Is your Teen’s Back to School Behaviour Driving you Crazy?

If your teen’s behaviour has been less than ideal since heading back to school this September, I hear you. I’ve been there too.

It’s not easy to watch when your calm, easy-going and generally obliging teenager of the summer months suddenly morphs into a grunting, sulky, whingy individual who can only be coaxed away from their TV/phone/Xbox (delete as appropriate) for food.

Sometimes we can be forgiven for thinking that they are doing it on purpose just to wind us up – part of being a teenager. But if you stop there, then you stay there. Stuck. Not knowing what to do next.

I have found that an all-round more useful approach is to remember this mantra: EVERY BEHAVIOUR HAS A POSITIVE INTENTION.

Yes, every single behaviour. It may not be a positive intention for you or for anybody else around them. But the behaviour will most certainly be serving a positive intention for them.

Think about your own behaviours and habits for a moment. If you’ve ever tried to quit smoking, you’ll know that it can be less than easy. This is because there is a positive intention behind the smoking. Perhaps the positive intention is that it helps you relax under pressure or it gives you extra breaks at work. Often, people go back to smoking because they have not found another way to fulfil this positive intention.

When I look at my own patterns, I realise that they are not really any different to those of my children. During the summer holidays, away from the general pressures of life, I quite smugly become the kind of person who drinks two litres of water a day, whizzes up her own soups and fits in 2 hours of exercise per day. Now that I feel the pressures of my “real” life again, I regularly find myself seeking solace in the biscuit tin. My positive intention is that I want to feel a temporary burst of energy and comfort when I’m feeling exhausted. How is this any different from my children seeking their solace in TV and gaming?

So what is your teen’s positive intention in playing on the Xbox all day? They may not know the reason themselves – it is such an unconscious response.

 I suspect that it could be any number of these things:

  • It’s fun – after a full day of being told exactly what to do all day at school, this is when they finally get to choose. This is why they may become grumpy and defensive when they feel that we as parents are also trying to direct their time.
  • It helps them escape from their worries – for some teens, school can be a hot-house of anxieties and situations that feel out of their control. Playing games might make them feel powerful and in the driving seat of their lives again.
  • It makes them feel relaxed. Quite simply, we all need down time and let’s face it, there are limited other options open to teens during winter evenings.
  • It’s an easy way to connect with their friends – ditto the above. Gone are the days when teenagers had to hang around in drizzly parks to catch up with their mates. They can now do it from the comfort of their own homes. It’s only natural that teens want to spend more time with their friends than their family whilst they are building independence, ready for adulthood.

So, what can you do if your teen’s behaviour is testing your patience?

Remember this: Your teen is not giving you a hard time. Your teen is having a hard time.

Reframing their behaviour in this way can often completely change how we react and if we change how we react, we can change the outcome.

If we can help our teens to discover the positive intention behind the behaviour, we can also help them to find another way of fulfilling it.

In my experience, it’s almost never about the Xbox.

If your teen is struggling with the school environment, I can help. Book your free discovery call now.