This post is dedicated to one of my readers, as a request – Karen Howorth.

Most of my career has involved working with teenagers and dealing with teenage behaviour and attitude problems.

During this time, I have had extensive behaviour management training and over 10 years of experience dealing with difficult teenagers.

Many of the young people I have worked with have had mental health problems and diagnosis of ADHD, ADD and other attention and behavioural difficulties.

After working with these children, their parents (and I) have seen dramatic improvements in how they respond to and communicate with others.

My expertise in this field has been widely recognised.

I have mentored educators and teaching assistants – and also advised parents on how to deal with their teenagers.

Using proven teenage behaviour management techniques and strategies, you can stop worrying about whether you are seeing “normal teenage behaviour” and know how to spot the troubling signs of teenage behaviour issues.

To make things more-relatable, I have included some examples from my own experiences in this post.
 
Try to remember that no matter how your teenager is behaving, it is more than likely just normal teenage behaviour.
 
You are not doing anything wrong!
 

1. Set clear “Boundaries” – not “Rules”

The word “rule” seems to have a negative connotation attached to it. Whereas, the word “boundary” seems more…relaxed and positive.
 
A “rule” implies that the child has no say in anything. They are just given a simple you can and you can’t. 
 
A “boundary” implies that there is a bit of leeway. The child is allowed to do something, but only so far.
 
How many times have you said, “No. You are not allowed to…”, and then given in after your teen has moaned and moaned until they got what they wanted?
 
How many times have you said, “Ok. Just this time, but it’s not happening again!”, just to have whatever it was happen a few weeks (or even days later)?
 
It’s ok though, we have all been there!
 
No parent wants to see their child upset – nor should you have to put up with the non-stop whining when you say “no”.
 
When you set your rules for teenage behaviour management, you really need to be consistent and sure of yourself.
 
Even if you know you are one to waiver and give in, you have to MAKE yourself step-up and be the boss.
 
You have to remember that YOU are in charge here and YOU set the boundaries.
 
Tell your teen what you expect of them.
 
This doesn’t mean sitting them down and having a full-blown grown-up conversation with them. It just means that if they ask to do something that you are not happy with, you just say no.
 
Let them whine and complain. We did it as kids and it never hurt us.
 
Believe it or not, children not only need, but WANT boundaries. 
 
Setting clear rules and expectations gives them an understanding of what they can and can’t do and once those rules are in place – and I mean, properly in place, they are much less likely to try to break them.
 
The main thing is that you state your “rule” positively!
 
 

Here are some examples:

 

1. Curfew

If your teen is one that likes to come home later than their curfew, try saying, “I don’t mind what time you come home, as long as it is by 9pm” rather than, “You have to be home by 9pm!”.
 
This tells them that they are allowed more of a “choice”.
 
Of course, it is exactly the same thing that we are saying, but you are not saying it in such a “I’m in charge” way.
 
It gives them a “choice” of what time they want to come home – although, your deadline is still 9pm.
 
They are more likely to start abiding by it.
 
Also, if you start going out more as a family, you can start modelling this behaviour to your teen.
 
 

2. Money

When your teen wants to borrow money from you for the cinema with their friends or a day out to the beach (or whatever fun stuff they do), you may be happy to give them some.
 
But…
 
You are ok with giving them £10, what about £30? Where is the boundary? The already know that you will give them money to go out with their friends, but where does this rule stop?
 
  • “Mum, can I have £10 please?”
  • “Mum, can you make it £15 please?”
  • “Ahh, actually, I just realised that the train will cost more. Pleeeeeease can I have £20?”
 
** Pushover alert! **
 
Set clear boundaries.
 
“Yes, my darling, beautiful, amazing angel…I will give you some money to go out with your friends, but you are only getting £10. Once that is gone, it is gone. It is up to you how you spend it. If you can’t afford it this week, you will have to save that money and wait until next time when you will have enough!”
 
If they still kick off after that and keep pushing for more, give them an ultimatum of sorts!
 
Tell them that you can give them the £20 today, but they will not get any for two weeks, or they will have to do certain chores (this way, they are actually learning to WORK for their money).
 
 

3. Privacy online

One of the biggest things that I hear from parents is the problem of “privacy”!
 
Most parents are fine with allowing their teen to go online, but do you have the proper security in place?
 
Of course, your child is entitled to some kind of privacy, but we mustn’t forget that they are still children with a more naive view of the world.
 
Teenage behaviour is teenage behaviour – online or offline.
 
We MUST set the boundaries for our children’s safety!
 
I normally tell parents to establish the boundaries of “time” and “place”.
 
So, for example, you will allow your teen online (Facebook or Twitter etc.) for 1 or 2 hours a day, or you will limit which social networks they are allowed on.
 
