, it might feel like you’re being pushed to the edge. Keep in mind that staying calm and staying positive is key – no matter how challenging the teenager’s behavior is. The average teenager will test boundaries, challenge your authority, and talk back to you. But remember that it is your teen’s behavior that is bad, not their actual person. Typical teenage behavior is something they should grow out of. However, if you have genuine concerns about your teenager and their mental wellbeing, talk to your doctor or a counselor right away. There is no doubt that being a teenager in today’s world is very difficult, and the more support they have around them to get through the challenging years of growing up, the better.

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