To be fair, no one has ever pretended that parenting a teenager was going to be easy. Still, until your own kids reach that stage, it's tempting to believe your family will be immune to teen behavior problems. No, you tell yourself, your teenager will never talk back, stay out too late or pierce her eyebrow.
Teenagers are basically hard-wired to butt heads with their parents, says Stuart Goldman, MD, director of psychiatric education at Children's Hospital in Boston. "Adolescence is a time of rapid change for kids both physically and cognitively," he explains. "It's the task of the teenager to fire their parents and then re-hire them years later, but as consultants rather than managers."
But that doesn't mean you have to take it lying down. With the right approach, you can troubleshoot the following teen behavior problems in a relatively civilized fashion.
Teen Behavior Problem 1:
Your Teen Seems To Hate You
One minute your sweet child is begging you to come on the class trip or to lie down with her while she falls asleep. Then, seemingly overnight, she starts treating you like dirt, discounting everything you say and snickering at your suggestions. If you look closely, you'll see that you've been through this before, when she was a toddler -- only instead of shouting "no!" like a two-year-old would, a teenager simply rolls her eyes in disgust.
"It's so hard for parents when this happens," says Nadine Kaslow, PhD, a psychologist specializing in kids and families at Emory University in Atlanta. "But part of adolescence is about separating and individuating, and many kids need to reject their parents in order to find their own identities." Teens focus on their friends more than on their families, which is normal too.
Sometimes parents feel so hurt by their teens' treatment that they respond by returning the rejection -- which is a mistake. "Teenagers know that they still need their parents even if they can't admit it," says Goldman. "The roller-coaster they put you on is also the one they're feeling internally." As the parent, you need to stay calm and try to weather this teenage rebellion phase, which usually passes by the time a child is 16 or 17.
But no one's saying your teen should be allowed to be truly nasty or to curse at you; when this happens, you have to enforce basic behavior standards. One solution is the good, old-fashioned approach of: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." By letting your teenager know that you're here for him no matter what, you make it more likely that he'll let down his guard and confide in you once in a while, which is a rare treat.