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Dealing With Difficult Teenage Behaviors as a Parent – Setting Boundaries and Offering Love

Dealing with Difficult Teenage Behaviors as a Parent - Setting Boundaries and Offering Love

When dealing with a teenager, you will see disrespectful behaviors such as door-slamming or eye-rolling. Sometimes, however, they may be more concerning, such as withdrawal, rebellion, or patterns of defiance. These behaviors can leave you helpless, frustrated, and sometimes lost. Yet, in this confusion, you must balance offering love and setting healthy boundaries.

At Nexus Teen Academy, we remain committed to being your trusted partner in this journey. With our expertise in adolescent psychology, conflict resolution techniques, and communication strategies, we will provide practical tools in this blog to help you deal with 20 most difficult teenage behaviors. Let’s dive in!

Difficult Teenage Behaviors and How to Deal with Them

20 Difficult Teenage Behaviors and How Parents Can Deal with Them

1. Defiance

Defiance consists of a wide range of behaviors when your teenager refuses to comply with your authority, rules, or requests. For instance, it can be a frustrating refusal to go to bed, or more concerning, like refusing to go to school. Defiance in teenagers comes from feeling powerless or not being heard or seen by people around them. The desire for autonomy and independence may also push your teen into defiant behavior.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries: However, teen defiance is unlikely when you maintain a positive and open relationship with your teen. First, to set clear boundaries in the event of defiance, inform your teen of your expectations and the potential consequences when they do not meet them. Offer your teen choices within established limits and consistently enforce your rules.

Offering Love and Support: You must also show some affection as you deal with defiance. Validate your teen’s feelings as you emphasize compliance with your rules. Actively listen to your teen to understand their perspective, and encourage negotiation in problem-solving. You can also validate their need for autonomy, emphasize responsible decision-making, and show love even when disciplining them.

2. Withdrawal From Family

Withdrawal from family is when your teen isolates themselves, prefers solitude, and avoids interactions or communication with other family members. It may indicate feelings of anxiety, depression, change in family dynamics, as well as the need for independence or personal space.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries

  • When you recognize that your teen is withdrawing from other family members, do not be hasty to shun and ridicule them.
  • Respect their need for space, but encourage them to check in regularly with the family.
  • Emphasize that they must attend family activities such as dinner and other discussions.

Offering Love and Support: Showing your teenager love may help them deal with withdrawal. So, consider establishing a safe environment where your teen can feel comfortable expressing their feelings and sharing their thoughts. Validate your teen’s need for solitude as you reassure them of your constant availability and support. Do not pressure your teen to socialize; gently encourage them to engage in family activities to maintain relationships.

3. Excessive Screen Time

Excessive screen time has become particularly common with the rise of social media. It refers to when your teen spends an unreasonable period on their phones, tablets, or computers. They could be browsing the Internet, checking their social media feeds, or playing video games. Escapism, addiction to technology, boredom, or social pressures could lead to excessive screen time in your teen.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries

  • Begin by creating clear guidelines on screen time limits and consequences for non-compliance.
  • Practice healthy screen habits yourself to be a good role model to your teenager.
  • Consider establishing screen-free times or zones in your family and encouraging your teen to participate in alternative activities during such periods. For example, your teen could take a walk or engage in mindfulness exercises.

Offering Love and Support

  • Inform your teen of the significance of balancing screen time and other aspects of life.
  • Encourage them to engage in other activities like hobbies or outdoor reactions.
  • Participate in these activities with your teenager to show them affection.
  • Collaboratively set goals for reducing screen time and develop enjoyable alternative activities for your teen.

4. Substance Use

Substance abuse is the regular consumption or experimentation with tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. Teenagers may engage in substance abuse due to curiosity, stress, peer influence, or underlying mental health issues.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries

  • Begin by talking to your teen about substance abuse.
  • Inform them of your observations and concerns, then communicate what you expect of them regarding substance abuse. You should also inform your teen of the consequences if they break your rules.
  • Educate them on the risks involved throughout the process to help them make informed decisions.

Offering Love and Support: To show your teen that you still love them, approach your conversations with empathy and understanding. Do not appear to be judgmental. Inform them of the reliable resources for seeking help or support, and underscore the importance of positive choices. 

Additionally, focus on building trust through open communication instead of resorting to punishment. If your teen’s condition regarding substance abuse becomes serious, seek professional help.

