How to Parent a Strong Willed Teenager

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I am the mother to two teenagers.

They are both delightful in so many ways, but only one of them keeps me on my toes.

He argues, he tests, and he reminds me of the person I was at his age. He is strong-willed, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

How to Parent a Strong-Willed Teenager

Keep communication lines open. Have honest conversations and be willing to admit when you are wrong. Try not to fight with your teen when you talk. Let them share their feelings and opinions without worry of being belittled. Consider changing rules to meet your growing teen’s needs.

Materials Needed

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen and Listen So Teens Will Talk
  • Faber, Adele (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 203 Pages – 08/22/2006 (Publication Date) – William Morrow Paperbacks (Publisher)

Step 1: Learn What “Strong-Willed” Means

The term “strong-willed teenager” is often thrown around to describe an out-of-control child that makes every parent want to waffle between tearing out their hair and day drinking.

It is far less menacing than that.

A strong-willed teenager is one who is determined, has their opinions and may push back against the way they are being raised.

A strong-willed teenager has a tendency to push boundaries. What “strong-willed” doesn’t mean is lazy, obnoxious, or even angry.

While those adjectives may describe any one of us at any time, they should not be confused for being strong-willed.

In fact, children who are strong-willed have many positive characteristics. They are often strong leaders who are tenacious and very creative.

A strong-willed teenager has a tendency to push boundaries. What “strong-willed” doesn’t mean is lazy, obnoxious, or even angry.

Step 2: Understand the Challenges of Parenting a Strong-Willed Teen

A strong-willed teenager has their own opinions that may often clash with yours.

You may experience frequent disagreements about matters that range from trivial to monumental.

You may also find yourself in a power struggle. The strong-willed teen might push back against the rules.

In addition, a strong-willed teenager will sometimes use tactics to create a frustrated atmosphere.

They might be stubborn, rude and uncooperative.

Step 3: Learn to Debate, Not Argue

Is your strong-willed child looking for a fight, or are they trying to explain to your their own opinion?

Listen when your teen speaks. Don’t interrupt them.

Ask questions about their opinion and try to see the issue from their point of view. It is perfectly fine to explain why you disagree but you should do so with respect.

In addition, you should be willing to answer the questions your teen asks of you.

If your teen wants to know why you think the way you do, provide a proper explanation.

If the words “Because I said so” come out of your mouth, your child is justified in their indignation.

Arguing without reason will not help you relate with your child. On the contrary, a respectful debate keeps the lines of communication open.

Message From the Reviewer

When possible, try to give your child reasons for why you do what you do. Or why you tell them to do something or not to do something.

This has nothing to do with explaining yourself to your child.

In some ways, I’m not sure you have to explain yourself to your child, but you should want to.

This is because the reason can be very important to get them to understand why. Even if it seems like they are not listening, over time, they will start getting it.

For example, your child being told that they shouldn’t cross the road in front of the house is not the same thing as understanding that they shouldn’t cross any road without looking both ways and watching out for cars.

Step 4: Explain and Reconsider Rules

You have rules for a reason.

Your child deserves to know why. For example, my husband and I set our children’s bedtime at 9 PM so they could get the amount of sleep they need.

We also set the bedtime at 9 PM so we could have some alone time after the children went to bed.

When my son became a teenager, he balked at the early bedtime. Though reluctant, his father and I agreed to renegotiate sleep schedules.

As he has gotten older, we have also extended his curfew, the number of extracurricular activities he can have, and the upkeep of his personal space.

That said, some rules need to stay in place. In my home, an unbreakable rule is homework.

All homework must be completed before any other activities can take place.

Step 5: Look for Positive Outlets

What does your child enjoy doing? Help them to find joy in their lives by aiding them with their favorite activities.

My son insisted on football despite the fact that it was the one sport I actively discouraged. Rather than fight it, I have embraced it.

His father and I volunteer for football events, cheer him on during games, and support him through each serious injury which, at this writing, stands at four.

In addition to positive outlets at school and with friends, find ways to spend time together as a family that will be pleasant for everyone.

Many families insist on eating dinner together every night. Others have a weekly pizza and movie night.

As long as these moments together don’t end with a shouting match, your entire family should gain something positive from the interaction.

Related: Should You Let Your Child Play Football?

Step 6: Seek Outside Help

Communication is difficult and patience can run thin.

Sometimes a voice from outside of your family is needed. Outside help can come from a variety of sources.

You might decide to go to family counseling, spend time with a religious leader or talk with your child’s pediatrician.

Counseling is sometimes a good idea for you as well as your child. You can learn a great deal from a session with a professional.

Step 7: Don’t Give Up

Strong-willed teens can take a long time to change their behaviors and attitudes.

Some of it will be due to the effort you put forth. Some of it will happen with maturity. I have seen a great response from my strong-willed son.

We swapped yelling for listening. We changed arguing to embracing. Naturally, we still have moments when we struggle, but those moments are becoming fewer and further between.

Of course, as I wrote those words, my son entered the room where I was writing, told me he was not strong-willed, and marched back out again.

I couldn’t help but laugh.

Step 8: Heed Cautionary Tales

Sadly, there are too many cautionary tales of parents choosing the wrong path. As I admitted earlier, I was a strong-willed teen.

My parents’ solution was to ignore and avoid me.

I went from pushing back against them to feeling unloved – a feeling that continues to this day.

A more recent example comes from my son’s strong-willed friend, Brady*. After repeatedly arguing with his parents, their solution was to kick him out of their home.

As Brady’s parents are friends of mine, I learned that they felt an extreme consequence would cause him to change his ways and be more agreeable.

Instead, he moved in with a friend, took a job, and is thriving away from home more than a year later.

What Brady’s parents and my own didn’t understand is that strong-willed teens can go on to become responsible, driven adults when given the proper guidance.

Key Takeaways

Having a strong-willed teenager isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You should consider your teen’s will as a strength rather than a problem.

As long as you guide your teen with compassion and respect, you will have a good relationship. Do you agree? Talk to us in the comments!

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