You might even agree that they can do what they want (to a certain extent) but there will be restrictions placed on internet access (parental controls etc.) 
 
If you discuss the real dangers of online social media with them, they are more-likely to listen to you, because it shows that you are not just setting these “rules” for the sake of it. You are showing that you are a caring and concerned parent.
 
Yes, they will probably moan and say that you don’t trust them or you think they’re too immature etc., but that is your place to then explain that of COURSE you trust them otherwise you wouldn’t let them use the internet at all.
 
You are just setting restrictions because whether they like it or not, they are still a child. They can do what they want – you are not stopping them at all…you are just setting some boundaries.
 
 

2. Don’t Take Things Personally

Some teenagers can have that typical “teenage attitude” where they get frustrated with something and end up saying VERY hurtful and disrespectful things – just to get a negative response from you.
 
Don’t give it to them.
 
You cannot take anything a CHILD says personally.
 
I have had one 15 year old tell me they were going to kill me!
Seriously!
This was in my first year of teaching and all I did was ask him to leave a music studio because it was someone else’s turn.
 
I mean, I’ve heard of teachers dealing with difficult teenagers, but I had no idea they meant like THIS!
 
After we had a restorative conversation (more on this below), he understood my point of view and we ended up working very well together in the future. He actually went from a D GCSE grade to an A in just a few months!
 
Anyway, I’m rambling! Basically, when he said this, I was shitting myself! Obviously! But I realised after that he was just an angry teen that needed to calm down for a bit before he realised what he had said. When I reminded myself that he was just a child, I felt less scared and more…surprised at the cheek of it!
 
He came to me to apologise straight after. 
 
I have seen (and experienced) MANY teenagers saying nasty things to their peers, parents, staff – and me, and every single time someone reacts to their anger, they get dragged in to the argument and all of a sudden, the teenager has the control.
 
This is when the situation spirals out of control.
 
You respond in anger or frustration and the next thing you know, it’s a shouting match! 
 
Be the adult!
 
Above all, just remember that they are not actually mean, nasty little people, they are just children who are feeling misunderstood and maybe even unappreciated.
 
Just take a step back from the situation and don’t take things personally.
 
Even IF they actually mean what they say (which they very much more than likely don’t), just don’t take it to heart.
 

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3. Allow for Independence

 
In a teenagers eyes, they are already grown-ups, or at least most of them want to be seen as and treated as such.
 
After all, you get your “me time”, so why shouldn’t they?
 
* If you feel like you are missing out on some “me-time”, check out my 21-Day Self-Love Challenge!
 
This is why they react with such a negative attitude when rules are enforced upon them.
 
Would you like it if someone started telling you what you can and can’t do?
 
As I said above, part of setting teenage behaviour boundaries rather than rules is so that the teen can feel like their opinion matters and they can feel more grown up!
 
If you allow for independence to happen, it will.
 
Maybe not in the way you would like at first, but they will soon learn from their own mistakes.
 
If you keep them wrapped in cotton wool (basically, if you mummy them too much), they will have no chance of making those mistakes to actually learn from.
 
  

4. Stop Redundant Questioning

II fell in love with this strategy when I first heard about it during a teenage behaviour management training session with other educators.
 
When we were introduced to the following, we all looked at each other and laughed because we realised that each and every one of us had fallen into the redundant questioning trap!
 
Redundant questioning kind of comes hand-in-hand with the “thank you”, rather than “please” point that I raised in my post “10 Behaviour Management Techniques for Toddlers“.
 
ALL of the below are REDUNDANT questions!
 
Don’t fall into the trap of ASKING a question that you DO NOT want the answer to!
 

1. “Why are you doing that?”

…because I want to!
 

2. “Can you stop doing that?”

…no!
 

3. “What is your problem?”

you!
 

4. “How many times do I have to tell you?”

A million! (Teenagers can be clever, sarky little sh*ts!)
 
 
In future, try to really think about what you will say. Some things don’t even need to be asked and others can be rephrased to work in your favour.
 
Replace the above with something like…
 

1. (Just don’t say that at all)

2. “Stop doing that!”. Give a direct instruction – not a choice.

3. (Again, just don’t say that at all. It is not necessary)

4. “I have told you enough times. Now there will be consequences”.

Ok, that one sounds quite threatening, but if you have laid out ground “rules” and boundaries already, it will make perfect sense in the situation you are in at the time, as your child will already know they are doing wrong in the first place. 

 
 

5. Stay Calm

Kids can be nasty.
 
Teenage behaviour can be extreme!
 
They can be hurtful, clever and sarky little sh*ts (did I say that one already? Ooops!).
 
But…as I said before, they are just kids trying to get a reaction because they are not happy with something.
 
