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Parenting a Rebellious Kid: Fight Fire with Fire

Permissive Parenting

I have always said you should choose your battles – but sometimes your rebellious teen makes this hard. No matter how you swear to yourself that you won’t lose your temper, somehow teens find your soft spot and poke it. With burning sticks. And then pour alcohol on the scab. Kids are just good at that.

It’s frustrating. But there’s a simple answer: fight fire with fire. Poke their soft spots too, and make sure they know why you’re doing it. Remember, every teen does something to annoy the heck out of his parents. You aren’t unusual; you’re just caught in an age-old battle. My battle right now: my middle son, getting ready to transition to the age of 13 and a teen since he was about seven.

Try a pre-emptive strike. For instance, is hair going to be an issue? Do something crazy with yours first. How brave are you? I dyed my hair blue temporarily. I actually liked it, but my middle son was mortified. I have a tattoo, and I’m not afraid to talk about it. My middle son squirms. My husband and I both have our own, er, sense of fashion. My middle son walks as far away from me as possible when in public.

This won’t work with every kid. My ten-year-old thinks it’s cool. I’ll have to find something else to embarrass him.

Anyway, my theory here is that if I dress extremely, even if I only do it once in a while, my children will rebel in the opposite direction. So far, it’s working. And even if it doesn’t work long term, it’s a lot of fun right now.

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Become omniscient. This will drive your kids nuts, and it’s not as hard to do as you might think. Listen to them when they don’t realize you’re listening, to begin with. Pay attention to their end when they get phone calls. Make sure you know where they are, and start up conversations with them about these places without bringing up the fact that you knew they were there to begin with.

Also, trust your gut. If you think your child probably did something, talk as if they did. Never use this to convict him or her of wrongdoing, even in your heart (that’s not fair), but remember that most of the time, if you’ve been paying attention, your instincts are right.

After a while, your teen will be paranoid enough that he or she will be certain you know things that you don’t know. That’s the reaction you’re looking for.

Be strict, but not unreasonable. Teens, while they are seeking more freedom and leeway to do things, also are in real need of strict and inflexible rules. No matter how mature they try to pretend to be, they are still children, and they simply do not think things through the same way you and I do.

As teens, they are exploring the world of morality. They have not mastered it, and though they may reject your guidance and seem to resent it, they need it. Morality is not something that springs out of nowhere. It needs a foundation, and an anchor from which to grow. The best anchor for teens is your rules structure. If you don’t have strict rules, or if you don’t enforce them strictly, your teen may not be able to develop good judgment.

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Watch The Cosby Show. Okay, this may sound silly – but Bill Cosby, comedian extraordinaire, used his comedy primarily as a teaching tool. He has a PhD in education, and has written a number of books about raising children.

He put everything he learned academically and practically (by raising five children) into his Cosby Show. While the show is entertainment, you can also learn a lot about raising children of all ages from it.

Never be afraid of discipline. Teens are at a critical time. If you teach them to obey rules and that misbehavior has serious consequences, you’re more likely to be rewarded with great, motivated children than if you let them go their own way. Permissive parenting may have its place, but it’s definitely not in the years between 13 and 16.