5. Risky Sexual Behavior

Risky sexual behavior is when your teen engages in unprotected sex. This could be with one person or multiple partners. Other unsafe sexual practices may also lead to risky sexual behavior. The underlying factors behind risky sexual behavior include seeking validation, curiosity, peer pressure, and the lack of comprehensive sexual education.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries: The first step is providing comprehensive but age-specific sexual education. Discuss with your teen the values and boundaries when it comes to sex. Create clear guidelines for safe practices.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Establish a safe and non-judgmental environment to allow your teen to discuss their sexuality.
  • Emphasize respect for oneself and others around you.
  • Help your teen access contraception and other sexual health resources.
  • Other tips include encouraging ongoing conversations about consent, personal values, and healthy relationships to help your teen make informed decisions about their sexual life.

6. Academic Underperformance

Difficult behavior related to academic performance could include disengagement from school, missed assignments, or consistently low grades. Underlying factors include peer influence, lack of motivation, stress, or learning difficulties.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries: First, establish your expectations for academic performance. Then, offer support for learning problems and collaborate with your teen’s teachers to identify the specific problem and possible solutions.

Offering Love and Support: Do not be quick to punish your teen for poor academic performance; even when you do, do it with love. Provide tutoring resources or any other academic support. Encourage a growth mindset, and celebrate your teen’s small or big wins. Additionally, focus more on effort and improvement instead of grades. Work with your teen to explore their strengths and interests and rejuvenate their passion for learning.

7. Lying

Lying occurs when your teen deliberately tells you false information or withholds the truth. The motivation could be fear of punishment, seeking approval, low self-esteem, or avoiding conflict.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries: To deal with lying behavior, encourage open communication to discover the truth. Underscore the need and significance of telling the truth and set consequences for lying. Deliver punishment consistently and calmly.

Offering Love and Support: Give your teen the opportunity to come clean without fear of punishment. Practice honesty yourself for your teen to emulate. Reinforce positive behavior by praising your teen when they tell the truth. Additionally, explore the underlying issues that may be making your teen a liar. Potential issues could be fear or insecurity. Collaborate with your teen to build trust and maintain strong relationships.

8. Aggression

Aggressive behavior involves physical or verbal outbursts, property destruction, or hostility. Exposure to violence, unresolved conflicts, frustration, or anger can all lead to aggressive behavior.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Emphasize the importance of respectful behavior and clearly communicate your expectations for it.
  • Teach your teen anger management techniques.
  • Establish clear consequences for aggressive behavior.

Offering Love and Support: Establish a safe environment for your teen to express emotions. Support them in finding constructive outlets for frustration or anger, and encourage healthy conflict resolution practices. Other expert tips include helping your teen identify the triggers for their aggressive behavior and teaching them healthy coping strategies.

9. Peer Pressure Vulnerability

Vulnerability to peer pressure involves your teen’s exposure to peer influence, often leading to undesirable or risky behaviors. Peer pressure vulnerability may flow from lack of assertiveness, low self-esteem, fear of rejection, and the desire for acceptance.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries: Discuss strategies to avoid peer pressure with your teen. Teach them how to be assertive and encourage them to prioritize relationships that promote positive actions.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Validate your teenager’s feelings about peer pressure.
  • Emphasize the importance of self-respect and guide them on making independent decisions.
  • Help your teen improve their self-esteem and self-worth, and encourage them to make decisions aligning with their values and goals even in the face of peer pressure.

10. Mood Swings

Mood swings involve unpredictable or rapid emotional changes, ranging from anger and irritability to excitement or sadness. The underlying factors include mental health issues like anxiety or depression, difficulty sleeping, stress, or hormonal changes. Some of these factors may be beyond your teen’s control, thus necessitating an empathetic and cautious approach.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries: First, understand the cause of mood swings in your teen, whether minor issues or more concerning mental health problems. Create safe communication channels for your teen to express their emotions and thoughts. Teach them healthy coping mechanisms and set clear expectations for respectful behavior during mood changes.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Do not be quick to dismiss your teen as acting up.
  • Validate their feelings but do not condone inappropriate behavior.
  • Offer them a supportive environment to express their feelings, and offer resources for professional assistance for serious mental health issues.
  • Collaboratively practice effective strategies for self-regulation and emotional resilience.
Teenage Bad Behavior

