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Phelps Explores How To Deal With A Stubborn Teen

According to Phelps, the job of a child is to do well in school and be respectful.
According to Phelps, the job of a child is to do well in school and be respectful. Photo Credit: Contributed

So your 16-year-old is driving you crazy! Everything you ask him/her to do turns into a fight. You were raised to respect your parents and do what they say, but your child continues to fight you every step of the way.

It’s common for parents to use their own experience with their family as a roadmap for navigating tricky situations with their teen. However, parenting is very different today than it was 25 or 30 years ago, so the roadmaps have changed. How your parents raised you may not necessarily work with your child.

Because of this, the first thing I always recommend when dealing with a difficult adolescent is to broaden your view of parenting beyond your own familial experiences. The fact is, some kids are easier to work with, while others have more challenging temperaments. There’s a lot of talk in the field of psychology about whether that’s nature or nurture, but while there’s no definitive answer on that yet, the common consensus for now is that it’s a little bit of both. What that means is that your child may have picked up some bad habits from others along the way to teen-hood, but it may also be that she/he was, in part, born this way.

So as a parent, it’s important for you to discern what’s really important in terms of values within your family and your home. Which battles are worth fighting? Especially when your child is a bit on the stubborn side, you have to know when to avoid taking the bait for something trivial, because engaging in negativity is often a vicious cycle. In today’s world, parents and children don’t have a lot of time together between work, school, extracurricular activities and the many other commitments we all have. Do you want to spend the limited time you have together fighting with your child?

So what’s not worth the fight? Things that I consider trivial include minor transgressions like talking back, leaving shoes in the living room and other such annoyances. The job of a child is to do well in school and be respectful. If you stay stuck in a cycle of negativity by telling your child to do this chore or that in a critical or punitive way—claiming “this is your job, I do too much, you don’t do enough,” for example— chances are she/he will resist and you’ll become locked in a power struggle.

Foster an environment that’s nurturing, not critical or stressful—from that, all the other things you hope to teach, like responsibility and sharing, happen naturally. Kids learn positive behaviors when their parents model positive behaviors.

We’re all in this together. So whether you need some expert advice or have questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Phelps Hospital offers a continuum of high-quality mental health services which can be reached by calling (914) 366-3600. Or, for some more parenting stories visit The Well by Northwell.