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Teens Running Wild? Discussions to Increase Responsibility in Adolescents

Teenagers can be a handful, but as parents, we always want the best for them. Sometimes, however, they’ll take on wild or even dangerous behavior, leaving you feeling helpless as to how to control them. While we want them to behave, the best thing to do is try to talk with them about their behavior rather than try to control it. Making them more aware of their actions and their consequences will not only help them behave better, but help them grow as a person, as well. Have these discussions to help increase responsibility in adolescents. 

Discuss Responsibility

Responsibility is important, but many teens might not even know why they suddenly have so much of it, especially if they didn’t have many when they were younger. When you decide it’s time to give your teen more responsibility, such as more chores around the house or higher expectations in schoolwork, sit down with them and talk to them about what they are and what that means for them. Discuss why getting these things done is important and how it helps those around them, as well as how it helps themself. Let them know that this is a sign of greater trust in them as a budding adult, not a punishment.

Lay Out the Consequences

Showing your teens where their actions may take them will give a better understanding of why you have the rules that you do. It might be easier for you to show your teens the right way to act and what the consequences will be now. Are they aware of how an arrest would look on their record? Do they know the full financial costs to the family that breaking the law could bring, such as the cost of hiring a lawyer, filing for court appearance bail bonds, and paying the imposed fines? Television and games can make flaunting the law look fun and exciting, so showing them the realities of the law may help them be more cautious in what activities they participate in.

Reinforce Positive Behavior

Just like when they were small children, teens respond to positive reactions for their good behaviors. If you reinforce the positive behaviors they have, it might make them more willing to do things the right way in the future. Negative reinforcement will make them reluctant to show bad behavior, but only so long as you are looking. Rewarding them, however, such as with a day out to lunch on the weekend after doing the dishes for a week, or with a family movie night after a week of keeping their room clean, will make them want to strive to do better. 

Relay Expectations

Keeping teens informed about your expectations is one of the easiest ways to enhance further awareness of their actions in general. Think about what you want them to do and make sure that you are effectively communicating that. Make sure they are aware of why you have the expectations you have, letting them know that it comes from a place of love rather than a desire for control. Teenagers are at a sensitive time in their lives where anxiety-inducing hormones makes it difficult for them to see things objectively, so making an extra effort to communicate your impressions will go a long way. 

Be Honest and Open

Be open with your teens. Making up scary stories about why they should and shouldn’t do things will only cripple them later on in life when they discover the truth. If you are open and honest from the beginning, not only will they be able to approach situations with a greater sense of understanding, but they will also be more willing to be open and honest with you. Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability, as well, because teens will actually listen better when they feel they can connect with you as a person on the same level, rather than when they feel you’re looking down on them from a pedestal.

Wild teens aren’t hopeless; they’re often just confused and seeking belonging. Do not withhold your attention from them, and ensure that you are giving positive attention so that they don’t feel like they need to act out to break free of impossible standards. Keep them informed on their actions and how the consequences can affect themselves and those around them. A little extra effort now will go a long way in ensuring they have a healthy and productive adulthood.

Tim Esterdahl

Tim Esterdahl is the editor of IFCS blog. He is a married father of three and enjoys golf in his spare time.

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