How to Parent a Rebellious and Defiant Teen

Oh, the joys of a defiant teen!! The transition from teenager to adult is an emotional rollercoaster. Essentially, your children have reached an age where they are learning to discover who they are and where they fit in the world. In an effort to assert their identities and be accepted by both their peers and their parents, teens tend to behave in ways that may not always align with what you’ve taught them. Though allowing a little wiggle room for your teen to develop socially and emotionally, when things start getting out of hand, you may be wondering how to reel them back in.

Set Ground Rules

Defiant teenager

Even as adults there are rules that must be followed in life. Just because your child is older now, doesn’t mean they don’t need some boundaries. Sit down and decide on the ground rules. These rules should not be so restrictive that your teenager feels trapped, but they should serve as a basis for how you’re expecting your teen to behave.

Think about your expectations in school (getting passing grades and positive reviews from teachers) and at home (maintaining household chores, being respectful of adults, and being patient with younger siblings). Also, consider things like how you want your teens to carry themselves when hanging with friends (setting a curfew, no use of drugs and alcohol, whether or not they can have romantic relationships, etc.).

Decide on Consequences

When you break the rules, consequences should follow. As you set boundaries for your defiant teen, be sure to think about what happens if they don’t comply. As you think about the consequences, try to make them match the offence. If your teen isn’t doing well in school, perhaps they cannot attend after school activities until they’ve brought their grades or behaviour up. If your teen was allowed to stay home alone and invited friends over without your consent, then a consequence could be not being able to hang with friends for a predetermined amount of time.

Talk When Calm


If you have learned or witnessed your teenager doing something they shouldn’t, take a moment to calm your nerves. As angry as you might be, you’ll never be able to get your point across if you’re yelling and shouting. Take a moment to check your emotions, decide what you want to say, and then, talk with your teen in a comfortable one-on-one environment.

Listen Carefully

Again, everything in you wants to burst out of your seams and yell at your teenager for doing things they know are wrong. However, it is important to get to the core issue. Listen to your teenager to learn their side of the story. Whether you agree or disagree with their decisions and actions, it is only once you have the full story that you can offer the right advice.

Follow-Through on Consequences

troubled teenager

Now that you are both talking, you’ve heard your teenager’s side of the story, and you’ve provided sound advice on what you expect and how they should behave in the future, it’s time to follow-through with the consequences that you’ve set forth. No matter how much your defiant teen pouts or gets upset, you must follow-through so that this behaviour does not become a pattern. After handing down the consequence, be sure that you’ve told your teen that you love them so they understand it isn’t them you’re upset with, but their behaviour.

Know When They Need Help

Your teen is at a very difficult stage in their life emotionally and socially. As such, they could be dealing with overwhelming emotions. Because they’re not yet fully equipped on how to handle these feelings, they will often act in ways that are defiant, rebellious, and even dangerous. If setting rules, talking to them, providing advice, and following through with consequences isn’t working, there could be something deeper going on. Having them talk with a counsellor may be ideal.

Other signs that your teen may need help is if they’ve started acting out violently, abusing drugs or alcohol, missing days of school, or behaving promiscuously. In these instances, they may need counselling, and to enter an adolescent substance abuse program. There are also other programs that help teens with behavioural problems that you can turn to in your community.

Every parent knows that they’re going to get some defiance and rebellion from their growing teenagers, but when it becomes a pattern, it is imperative to act fast. Set rules and consequences and make these clear to your defiant teen, address the issue from a calm place, listen to their side and provide advice, then follow-up with the discipline to try and correct the behaviour. If your defiant teen has become a threat to you, your other children, themselves, or their peers, it is time to utilise resources like counsellors, mentors, outpatient rehab facilities, and behavioural correction programs to get them back on track.

How to parent a rebellious and defiant teen

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