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Parenting Your Adolescent: 3 Powerful Steps to Being an In-Charge Parent

Q. How do I overcome the 16-year-old who does things only on his time frame. For instance, when I ask him to do something, he intentionally takes his time just to upset me. I'm not sure what to do.

A. This is a great question for at least two reasons: It provides an opportunity to share some basic principles for parenting adolescents and lets me deliver some solutions.

Basic Principles

The average 16-year-old is 16 going on 26 and 16 going on 6 all at the same time.

Take the verbal ability and "wisdom" of 16 going on 26, mix well with the "I want what I want when I want it, which is now!" of the 16 going on 6, and you have a powerful, demanding and highly manipulative creature.

You cannot "make" a teen-ager do much of anything. At least not without lots of nasty consequences to you, the teen and the relationship.

As I've said many times before, trying to control a teen-ager is like trying to put pants on a gorilla. It's just going to frustrate you and make the gorilla really mad.

With the right strategies, however, you can have a great deal of influence on your teens, their choices and their environments. More on this a little later.

Teen-agers, just like all children, are by nature very obedient.

No, I haven't lost my mind or left the real world. Teens are very obedient to the ways in which we teach them to behave. We teach them how to behave either directly, by our example, or indirectly, by what we allow them to get away with and by what we allow them to do.

Solutions

Somehow, and it really does not matter so much how, your son has gotten the idea that he can get away with what he is doing.

Here are three solutions to turn this thing around:

1. Our kids are bright and know what bugs us. As they become older, it gets to be a sport to see what they can make us do in our frustration. It makes them feel a little powerful.

So, the first solution is to unhook from the behavior and responses that are so upsetting to you. Since the behaviors have probably been occurring for some time, you simply should stop acting surprised by them. Expect the behavior. When it comes, unhook from the invitation to get upset.

As your son opens his mouth and/or behaves in the way that has upset you up until now, picture a big hook coming out of his mouth straight at you to hook you in. Then picture yourself ducking it, swatting it away or just smiling with your mouth closed.

If nothing else, this will amuse you and cause you to smile in a stressful situation. That will make your child wonder what is going on, which is good in this situation.

2. Next, provide an "illusion of choice and control." Part of the struggle for adolescents is to be more and more in charge of themselves, which involves having more control and choices in their own lives. We want them to be more and more in charge of themselves, or they will be living at your home when they're 30.

So, when you want your teen to complete a task, let's say taking his shoes to his room, here's what you say: "I want you to get your shoes in the bedroom. You can do it now or by the end of the next commercial, (when this show ends, before you go to bed, etc.)" You, as the parent, picks the "by when" part.

3. Follow this up with: "You've got some decisions, choices and results to make. If you decide to choose not to do what I have asked, then the bad result will be ..." _ something you as the parent can control and that will be sufficiently unpleasant to your teen. Since, in this case, he is 16, if he has a driver's license you have some very nice leverage.

You continue: "If you decide to do what I've asked, then the good results will be you get to do more of what you would like to do. I'll be watching to see what you decide."

Then walk away. Don't engage in any debate.

And one more suggestion: As you enter into this plan, you have to be willing to stick with it for the long haul. I can predict that, as you apply these solutions, you will receive some "change back" behavior from your son.

Change back behavior is basically your son saying, "But Mom, I liked it the way it was before when I was in charge. Please tell me you don't really mean this! And, since I think you really don't mean it, I'm going to try my best to get you to back off and change back."

What you will not get is, "Thanks, Mom. What a great solution to this problem we have been having. I think I want to grow up to be a counselor now."

Nope, just won't happen.

Stick with these solutions, and I think you will like the results.

Visit ParentingYourTeenager.com for tips and tools for thriving during the teen years. You can also subscribe to our f*r*e*e 5 day e-program on The Top 5 Things to Never Say to Your Teenager, from parenting coach and expert Jeff Herring.

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