The Obstinate Teen. Part 1

April 18, 2016



Definition: Stubbornly refusing to change one's opinion or chosen course of action, despite attempts to persuade one to do so.

Sometimes parents think that the act of simply bringing their teenager to therapy will magically change their attitude and behavior. They assume that my office has the power to transform their mute, stubborn child into a chatterbox that is excited to be there. Sorry parents, that is never the case. Not to say that I cannot get them to open up but therapy is a two way street that requires a certain willingness to be of benefit.


In many cases parents are desperate for change to take place in their home or with their teen and expect the therapist, in one session, to right 15 years of parenting. Not to place blame solely on parents or to make excuses for therapy that does not prove effective but the bulk of the work has to begin at home, long before your teen gets into my office.


Parenting is a very difficult process that often is a learned behavior. More specifically, parents are taught how to parent by their parents. As much as we try to shake it, we all fall victim to the “I’ll never be like my parents when I have kids” trap. Right or wrong, good or bad, not only will we walk, talk, and have mannerisms like our caregivers but we also will parent like them. (This is a topic I will discuss at length at a later time.)


As you already know, teenagers are very difficult humans. They are hard to get along with, they don't respond to reason, and they have their own agenda, which is usually counterproductive. Thankfully no matter what stage you are in with your teen, there is hope. A great place to start building or repairing a bridge is along the lines of communication.


Teens want and need to have a level of autonomy that allows for them to feel as if they are respected and cared for simultaneously. Granted, teenagers do make terrible decisions but lording over them or breaking the lock code on their phone will not cure their ill decision making process. This will only push them further away and break their trust towards you. Once trust is broken, it is very hard to recover it. The goal in raising children is to teach them right from wrong and to provide guidance in a way that will allow them to make good decisions at home and out in public.


Some issues that arise with obstinate teens take root in the way parents respond (past or present) to their child. When children are young it is tempting to hit them with the “Because I said so,” line or to run to the default physical punishment as a means of compliance. Although, these methods can get the immediate response parents are looking for, it can damage our children’s psyche. As a byproduct, it can also create a monster in your child that will come into full strength when they become taller, smarter, and stronger.


Again, the best way to communicate with any teen is to show respect, consideration, and love (which is very hard, especially when you can foresee a potential problem). But doing this will create confidence in them and show them that you are in tune with what they have going on and that you actually care about them.  One of the best ways to communicate with an obstinate teen is to disarm them. What does this mean? Check out my next entry to find out!


But as a sneak preview…


…consider these three questions when attempting to disarm an obstinate teenager:


  1. Is this worth fighting over?

  2. Am I engaging in a power struggle?

  3. Is this way of communicating going to bring us closer or further separating us?











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April 18, 2016

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