Teenage attitude and behaviour is a tricky thing to manage – especially when they know how to push your buttons, but always remember they are just kids.
 
Try to firstly find out what it is that is bothering them in the first place. That usually helps the whole situation because then something can be done about it.
 
However, most of the time, teenagers don’t want to discuss their feelings. They just want to be angry and let out their frustration in any way they can.
 
Do NOT stoop to their level. Stay calm.
 
Making sure you get a good enough sleep can also help to keep you less tense and more able to handle the “teen stress” better.
 
It may be difficult when they push and push…and push…and PUSH!
 
Trust me, you are not alone, I have been there many times.
 
But at the end of the day, YOU are the grown up and you have to act like it. Don’t let a child irritate you to a point that you argue back. They will win – whether you like it or not.
 
If I have a troublesome child in one of my lessons, I tend to sort of “remove” myself from the situation…if that makes sense?
 
For example, a few months ago, I was dealing with one of those difficult teenagers.
 
A 14 year old student was continuously disrupting the class. I followed the school behaviour policy to a tee!
 
Eventually I sent him out of my class.
 
A few minutes later, this same child just comes strolling back into the room.
 
Literally smirking at me because he knows that I can’t (and wouldn’t) physically remove him.
 
So while I’m there emailing to get him removed (yep…that’s what we have to do!), he is talking to his friends, singing out loud, banging on the drums and then asking me over and over again if he was annoying me.
 
Yes, he was beginning to bug me! But, I didn’t let it show.
 
I told him to leave the room again.
 
He said “No! Why should I?”
 
I reminded him of the school policy (the clear boundaries that we have in place) and that even though he was given many opportunities to make the right choice, he still decided to make the wrong ones.
 
He just got annoyed that he (seemingly) wasn’t bothering me and continued with his negative teenage behaviour.
 
I praised the rest of the class for being mature enough to ignore his silly behaviour and I focussed on the students that DID want to learn. 
 
He eventually saw that I wasn’t giving him any attention and he got bored and left.
 
So, you see, if you don’t give them the power, they get bored. They get annoyed at themselves for embarrassing themselves and for not getting the reaction they wanted.
 
The student ended up with a detention, a phone call home and a restorative conversation (more on this below).
 
He behaved better in the next lesson!
 
 
dealing with teenage behaviour and attitude

 

6. It is Negative Teenage Behaviour – not a Bad Teenager

There are times when teenage behaviour will push you to the point where you want to tell them that they are an idiot or stupid…or something along those lines.

If you have had to deal with a really difficult teenager, you WILL have had times like this!

Please, don’t react like that.

Try to stay positive.

These kids – however much they might annoy you, are still your kids. They still look to you when they need help or advice. If you don’t think they do, just notice that they probably ask you little questions every now and then without you realising it.

Remember, it is just typical teenage behaviour.

NOTE:

If you genuinely feel like it is something more than just “normal” teenage behaviour, you should consider talking to their school or doctor to get their behaviour monitored or even assessed for behavioural or teenage mental health problems.

One thing I tend to say is “You are disappointing me. You are a clever boy/girl but you are behaving so stupidly right now!”

This seems to hit a spot! I don’t feel mean saying it, because I am commenting on the behaviour – NOT the actual humans themselves.

Remember how it felt as a kid to have someone say they were disappointed in you…not very nice.

But.

When they change their teenage behaviour for the better because of your comment (even if just for one day to start with), you can give them so much praise that you begin to build them up in a positive light.

Kids and teenagers crave love – not disgust and disappointment.

 

7. Restorative Conversations and Empathy

I have already said before, it is important to remember that a teenager, no matter how mature they may seem, is still a child.

They are usually upset because they didn’t get their way.

Ok, so I agree, they have to deal with that – it’s part of growing up.

But…

I would say that about 8/10 students that I have had restorative conversations with have not repeated the same negative teenage behaviour.

An effective restorative conversation can restore a broken relationship and a loss of respect in one another. It helps the teen to understand the impact of their own behaviour on others.

It also gives them the chance to regain their own dignity and self-respect by having a say in the matter and feeling valued.

This is what an effective restorative conversation might look like:

  • Why did they get so upset?
  • What was so important that they needed to throw a hissy fit? (obviously not in those words!)
  • Was it really that much of a big deal?
  • Did they realise how they were acting?
  • Who has been affected by their behaviour and how?
  • Can they think of a positive way to move forward?
  • How can you both make sure this doesn’t happen again?
  • Rather than blame, focus on responsibility
  • Rather than just punishing straight away, try to have a dialogue and find out what actually went wrong and repair the situation first

TALK to your teen.

Try to find out what is wrong.

