How to Cope with a Tenacious Teen

Have you ever felt desperate trying to cope with your tenacious teen? If so, you’re not alone. Teens more than any other age group feel out of control. Deep down, they aren’t quite sure who they are and generally struggle to take possession of their own lives.

Achieving a sense of identity is one of the major developmental tasks of a teenager. Somewhere between the ages of twelve and twenty adolescents are forced to choose who they are; a formidable and scary task. Because of this force to make up their minds, they are compelled to control, and can become quite tenacious.

So how can you cope with a tenacious teen? You have to call on God’s strength to empower you with what you will need to succeed, and take steps forward. Today we are sharing pointers to help you handle your teen as they navigate the raging waters of growing up.

Start by building a platform of kindness

Without a doubt, every struggling adolescent needs more kindness. Put yourself in their shoes and recall the pressure you felt as a teen when you built your identity from scratch. By practicing empathy and understanding, you will recognize the value of trying to be a little kinder. Knowing just how to convey this kindness is the hard part. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:

1. Own your part: Consciously and unconsciously, parents may envy or resent the blossoming of youth in their teenagers. And it can cause you to tighten the screws and heighten your control just when your teen should be facilitating more independence. Examine your own role in the tug-of-war, and own up to it if need be.

2. Look below the surface: Teens are masters of disguising their real feelings. Underneath the surface they may be struggling with unimaginable emotional pain or feelings of being pressured or stressed. On the surface, they’ll conform and give off an appearance of looking just fine. It takes a sensitive and patient person to look beyond the exterior of an adolescent. And as a parent of a teen, you are just the person for this job.

3. Critique with care: How is it possible as a parent to give “advice” to your teen without them perceiving it as disapproval? Many teens agree that talking to their parents about their everyday life runs the risk of making them upset. The more you can bite your own tongue and listen to your teen (especially when a conversation is about to get nasty), the better. When you feel your child needs some guidance, resist the urge to get upset and yell, or lecture. Let your teen speak to you, too. Better yet, let them volunteer to talk. You’d be surprised how receptive they will be to a conversation when you let them control opening the doors.

4. Look for the good and affirm it: It can be difficult to look past a mess and find the good in it, but will be worth the effort. When your teen has friends over and makes a mess of the kitchen, try to look past the extra work this creates for you and see the positive social value this brings to your teen’s life. When your teen asks you to make pancakes at 10:00 at night, look past your desire to go to bed and take this as an opportunity to connect. Whatever the case, look for the good, and affirm it. This will ease your relationship, and make your tenacious teen much easier to live with.

Breaking through a teenager’s facade undoubtedly takes time and loads of patience. By implementing the tools we discussed today to help you build a platform of kindness, and also patiently waiting it out, you will achieve much more than trying to force it. As a Chinese proverb says: “With time and patience the mulberry leaf become silk.”

A great tool to check out is the Yada Assessment. Yada will help to build a bridge between you and your teen. It’s a quick and fun 15-minute assessment that will provide your teen with a 10-page customized report – all about the science of them. Yada is a one of a kind tool to help you and your teen see inside them, and open up the doors of communication.

Have you raised a teenager, or are your kids currently navigating the teen years? What do you and your spouse do to cope?


  • Nathan A Flores says:

    I think this approach will not work with every teen. My oldest has just decided that having a boyfriend and living with him is more important than finishing college. My wife and I spent her entire life and especially during her high school time trying every angle (good cop, bad cop, neutral cop) to get her to understand the importance of personal accountability, not lying, how to apologize and mean it. Nothing sunk in, at all. I gave her my Post 9/11 GI bill to go to Baylor, we bought her a house, but that was all on the condition that she follow the rules. We gave her at least 4-5 “second chances”. But it had gotten so bad that she put our family in legal jeopardy by moving a family into the house we bought her without our permission or a lease and had moved in with her boyfriend at his mom’s house! We realized that the line needed to be drawn- come home and straighten out or you are out on your own. She chose the latter despite us begging her to come home.
    So to all the parents out there with “tenacious” millennials. I got news for you. You can use all the steps above, raise them to be Christians (like we did), mentor, teach, punish, reward etc and they can still go bat scat crazy like mine did. Thank God my other two teenage girls are learning from her.
    The best advise I can give is that you and your spouse must be a united front with respect the rules of the house. I also think that parents fail to write the rules down. There should never just be “understood” rules. The rules need to be respected and the punishments should fit the crime, and second offenses are harsher.
    Another topic parents fail to talk about is the difference between love and sex. The reason we had this long conversation was because the oldest got caught making out at school. It was clear that we needed to help them understand what true love is (Biblical) versus what the world, their friends, and their own ideas of what love is. We also never made our kids think sex is dirty or bad but that is was meant for the confines of marriage because that is what God designed for a man and woman to enjoy. We explained that sex outside of marriage has more than just physical consequences.
    Other topics we talk about frequently, that most parents don’t talk to their kids about, are economics and politics. Of course, there are no off limit topics.
    Good luck parents.