11. Disrespectful Attitude

You will notice a disrespectful attitude when your teen speaks rudely, ignores your authority, or disregards other people’s opinions or feelings. This attitude could come from a lack of empathy, frustration perceived with injustice, defiance, or modeling behavior from the media or peers.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Help your teen understand the importance of respecting others.
  • Let them know that respect is earned and not given.
  • Engage in respectful communication with them to see its importance, and then set clear expectations for respectful behavior.
  • Let your teen know of the possible consequences of disrespectful behavior.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Begin by addressing the underlying issues contributing to your teen’s disrespectful behavior.
  • Offer your teen a safe space and opportunity to practice empathy and positive perspective-taking.
  • Encourage them to embrace respect and praise them for their achievements.
  • Encourage your teen to be more receptive to other people’s opinions and validate their feelings.
  • Tell them to reflect on the possible impact of their actions and words on others.

12. Overspending or Materialism

Overspending or materialism involves:

  • Your teen spending money impulsively
  • Giving material wealth more value
  • Excessively focusing on acquiring possessions.

It could come from insecurity, attempts to fill an emotional void, peer influence, or societal pressures. This may lead your teen to financial instability, debts, and even theft.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Begin by teaching your teen financial literacy skills.
  • Tell them the importance of prioritizing their needs over wants.
  • Limit the amount of money you give them, and set limits on how much they can spend on some items daily.
  • Sometimes, you may have to limit what your teen can buy.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Encourage your teen to take up volunteer work more often or give back to the community.
  • Teach and implement responsible financial habits and encourage gratitude for non-material things.
  • Encourage your teen to explore their interests and values beyond material possessions and to find fulfillment in personal growth, relationships, and experiences.

13. Neglecting Responsibilities

Neglecting responsibilities involves consistently failing to fulfill obligations such as commitments, homework, or house chores. Your teen may neglect responsibilities because of procrastination, lack of organization, or avoidance of tasks perceived to be challenging or boring. Neglecting responsibilities can encourage your teen to engage in other risky behaviors and must thus be addressed immediately.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Assign your teen more responsibilities and set your expectations for them.
  • Ensure you have broken the tasks into simpler, manageable steps.
  • Set a deadline for completion and inform them of the consequences if they neglect their duties.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Guide your teen in executing their tasks without enabling them.
  • Support them by teaching them time management techniques and developing organizational skills.
  • Help them prioritize tasks that need urgency and set realistic goals.
  • Celebrate your teen’s achievements and praise them. This will motivate them to undertake future responsibilities effectively.

14. Eating Disorders

Eating disorders refer to unhealthy eating behaviors such as purging, binge eating, or restricting food intake. They are often accompanied by poor body image. Genetic predispositions, trauma, societal pressures, or psychological factors may contribute to eating disorders in teenagers. Eating disorders are more mental and may require professional assistance more than self-help strategies.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Encourage open communication to understand your teen’s feelings and their body image perception.
  • Do not comment negatively on their dieting or appearance.
  • Most importantly, seek professional assistance from reliable resources like Nexus Teen Academy.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Let your teen know that you accept and love them unconditionally.
  • Do not blame or shame them.
  • Help them achieve a healthy relationship with food and their body image.
  • Learn about eating disorders and know the relevant treatment interventions.
  • Encourage them to seek professional help while reassuring them of your continued availability and support.

15. Sleep Issues

Sleep issues involve trouble sleeping, staying asleep, or maintaining a healthy and regular sleeping schedule. It usually leads to impaired functioning and fatigue. Sleep issues may arise from irregular sleep patterns, excessive screen time before bed, anxiety, stress, or underlying sleep disorders.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries: Reinforce what you can and seek professional help where necessary. Establish a conducive sleeping environment for your teen and help them prioritize sleep hygiene. Additionally, create a consistent bedtime routine and limit your teen’s screen time before bed. Excessive screen time before bed disrupts melatonin production.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Encourage healthy sleeping habits, offer emotional support for managing anxiety and stress, and guide your teen on relaxation techniques and mindfulness.
  • Encourage your teen to embrace sleep as an integral aspect of their health and well-being.
  • If the issues persist, seek professional help immediately.

