Having a defiant teenager is a particularly difficult stressor on a family. A lot of parents get frustrated and hopeless, wanting to give up altogether. This stressor can also affect the couple relationship significantly. So, what is the best thing to do with a defiant adolescent?
When addressing the issue of “diabolical teens,” one of my colleagues jested, “you just praise the hell out of them!” This may seem counter-intuitive, but studies have shown that praise and positive reinforcement are the most effective tools for long-term changes with adolescents. Understandably, the natural tendency of parents is to be stricter, yell, and demand compliance. Sometimes this will work in the short-term, but will likely further damage the relationship and will make teaching your teen less effective. Dale Carnegie suggested that “a drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall.” We can catch some of those pesky teenage behaviors more effectively through praise than with criticism.