Today, Jody shares a little about “What you can do…”, a continuation from yesterday’s post on handling the teen attitude/disrespect dish so often served our way. This, like yesterday’s excerpt is from the book Jody wrote with June Hunt called Understanding Your Teen.

 As always, thanks for sharing with us, Jody,

… and thanks for walking the road with me.


 parents of teens

What Can You Do

In response to the opening scenario, it is important to not react emotionally to your teen’s immaturity. If you react by arguing or with anger, it sets off the same reaction in the teen and becomes a vicious cycle. Model impulse control by clearly stating what you expect in a detached manner. You are not detached from your teen you are detached from what they said and did. Likewise, you have every right to expect respect from your teen. State your expectations, and what consequences will follow if these are not met.

If your teen keeps pressing you and wants to argue, then you can say, “Your actions right now leave me no choice but to withdraw privileges. I don’t want to, but you’re making that decision for me by your choices. How many privileges I have to withdraw is ultimately up to you.”

You may discover, as you spend more time with your son, that his attitude problem is symptomatic of a larger problem, such as unhealthy interests, angry or resentful friends, a dying spiritual life, or a drug problem. Hard as it is to believe, this discovery is the beginning of healing. How to deal with these larger problems is discussed in the next chapter and in section 5.

Establish a Top Ten List of Your Core Convictions

Mark Gregston suggests parents establish a Top Ten list of what you believe about your home and then write it down.  [Mark Gregston, When Your Teen is Struggling, p 128-130] 

  • Academics: What kind of grades do you expect? Do you let them select their classes? Are they responsible for their homework?
  • Spiritual: Do you require your teen to go to church? Youth group?
  • Social: What kind of curfew do you set? What about their friends? Where they go? What they can do?
  • Behavior: Are you going to allow disrespect? Disobedience? Dishonesty? What is acceptable and unacceptable?
  • Character: what traits do you want developed in your teen?
  • Medical: If your teen responsible to remember to brush his teen? Take care of his retainer? Take his meds if he is on them?
  • Possessions: How tidy must your teen’s room be? Who pays for the clothes? Things your teen wants?
  • Entertainment: What kind of media will you allow for your teen?
  • Responsibilities: What chores do you expect your teen to do? What about when there is a busy week at school?
  • Privileges: Who pays for the food when they go out on the weekend? Who pays for the gas? Will you purchase a car for your teen when they turn16?
  • Family: Do you have requirements for family time?

In turn, your core values and beliefs form the foundation for your boundaries. As parents, provide the structure that your teens need. Build boundaries that…

  • Create the atmosphere of your home
  • Address how you respond to your teen
  • Define what you expect from your teen
  • Establish your authority as a parent
  • Provide definition for who’s on first
  • Spell out consequences for noncompliance
  • Present logical consequences related to the deed

Spend more time and less money with your teen. Teens respond well when parents provide

  • Empathic listening
  • Quality time together
  • Love and support
  • Respect for their ideas

Teens do not respond when parents

  • Lecture too much
  • Discipline with guilt trips
  • Argue back and yell
  • Ask too many questions

Respect, Rewards, Repercussions and Rescuing

Know your own boundaries as a parent. It’s OK to expect respect because it’s the right thing and not just “because I said so”. Likewise, show respect to your teen. Jesus told us to follow the golden rule. Reward positive behavior with your affirmations and not with money. Your goal is to build inner qualities in your teen.

Know when you are rescuing your teen and you should be establishing repercussions. Rescuing creates weak people with enabling relationships and repercussions provide opportunities to learn lessons, retrain the brain and cultivate Christ-like character.

  • First of all, be your teen’s parent…and not a buddy.
  • If they get in trouble at school, hold them accountable and not blame the school.
  • If they don’t get their homework done, let them suffer the consequence and don’t do it for them.
  • Don’t be afraid to confront your teen with the truth…and the consequences.
  • If they are in trouble with the police, let your teen spend a night in jail if necessary. Don’t try and cover it up for ‘fear of what others will say and think’.

Go through the book of Proverbs together. Perhaps just one or two verses a day. Talk about them together in a practical way, and not in a ‘preachy’ manner. “Giving wisdom is not hitting your teenager over the head with words. It is putting a lovely garland around their neck. It’s giving him the world’s most valuable jewels. It is gold from God’s pocket to their hands. This is radically different from the way teenagers tend to think about wisdom and correction.”  [Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity, page 78]

Write a letter of encouragement to your teen. Express how you feel about them. Upon receiving a hand-written letter from his father, one teen said, “I never saw my dad’s handwriting before because my mom signs my birthday cards. He writes just like me…or I guess I write just like him. I didn’t know he thought all those things about me.” Teens keep those letters and read them again and again. They are treasures. Take your time. It’s an investment in your relationship that will last a lifetime. Keep it positive. Here are a few suggestions to help you get started.


I want you to know how much I love you.

The day you were born was so special.

I remember…

One of my favorite things about you is..

One of my best memories of time with you is..

You’re so good at…

I’ll always be here for you.

I believe in you.

Jody Capehart is an educator, author and speaker with nearly 40 years experience. She is the author or co-author of over 15 books including Cherishing and Challenging Your Children, Teaching with Heart, Christian Charm Course, The Discipline Guide, Discipline by Design, Bonding with Your Teens through Boundaries, and Discipline to the Design of Your Child. Please see The Pantry if you’re interested in her book Understanding Your Teen.

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