16. Teen Isolation

Isolation is closely linked to withdrawal. It involves withdrawing from social interactions, avoiding social gatherings or activities, and spending more time alone. Isolation may arise from difficulty in connecting with peers, depression, loneliness, or social anxiety. It is important to seek immediate intervention to prevent isolation and escalating to self-harm or suicidal ideation.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Respect your teen’s need for alone time, but encourage them to consider social activities.
  • Allow them to socialize within comfortable environments. You can also engage in such activities with them to assure them of your availability and support.
  • Discourage intentional hiding or withdrawal to engage in bad behaviors like substance abuse or pornography.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Validate your teen’s feelings of anxiety or loneliness.
  • Do not be judgmental or dismissive; instead, be compassionate and empathetic without much pressure on socialization.
  • Invite their friend over for a movie to help them interact with others gradually. Consider enrolling your teen in a club or community with shared interests and similar experiences. This will offer them peer support, insights, and healthy advice for improvement.

17. Excessive Criticism of Others

Sometimes, teenagers excessively criticize others by frequently judging them, comparing their actions, appearance, or behaviors, or making negative comments about them. This may result from low self-esteem, jealousy, insecurity, or reinforcement of behaviors from the media or peers.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Discuss the importance of respect for others and how negative comments can interfere with relationships.
  • Encourage your teen to be understanding and empathetic towards others.
  • Inform them of potential consequences if they disrespect or negatively comment about others.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Foster a culture of acceptance and kindness in your home.
  • Engage and encourage respectful conversations.
  • Be respectful towards your teen and help them understand why respect is key in conflict resolution.

18. Rule Breaking

Rule-breaking entails intentionally disregarding or violating established laws, boundaries, or rules. It is often accompanied by a disregard for consequences. Your teen may break the rules due to peer influence, defiance, testing boundaries, or seeking some thrill.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Reinforce the need to adhere to the set rules and communicate your expectations.
  • Engage in open communication with your teen and explain to them the reasons why you have set the rules.
  • Consistently punish rule-breaking tendencies.

Offering Love and Support: Create opportunities to discuss the rules and consequences when your teen breaks them. Involve your teen in creating the rules and establishing the consequences for non-compliance. This will foster ownership and accountability among your teenagers. Additionally, echo the significance of responsible behaviors and guide your teen in making more informed choices. Praise their good behavior and celebrate their achievements.

19. Ignoring Health and Hygiene

Your teen ignores their health and hygiene when they neglect personal hygiene such as brushing teeth, bathing, or maintaining the general cleanliness of their rooms. This neglect may arise from sensory sensitivities, low self-esteem, depression, or lack of motivation. Sometimes, there may be underlying mental health issues beyond your teen’s control. This is why you must understand the causes to determine when to seek professional help.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Teach your teen the importance of personal hygiene and potential health risks.
  • Involve them in creating a daily personal hygiene routine and expectations.
  • Regularly remind them and offer guidance when needed.
  • However, if the issue persists, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Encourage open conversations and approach them with empathy and understanding.
  • Do not be too quick to judge or dismissive.
  • Listen to your teen’s perspective and provide practical assistance.
  • Celebrate their small victories and encourage them to keep improving.

20. Sudden Changes in Friend Groups

Although changing friendships is common and normal among teenagers, a sudden change in friendships could be worrying. This behavior involves abrupt changes in social circles, leaving behind previously cherished friends or adopting completely new ones. It may be a result of conflicts with old friends, changing interests, seeking acceptance, or the desire for belonging. Whichever case it may be, you must be watchful as a parent because sometimes teens change friends to engage in substance abuse, risky sexual behaviors, or other dangerous activities.

Strategies for Setting Boundaries:

  • Talk openly with your teen about their friends.
  • Get to know their friends personally and understand the reasons behind sudden shifts.
  • Teach your discernment in selecting their friends and healthy coping strategies during social dynamics.

Offering Love and Support:

  • Validate your teen’s need for social connections and support them in building and keeping healthy relationships [s.
  • Advise them against friends who promote negative peer influence and encourage bad habits like substance abuse.
  • Encourage your teen to be self-confident and independent so they feel empowered when deciding who to befriend depending on their shared interests and values.
Implementing Parenting Strategies at Home

Implementing Parenting Strategies at Home

As a parent, you must set clear and healthy boundaries by providing a safe structure to guide your teen. Boundaries will help bring your teen back on the right track and prevent them from steering off into muddy waters during adolescence. Picture it as a roadmap to a healthy transition into adulthood. However, boundaries alone cannot work; you must anchor your teens in love to motivate them and make them feel worthy. It’s about showing affection while offering unwavering support. This means holding your teen accountable for their actions while providing a safe environment where they can acknowledge their mistakes, learn from them, and grow through understanding and validation.

