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5 Steps For Dealing With Unacceptable Behaviour

by Matt Clarkson, Ex "Problem Teenager"
Youth Mentoring

We all want happy, effective relationships with our partners, work colleagues and of course, you guessed it, our teenagers. Ignoring bad behaviour can spell trouble, but how can we deal with it without damaging the relationship even more?

Before I get into it step-by-step, let me explain the good part of "bad" behaviour:

When I was a teenager, I wanted to prove that I was the only one who was in control of my life. And being the crass individual that I am, there were times when I would do the opposite of what my parents tried to make me do - even if it made no sense and wasn't in my best interests at all. : )

Even though you may feel like banging your head against a brick wall, for the young person, this is an important and healthy process. Experience and maturity come about from making some not so good choices along the way.

(I'm speaking from "experience" - believe me - I've made some humdingers!)

And as I said in my free mini-course young people who do not learn at some point to think and act for themselves are going to get their butt kicked. So what we really want to do is encourage them in that process - the process of them learning to make their own sensible decisions for themselves.

That's a good thing.

The trouble comes when young people are more concerned with proving they are "truly independent" than with making the best choices.

Many Teenage Problems and blatantly "out of control", unacceptable behaviour are a sign that it is more important to them to make their own choices than it is to make the best ones.

Why not acknowledge their ability to make choices?

Many parents deal with "bad" behaviour by trying to impose restrictions and taking away their "privileges". The problem with that is it leaves THEM with a difficult choice:

"Do I surrender my right to decide what happens in my life or do I tell you were to go?"

This is a bad either-or choice: Neither leads to the most desirable outcomes for your teenager or you.

The difficulty for a lot of parents is that when we are angry with them, we tend to go for the jugular and really stick the boot in. What can happen is that they then feel they are being attacked and so they attack back. Before you know it, an almighty battle has begun and the original problem behaviour has been forgotten about completely.

Is there a better option? I suggest the following for you to try:

1) The moment your teenager does something that you don't feel comfortable with


Ask Yourself:

"Is this behaviour totally, 100% wrong and unacceptable or is it just something that I personally don't approve of?"

If it's the second kind of "teenage problem" then you may want to reconsider punishing them for it. If you decide it is totally unacceptable behaviour, then it's important to express your frustrations and deal with it straight away.

Do not allow it to build up.

Do not save it as ammunition for next time.

Deal with unacceptable behaviour (if it really is unacceptable) as soon as it happens if at all possible.

2) Tell them specifically what they did that was unacceptable:

"You spoke to me in a disrespectful way"

3) Acknowledge that they are in control of the choices they make.

"You are the only one who decides what happens in your life. If that's the way you want to go then we can't stop you - that's up to you!"

4) Tell them honestly how you feel about it. Express your feelings in a real and natural way. Shout, cry, laugh - whatever is natural for you - but don't get physical.

"I'm really ANGRY about what you've done!!!"

5) The last all-important step is to re-affirm your love and respect for them as a person.

"....but the REASON I feel so angry (or whatever) is that I really love/respect you and I know that deep down YOU'RE A GOOD KID - that's why I'm so angry!"

So you tell them specifically what they've done that is unacceptable but acknowledge that their behaviour is their responsibility. Then you share your honest feelings. Finally, and this is the critically important part, you re-affirm their dignity and your love for them as a person.

Your negative feelings are focused on their *behaviour* and you have reaffirmed your love and respect for WHO THEY ARE.

In this way, they can't focus on what they hate about your parenting style. They have no choice but to focus on their behaviour and think about whether it's the direction THEY really want to go in.

This 5-step works for unacceptable behaviour in any relationship, but you'll be surprised how effective it is with teenage problems when you use it at the right time.

Matt Clarkson is the Founder of Youth Mentoring. He is a mentor and personal coach who helps teenagers and parents find fulfilment and direction. He is the author of a no-cost 5-Part Email Mini Course for parents and young people who are interested in improving communication, and taking their lives to a new level of happiness and success. You can sign up at: =

This article provided by the Family Content Archives

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