When Teens Say, “NO”: Finding Meaning Behind Behavior

Empathically Understanding Opposition in Teens

Do you have an oppositional teen and you’re at your wits end? Think of their naysaying as a communication and your mindset shifts rapidly. Your teen wants to tell you something, but they don’t know how, so they just say “NO” to everything and seem defiant. But behind the anger, is a message for the parent to decipher to bring the teen back into the fold and closer to you. Here’s how.

Tips for Parents Whose Teens Say, “NO”

  1. Keep an open mind about the meanings behind defiant behavior and you’ll find you’re settling down to get to know your child better.
  2. Think of the opposition as a message or communication that needs to be articulated and understood. Your teen is trying to tell you something, but she takes the negative tack; she’s not bad, she’s distressed and wants to tell you about it.
  3. Retain a non-blaming, non-judgmental attitude to learn what’s on your adolescent’s mind.
  4. Reach out to your teen even if she seems reluctant to talk. Showing you want to talk and will listen attentively without interrupting demonstrates your love and you may be surprised that your adolescent calms down and discloses her thoughts and feelings. She may not respond instantly but come back to you later.
  5. The key to finding out what underlies angry feelings is asking open ended questions and offering subtle insights. Even if your thoughts are dismissed at first, it doesn’t mean they weren’t heard. Have patience even when you think you’ve tried everything.

This may seem like a long process, but it’s worth it. If you are open to your teenagers’ thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, you will quickly understand her intentions rather than jumping to resentful conclusions and imposing hasty consequences that only increase her anger which you don’t yet comprehend. Understanding before acting actually saves busy parents lots of time.

In the short and long run, finding out the meaning behind defiant behavior leads you in the direction of defining and then solving problems that lie behind the expressions of anger. This not only resolves the pain of feeling angry, but also strengthens the parent-teen bond.

Think of when you feel angry. It’s actually painful and you wish someone would listen and settle you down. You can do this for your son or daughter. Initial defiance can be a pathway toward deeper understanding and problem resolution—ultimately what busy, caring parents and their kids yearn for.

Demonstrating Independence

Often when kids say, “No,” and oppose your requests, it may be a means of demonstrating they can think for themselves and have their own independent ideas that they want you to appreciate even if you don’t agree with them. Saying, “No” symbolizes a wish for more autonomy from grownups and shouldn’t always be viewed as an undesirable response. In fact, it is often a marker of growth in that the child seeks more independent thinking and self-assertion. This is a positive mark of development even though it comes across negatively at first.

Once you understand your teen’s intentions, then you can offer constructive avenues to manage and handle anger in a proactive way. Then you can feel more confident that your child can control his or her anger on their own. Solid positive self-esteem depends on the teen’s ability to become aware of their inner beliefs, control their anger, and find new ways to express it. What an accomplishment for both parent and teen!!

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