Following our discussion above, one thing is clear: parenting can be challenging, especially when dealing with difficult teenage behavior. However, armed with a supportive environment at home and the right strategies, you can overcome these challenges. 

Practical Application

Here’s is how you can implement the strategies and tips we have discussed under the 20 difficult teenage behaviors above:

  • Encourage open communication with your teen and the entire family through family meetings. Ensure that everyone expresses his or her feelings and thoughts during the meeting. As a family, discuss your concerns, expectations, and boundaries.
  • Establish clear, consistent, and realistic boundaries and potential consequences for difficult behaviors. Be fair but firm when enforcing the boundaries and ensure that consequences are implemented consistently.
  • Be a good role model for your teen by demonstrating good behaviors and attitudes you want to see in your teen. This includes healthy problem-solving skills, respectful communication, and healthy coping strategies.
  • Acknowledge and praise your teen when they improve. Point out their accomplishments and celebrate their successes. This will reinforce the desired behaviors and motivate your teen to continue improving.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance when the self-help strategies fail. Again, if you encounter issues that require interventions beyond your expertise, don’t hesitate to get help.

Consistency and Patience

As you implement the strategies we have discussed, remember that consistency and patience are integral. It may take some time to see improvements in your teen. However, you must be consistent when communicating your expectations and establishing consequences. This will ensure stability and predictability for your teenager. Acknowledge that change takes time, and be patient with both yourself and your teenager. Change cannot happen in a day, so manage your expectations well to avoid putting much pressure on your teen. Do not forget to celebrate small wins along the way and remain focused on the end goal.

Creating a Supportive Environment

  • Listen actively to your teen express their emotions, thoughts, and concerns. Give them your full attention, validating their feelings even if you do not agree with them.
  • Create a safe space for your teen to feel comfortable discussing their challenges without fear of criticism or judgment. Do not react impulsively to emotional outbursts; be understanding and empathetic.
  • Make time between your busy schedules to spend quality time together. This will help build trust and strengthen your bonds. Consider sharing a meal without distractions or taking a walk together.
  • Encourage your teen to be independent and support their independence. Allow your teen appropriate autonomy to make informed choices and learn from their mistakes. Support and guide them along the way, helping them to refocus their attention and set their priorities right.


Dealing with difficult teenage behaviors requires balancing offering love, understanding, and setting boundaries. As a parent, you must understand the challenges presented by adolescence, specifically the unique challenges your teen is experiencing. This will help you set healthy boundaries without compromising your love for your teenager. Remember, every difficult behavior presents unique challenges that require a different approach, but patience and consistency cut across all of them. Be patient with your teen and yourself, celebrate and praise them when they achieve something, and don’t forget to seek professional help when needed.

If you are looking for support or guidance related to teen mental health treatment, Nexus Teen Academy is here for you. We are committed to helping parents and adolescents deal with the complexities and challenges of adolescence, be it mental health issues, substance abuse, defiance, or more. So, if you or someone you know is struggling with the above behaviors, please contact us today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Keep an open communication channel, establish clear boundaries, and consistently provide consequences for defiance. As you do all these, emphasize the significance of respectful behavior and the risks of defiance.

Involve your teen in gradually limiting screen time, especially before bedtime. Collaboratively devise alternative activities such as mindfulness or relaxation techniques for your teen. Practice healthy screen habits yourself to model good behavior.

  • Create a supportive environment for your teen to express their emotions and thoughts.
  • Listen actively to them without being dismissive or judgmental.
  • Validate their feelings and emotions even if you do not agree with them
  • Respect your teen’s privacy, and share your experiences to encourage trust.

Initiate an open and non-judgmental dialogue about substance abuse. Tell your teen about your observations and the factual risks of substance abuse. Encourage them to seek professional help and reassure them of your continued support.

  • Persistent difficult behaviors despite efforts to get rid of them.
  • Severe mood swings
  • Consistent deterioration of academic performance
  • Self-harm
  • Substance abuse
  • Suicidal ideation

If you are in doubt, seek professional assistance in determining the relevant signs.

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