Don’t just punish – as extreme as this example may be, jails and prisons show us that this doesn’t work!

 

8. Have a Sense of Humour

I personally believe that you can’t be a parent, teacher, friend, mentor (or anything really) with good teenage behaviour management skills, without at least SOME sense of humour!

Some might disagree, but from my experience, I see this as a fact.

Teenagers are in that stage of their lives where they like to “banter”…have you heard your teen say that? Banter!

It doesn’t mean that you have to be the next best stand-up comedian, it just means that you can see the funny side of things.

For example, I am constantly fighting the battle of “no swinging on chairs!”

…CONSTANTLY!

Up until about two years ago, in almost every lesson I ever taught, there were at least two kids (normally boys) that I had to remind not to swing on their chair.

This is for health and safety first and foremost. I have knew a student who had to go to the hospital after hitting their head on a table from doing this. I don’t want to experience that again.

But I have noticed one HUGE thing…this action is NOT intentional!
 
It is a habit and is not actually their fault.
 
Can you honestly tell me you have never caught yourself or another adult just randomly swinging on a chair??
 
If I tell them like this: “Bob, stop swinging on your chair” with frowned eyebrows, Bob will huff and say he is not doing anything wrong.
 
So, I say something like,
Bob, you’re going to fall off your chair! I don’t want you to fall off the chair because one, you can hurt yourself, but two…it is lunch time soon and I’ve been looking forward to the Friday fish fingers. I really don’t want to go to the hospital with you today. Stop swinging. Thank you.
 
This gets a laugh from the class and Bob stops automatically without any argument – and even has a smile on his face. We can now continue with happy students all round.
 
If he then swings again, I give him a “look” and he stops straight away because it makes him THINK about what he is doing!
 
It is well-known in my lessons now that when a student falls off the chair, I firstly check to make sure they are ok, and then I start clapping.
 
Everyone joins in. The child is not embarrassed – just a bit shaken from falling off the chair and because I make light of it, he/she is careful not to do it again.
 
Sounds weird…but it works!
 
(It is kind of like when someone accidentally smashes a glass in a pub! The landlord doesn’t go crazy at the barman/maid, everyone just claps…and the barman/maid doesn’t do it again!)
 
 

9. Consequences need to be Immediate, Purposeful and Relevant!

Teenagers need to know QUICKLY that you mean business!

The second they see they can get away with something, they will repeat their negative teenage behaviour again.

If you say you are going to take their gadgets away, ground them, take away privileges, stop them from going to their favourite school or youth club etc., DO IT!

Also be sure to make the consequence purposeful and relevant! 

There is no point in grounding your child for two weeks if all they did was come home ten minutes late.

That is more of a two or three day grounding, so they get the point – not an overly long and extended punishment.

If they were two hours late and never contacted you to let you know…well, lock them in the house (with you there, obviously) and take away all of their privileges.

They were disrespectful, dangerous, caused worry and concern and put their parent in a horrible position.

THAT, I wouldn’t allow with an easy get-off!

 

10. Don’t try to Calm a Situation while the Teen is Angry

Have you ever been told to calm down when you were fuming?

Enough said.

(Haha…I know that one was short, but it is SO simple and SO easily forgotten!)

Give the child time to calm down and think about a situation before approaching them and trying to calm them down.

If the child is getting dangerous, that is a different situation altogether and belongs in a different post (which I think I will actually write about soon).

But if they are not a threat to anyone or anything, just give them some space and time to calm down naturally, by themselves.

Don’t smother them.

 

11. Be Authoritative – in both Body Language AND Speech

It is not only your words that have power, it is your body language too.

  • Hold your head high
  • Give your full attention to the situation at hand
  • Have a strong, unshaken voice
  • Uncross your arms – it makes you seem more approachable)
  • Mimic their body language – it makes you seem more understanding and relatable
  • Stand tall (even if you are short, just stand up straight)
  • Keep your voice at the same pitch – women especially, don’t let your voice have an upward inflection at the end of a sentence
  • Eye contact
  • Stay calm and empathetic, but serious
  • Have confidence in your authority – don’t seem unsure of yourself because a teenager will sense that in a split second!

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So…try to remember:

1. Set clear “Boundaries” – not “Rules”

2. Don’t Take Things Personally

3. Allow for Independence

4. Stop Redundant Questioning

5. Stay Calm

6. Never put the child down in Anger or Frustration

7. Restorative Conversations and Empathy

8. Have a Sense of Humour

9. Consequences need to be Immediate, Purposeful and Relevant!

10. Don’t try to Calm a Situation while the Teen is Angry

11. Be Authoritative – in both Body Language AND Speech

 
 
Teenage behaviour management attitude
Teenage behaviour management attitude
How to manage negative teenage behaviour and attitude