8 Best Ways to Treat Your Teens

Last week, I talked about the 8 worst ways to treat your teens. These were nagging, telling them what to do, punishing them, lecturing, screaming/shouting/yelling, using guilt, begging and bribing.

As I promised, I will dedicate this post to the best ways to treat teens. I do hope you get lots of inspiration and understanding from it and establish a better communication with your teens.

#1 – Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Girl on mobile phoneOne of teen’s difficulties is the negative image they have regarding grownups. For some reason, which I will not discuss in this post, they think they are in constant conflict with grownups. Even if parents, teachers, bosses and other grownups agree with them, they start the communication in a defensive position. In their mind, there is negative self-talk, saying “They won’t understand”, “They won’t approve”, “They’ll be upset” or some other variation of it. This self-talk gets them into any communication with grownups with an inferiority mindset that only makes thing worse.

If you want to help your teens get out of their negative self-talk, use the words “I understand” whenever you communicate with them. You do not have to agree, but you can still understand. Using this phrase will also help you separate between agreeing and understanding and help you establish respect to your teen’s ideas, thoughts and feelings. This respect is like a boomerang – it comes back. If it is too hard for you to say “I understand” because you strongly disagree, Say “I understand that this is how you see it/ feel about it/ understand it”. After a while, your teen will be convinced you are not in a war zone.

When you express an idea, take responsibility for your communication. If something goes wrong, ask yourself “How can I say it differently instead of blaming my teen for not understanding?” In education, we say that kids’ success is all about what we do in our teaching. We need to match our teaching style to the learning style of our students. As a parent, you need to do the same with your parenting style.

#2 – Ask questions

Mother and teen daughterThe Socrates way of asking questions works very well with teens. When you tell your kids what to do, you are not respecting their ideas, thoughts and feelings about what they think they should do. When you want to persuade your teens to do something, ask them about it instead of telling them to do that.

“What do you think about telling him how you feel about it?” is better than saying “Just tell him what you think about it”.

“How do you feel about taking evening classes?” is better than saying “I think you should take evening classes”.

“What do you think about getting an ‘F’ in Math?” is better than saying “I am not happy about you getting an ‘F’ in Math” and much better than “I work very hard to pay for your school”…

Questions leave the choice in the teen’s hands. Asking questions is also one of the best ways to teach responsibility.

If you find it hard to ask questions, sit down and write what you want to say to your teen on a piece of paper or on your computer, then edit it into question style and notice how the tone changes from war to support and encouragement.

#3 – Reward good behavior

Rewards work much better and faster than punishment and promotes a fulfilling and happy state of being.

When we get upset our kids have not done the “right” thing and give them attention, in the form of punishment, they still get attention. Bad things are best ignored. Good things should get all the attention instead.

Instead of punishing your teens for getting an “F”, celebrate when they get an “A” or a “B”. Instead of forbidding your kids to go out with friends because of something they have done, find opportunities when they are responsible and cooperating and reward them for those with kind words, physical contact and a smile.

Instead of stopping the mobile phone payment when they exceed the monthly allowance, reward them for being responsible and talking within the budget.

Instead of being angry and not talking to them when they have done something you do not like, take them to a movie when they do something important you have suggested.

Many times, when I say “rewards”, people think of money or presents, but rewards can be time, a nice word, their favorite food for dinner or school, a secret card, spending time together, a bear hug or some help at the right time. You do not have to buy your teens a car because they finished high school with flying colors (though, if you have the money, it is a great gift).

#4 – Say “Yes” or “OK” to your teens’ requests

One of teen’s biggest complaints is that parents always say “No”. I can say the same thing about my dad. Everything I asked for, he said “No” and then the fighting started. Everything was a fight – going to sleep at someone else’s house was a fight, buying a pair of jeans was a fight, going on a field trip was a fight and even going to a party was a fight. My dad, I am sure, added a bit of bad reputation to parents by saying “No” to everything his kids asked for. He thought that if you want something badly, you will fight for it and we just felt helpless and gave up many times, because we just did not have the energy to keep fighting.

Teens have so many things to “fight” over that fighting at home only make it unbearable. My dad said “no”, but he meant to say “convince me”. We asked many times until we became sick and tired of doing it. Later on, when we needed to do new things or when we had problems, we never went to talk to him. I remember that in high school, I was so afraid he would say “no” to going on a field trip, I did not even tell my family about the trip at all.