    • Alba Rice says:

      Thank you for being real and sharing your story. In the end, they, by themselves, will stand before the LORD and give an account. We are learning this.

    • Perplexed Mom says:

      I too raised my kid in a Christian home and even brought her to church the first time when she was just 6 days old. Despite our attempts to parent in a godly way, our daughter has gone south. It is heart breaking and I still think to myself every single day, “Where did I go wrong?” Between private school, European vacations and providing for all of her needs (including a “no student debt” college education), I feel extremely betrayed. Regardless, I feel so strongly that God has told me to simply “be still” and wait for the prodigal daughter to return. What else can I do since every interaction ends in painful words from her to me. It is astonishing to see the level of disrespect as a product of a Christian home. Disturbing actually….

    • Pastor Tope Adegbamigbe says:

      Thank you for your vulnerability. Sometimes one wonders what one did wrong but after a thorough soul search and prayers, one should just hand them over to God and try to be at peace with oneself although it may be a tough thing to do but it is the best.

  • Gwen Felizardo says:

    Even though you give them a solid Christian foundation and stable, loving home, children have a will and they will use it -good or not so good. Our two sons put us through the wringer from high school through early twenties including prison time. I learned more about myself during those years and realized I just needed to lay them at Christ’s feet and let them experience their own consequences and learn from them. I learned I cannot change another person. I can only change myself and leave the rest to God. I also learned how to love through the mess. They are now in their forties with children and the reward was them apologizing for putting us through hell and they were praying their children would not do the same to them. It takes time to mature and become accountable for your choices. They are healthy, happy and are solid loving people. So parents: love them, set your boundaries, let your children feel the full weight of their decisions so they will learn. Very hard to stand by but it helps them grow up. Love them through and don’t own the guilt and shame.

    And as for sex and love: my boys did everything backward. Children outside of marriage, multiple mothers and now they are understanding how difficult they can make life for themselves and their children. Everything in our society (news, TV, movies, magazines, radio, songs) is geared toward the “I need it now”, sex has no consequences, and no accountability or responsibility. Out of poor decisions we have 6 beautiful grandchildren who we love greatly. I know it is clique but God can take lemons (wrong choices) and make lemonade.

    When my oldest was acting out, the younger brother learned how to do things without getting caught. I thought he was learning that he shouldn’t do the wrong thing. But instead he became a master at wearing masks so we wouldn’t find out.

    Parenting is more about parents learning about themselves and what love really means. Our children are blessings but they are certainly challenging the status quo of what we think and feel and do. After coming through some very difficult years, I am here to say our children usually grow up and come though the mess they create.

  • Christina says:

    I’m grateful for the Parrot’s and this community. Thank you for your insight. This is truly helpful information. God bless you all – Gwen, you said it: “Everything in our society…is geared toward the ‘I need it now, sex has no consequences, and no accountability or responsibility.”

    Nathan, I appreciate your insight and if there were a “heart”, I would have loved your post. 🙂

  • Stacey says:

    Thank you all so much for speaking REAL!! I have days where I just don’t know what to do. I feel like I have tried every way to connect with my kids. I am slowly realizing I don’t have all the control and they are going to have to figure out who and what they want to be. I pray every night for God to give me guidance each day and bring me peace with the “parenting thing” Again thank you, thank you thank you!!!!!!!!

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