Talking to your teen about her behavior is part of changing how she acts.

How to Change Bad Behavior in Teenagers

by Shelley Frost

Teens increasingly seek independence and turn to friends instead of parents, but your adolescent isn't quite prepared to make all decisions on his own. He's bound to mess up now and then as he navigates the transition to adulthood. As his parent, you still have a responsibility to teach him the ropes and help him make better decisions. Successful teen behavior changes often happen with clear boundaries that are enforced with respect for the teen's changing needs.

1 Get specific about the behaviors you want to change in your teen. If you don't know exactly what you want, you won't be able to enforce the expectations with your teen. Identifying the behaviors also helps you be consistent in addressing those issues.

2 Write a list of family rules based on the behaviors you want to change. Another option is to draw up a behavior contract with your teen using the family rules. The contract allows you to customize the expectations for your teen. For example, if he stays out too late, specify a curfew with instructions to call before the deadline if he cannot make it home in time.

3 Associate consequences with the behaviors you're trying to change. Choose consequences you can live with and enforce. Punishments are most effective when they last a maximum of 24 hours, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The AAP also notes you should focus the consequences on the teen, not the whole family. An example of punishing the whole family is cancelling a barbecue with friends and neighbors because your teen is grounded. Instead, send your teen to his room while the rest of the family enjoys the party.

4 Discuss the troubling behavior with your teen. Explain why the behavior isn't acceptable. Say, "You broke curfew three times last week. We set the curfew for your health and safety. You need to be home by 10 p.m. so we know you're safe and you can get to bed at a decent time."

5 Give your teen a chance to share his opinion or side of the story with you. You may discover the root cause of the problems. For example, a teen who isn't doing his homework may not understand the subject, so he avoids the work completely. Use that information to help improve his behaviors. You might get extra help from the teacher or hire a tutor.

6 Get involved in what your adolescent is doing. Ask questions about his friends and activities. Attend his activities, such as theater performances, sporting events and school conferences.

7 Enforce your expectations for your teen's behavior consistently. Expect some resistance in the beginning. Look for improvements in his behavior as a sign of progress instead of getting frustrated that he doesn't instantly comply.

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