As a parent, you need to choose your battles. If you say “No” to every request, you create a wall between you and your teens and decrease the communication between you.

TeensNot every request needs to be hard work. If your teens tell you there is a party, say “That’s great. I’m happy you are going to have good time”.

If your teens say they want to buy something, say “Yes, it’s about time you got new sneakers”.

If your teens ask “Can I go to…” and you are not sure, tell them you need time to think about it. If you agree, say “I thought about it and it is fine”.

Make sure that your approval is not conditional, as in “You can go on one condition…” This is almost like saying “Yes, but no” and it will work against you. Instead, say “Yes” and state your concern at “eye level”.

#5 – Remember “please” and “thank you” (’cause they’re the magic words)

If you want kids to be respectful, be respectful to them. Teens with good manners are more successful than rude ones. Friends, teachers, bosses and other grownups relate to them better when they are polite. If you want your teens to relate well to grownups, use the words “please” and “thank you” as often as you can.

The more polite you are, the more you pass on the message of using respectful language to your teens. When you thank your kids for their help, you teach them to be appreciative. Appreciative language towards your teens will attract appreciative language back and more help.

#6 – Remind your teens how much you love them

“Love is all we need” are the famous words of the Beatles’ song. Many parents say “Of course I love my kids”, but forget that hearing it again and again is one of the sweetest things. We all need to feel love. Every expression of love adds confidence to our life – confidence in our relationships, confidence in ourselves and confidence in our environment.

Count your expressions of love to your teens every day. Unfortunately, one of the most common expressions – touch and hugs – declines during the teen years. Kids are hugged a lot as babies and, as they grow older, they get fewer cuddles and less loving physical touch.

We all need hugs. Just think of how you feel after a loving hug with your partner and realize that your teens need it even more, because they do not have a partner who hugs and kisses them whenever they go to bed.

Hug your teens 12 times a day and make sure that no day passes without saying how much you love them.

Father and teen son

If you need ideas, here are a few:

  • “I am so proud of you for…”
  • “I love you”
  • “You are my angel”
  • “You are the best kid in the world”
  • “I was given a gift – you”

#7 – Encourage your teens

Without much experience, teens’ life is hard. Research on emotional intelligence has found that young kids have a natural drive to try things because of lack of experience. They will try doing things that seem impossible long after teens will give up. Unfortunately, the older the kids, the less motivated they are to try – failure experiences will discourage them easily. By the time they get to their teen years, kids are so discouraged that they will not even try to conquer assignments that seem too hard at first glance.

This is where parents can help a lot. Encourage your kids to try one more time, to push themselves just a little bit more and to try another approach. Teach them that you may not know the answer but you certainly know that giving up means they will never find the answer either. Tell them stories of bravery and remind them that bravery does not mean doing dangerous or stupid things but standing up for what you believe, even if you are not the majority, even if you are not chosen, even if you are not the winner and even if you have to work harder than others.

Teach your teens the importance of the process and not the end result. Remind them it is important to learn things during the year, regardless of the final score on the end-of-year exam. Remind them that after an unpleasant event, they are wiser and know more than before. Help them erase “giving up” from their dictionary.

#8 – Compliment your teens

Father and teen sonEveryone loves a compliment. Though we need to learn to fill up our own compliment tank and not depend on others’ “charity”, we all love to get a helping hand from other sources who tell us we are good, wonderful, caring, passionate, understanding, successful, and the list of complements is endless.

It is very important to highlight our teens’ positive sides, to help them see them on their own. We do not need them to win a prize and have millions of people around them saying how wonderful they are. We can tell them we think they are wonderful to their face. Some parents are embarrassed to say it to their own kids, only because they have never heard it from their own parents. My parents are a wonderful example of this. I only ever heard that my dad thinks highly of me from other people. Though I enjoyed it greatly, whenever he says something nice to me himself, it is worth 1,000 times more in my compliment tank.

Some compliments are worth more in the tank, depending on the teen’s needs. Most parents can tell which compliments mean more than others. If a teen is not fussy about sport, but they love to sing, telling them “Wonderful basketball game” will not be as valuable as “You sang well”.

It is simple and you think these thoughts anyway. Just say them out loud! Make sure to give your teens compliments every day. Before you go to sleep, ask yourself “Did I declare my love to my teen today?” or “Did I add something to my teen’s compliment tank?”

