What To Do When Your Teen Forgets The Meaning Of 'No'

Parenting a teenager is tough. It doesn’t take a genius to work that out. While ‘Kevin and Perry’ depictions of life with teenagers are purposefully exaggerated, they aren’t all that far from the truth. The fact is that, when they turn thirteen, our kids can become strangers. All too quickly, quality time and decent conversations go out the window. Instead, we find ourselves sharing a house with children we don’t recognise. And, when that happens, keeping your youngster on the straight and narrow can be difficult.

Obviously, morality and how we teach it is tough at any age. It can be difficult to guide a child towards the right decisions, or even make them understand why you say ‘no.’ But, young minds are usually willing to listen to the reasoning of mum once you’ve said something enough. Teens, however, are an entirely different matter. Worse, they’re liable to do whatever you tell them not to.

Does this mean, then, that there’s no way to keep your teen on the right track? Are you doomed to at least ten years of a child with morals which you find problematic? Of course not. Parents of teens manage to raise respectable young adults all the time. And, they’re often able do it by ditching the word ‘no’ and reaching for more efficient alternatives. You know, after all, that no often means yes in the ears of a teenager. Instead of ineffectively putting your foot down about your teen’s behaviour, then, you may want to reach for the following methods.

Be clear about consequences

One of the best things that you can do for your teen is to teach them that their actions have consequences. They might not listen when you say no, but consequences like these are impossible to ignore. Being firm and united about punishment is arguably the best way to manage this matter. The last thing you want to do is to let bad behaviour go unchecked. Instead, get into the habit of implementing punishments and sticking to them. It may be that you use methods like no screen-time if your teen stays out past their curfew. Or, you may want to take this further by making them apologise to teachers if they misbehave at school. Either way, you should soon find that actions speak louder than words where these difficult ages are concerned.

Don’t sugarcoat things

When our kids are young, we tend to sugarcoat matters which we think they aren’t ready for. If they ask why we’re telling them no, most us fall on the excellent response of ‘because I said so.’ And, somehow, it works. But, the same can’t be said for teenagers. The fact is that trying to sugar coat a severe matter for your teen could well see them going against what you’ve said. As far as they’re concerned, after all, there won’t be any reason not to. But, if you get real about why you have rules in the first place, you may find them much more willing.

Of course, you don’t want to traumatise your teen. But, speaking to them with open honesty can work wonders. Not to mention that it can create an all-important sense of trust. Instead of saying they have a curfew ‘just because,’ then, be clear about why. Make them aware of the dangers that they face if they stay out too late. Instead of forbidding them from drinking with friends, inform them of risks they might take while inebriated. It could even be worth talking them through the symptoms and severity of alcohol withdrawal. While you still need to make things child-friendly, your teen is sure to listen to these warnings more than they would a blanket ban with no reasoning.

Avoid taking a hard line

As we’ve already touched upon, taking a hard line is never the best plan where teenagers are concerned. The moment you’re too firm in putting your foot down, you push them into the situations you’re trying to avoid. Worse, you’ll have no control over it. Instead, it’s almost always worth compromising where you can. Let’s say that your teen asks for an extension on their curfew for a party one night. Coming straight out and saying no could leave them attending without your permission, even if you’ve made them aware of consequences and risks. If something goes wrong, they also be unwilling to contact you.

By comparison, agreeing that they can attend the party as long as they leave tracking on their phone and let you pick them up could work better. That way, you’ll be able to rest easy that you know where they are, and that they’ll contact you when necessary. Obviously, this kind of compromise doesn’t always work. With some issues, like drugs and alcohol, a hard line is essential. But, by meeting your teen in the middle where you can, you can actually keep much stronger control. You may also find that these small shifts on your part lead your teen to act better because they don’t want to let you down.

Don’t just focus on the bad

Many parents of teens also make the mistake of only focusing on the things their children do wrong. This is natural given that teens tend to push the boundaries when it comes to behaviour. As such, there’s usually a lot of bad to dwell on. But, if you start to overlook the good things your teen does, they may simply stop doing them. If you fail to keep rewarding good grades, for instance, they may stop trying as hard at school with a ‘what’s the point’ attitude.

As much as you need to get a grip on punishment methods, then, you should also develop some decent reward systems. These, more than attempting to ban things, could keep your teen on the right path, even if it is only for those promised rewards. If it keeps them inside revising instead of out causing trouble, we would say that’s a price worth paying.