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13-Year-Old Boy Is Angry and Disobedient

Question:

My son is 13 and is very disrespectful. He doesn't like going to school, has anger issues and is disobedient. I don't know what to do to anymore.

Answer:

We understand that parenting can be hard. When you have a child who is resistant to rules and authority, it makes things even more difficult. However, these are common behaviors for teenagers and they can be turned around as long as you remain consistent and calm.

One key to changing your son’s behaviors will be using effective consequences in response to his negative behaviors. Effective consequences have certain characteristics. They must be meaningful to your son, happen immediately, be related to the misbehavior, be contingent on the behavior and be about the right size. We always recommend that you use the smallest consequence that you think will be effective. If you use your big consequences right away, you have nothing left to fall back on if the behaviors continue. 

It also may be a good idea at this point to go back to the basics. Take some time and write down your expectations for your son’s behaviors. Be sure the list includes doing chores, using social skills, going to school and keeping his grades up. Then write down his privileges. These should include using electronics like the TV, phone and computer, spending time with friends and enjoying snacks. When you’re finished, present your lists of expectations and privileges to your son. Let him know that when he meets your expectations, he will be able to use the privileges you have listed, and if he does not, he will lose or not have access to one or more of the privileges.

To improve your communication and your relationship with your son, we encourage you to “catch him being good.” Look for good things he does and praise him. Focus on three areas: things he does well that you might take for granted, small improvements toward the behaviors you want to see and attempts at using new skills. Let him know that you notice when he does good things and make a point of consistently praising those positive behaviors.

If the only time children hear our voices is when we’re being critical of them or pointing out something they did wrong or failed to do, they will quickly tune us out. Switch it around and strive to notice the good things your son does four times more often than you criticize him for the bad things.

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