It is never too late, either. Even if they are sound asleep and you remember late at night, you can always write them a love or a compliment note for when they wake up in the morning.

Happy parent-teen-ing,

Here is another great way to
connect with your teens:
give them my book
“Be Special, Be Yourself for Teenagers”

Be Special, Be Yourself for Teenagers by Ronit Baras
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  • http://www.freeingyourchild.com Tamar Chansky

    Ronit, thanks for this great post about teens. I especially appreciate the idea that because teens may give up more easily, that parents need to work with them to push themselves, keep trying, and make use of the learning experiences rather than trying to “hide the failures.” I write about these issues too in my new book, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a LIfetime of Resilience, Flexibility and Happiness. I think that parents of kids of all ages need help with how to maneuver through challenge and disappointment when the tendency is to try to make it all better. It is really best when parents can make it safe for kids to try (even when they don’t know that they will succeed) and see that this is the pathway to success and happiness.

    Tamar Chansky, Ph.D.

  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/index.php/about/ Ronit Baras

    Thank you Tamar for visiting the site.
    I can see you are passionate about kids too.
    I agree, parents need help to handle their best experience ever.
    It sounds like you are talking about parents as coaches – I like the idea too. (Well, obviously as a life coach, I can see that this approach works) As coaches, we can be facilitators even though we do not know all the answers. We trust the process and do not necessary focus on the end result – it really works.
    Thanks again for visiting the site and wishing you lots of success with your book – it is defiantly a topic that worth writing about.

    Happy day

  • http://freedofollow.com/blog Gert Hough

    This post needs to get read by more people. What I like about the post most is that it is drawing the parent into being a positive and very much active role model.

    I also believe that while promoting the positive you make less room for the negative – and it is much more fun than being focussing on the negative. Lovely post, Ronit.

  • http://www.behappyinlife.com Ronit Baras

    Hi Gert,

    Thank yo for your comment.
    I do hope more and more people will read it.
    I feel teens have such a bad image and if we want them to behave differently we need to be positive parents.

    come again
    Happy parenting
    Parenting Coach

  • Benni Sand


    I’m an older Sister in the parenting role. My mother is ill and my father often leaves me to deal with certain situations. Which I understand. Obviously trying not to “spoil” my sister because she doesn’t have the same safe environment I had as a child I am much firmer than anyone (and I have had to deal with a lot of negative and hurtful criticism like I am emotionally abusive or bullying my sister). She is very manipulative – she only cries when one of the parents are around and she has even told me she be haves like that to prove to me she can be as strong as I am. I understand that being a teen with a sick mum and a father who works a lot is difficult, and hormones boys and the “mean-girls”in school it all very difficult to deal with. Then me being the strict person she has around ( my dad is only strict when it comes to her school like bad grades or if she wants something she can’t have and misbehaves) telling her to put her stuff away and do her chores (which isn’t much) and constantly reminding her “shower,brush your teeth, put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket etc.)

    Now to my question:

    It makes it difficult for me being the sister and in the Parent-substitute person but how do I deal with this. I have often stopped myself from saying something really mean/hurtful or struggle with staying calm when she has a very negative “bratty” attitude towards me. I don’t want that because I had to help raise her that when we’re older that she hates me or that we wont talk.

    We talk a lot and she tells me her secrets, we generally get on very well and just because my mum is ill I can’t let not be responsible.

    And I’ve tried the laissez faire approach. She didn’t shower brush her teeth do her homework (or anything for that matter) for almost two weeks!


  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ ronitbaras


    How old are you?
    It is not fair for you to have to be a parent, it is not a choice you have made but…
    My older daughter is another mother to my youngest ( 13 years gap) and I think it can be a great influence.
    There is no such a thing as spoiled kid. Giving kids what they need will not spoil them. If you think someone is spoiled it only means those who gave him something did not give him what he really needed.
    When kids manipulate it only means they live in a “jungle” and must survive.
    I had many fights with my younger sister who was 3 years younger than me. I hated her guts. she hated mine. one day, I was 16, she was 13 and the youngest was 7, we sat and talked and have made a decision to do everything together. We were so supportive of each other that our life changed dramatically.
    Try to be positive. say “Thank you” and “please” without anger.
    When things are OK. ask her ” would you like me to help you?” – make sure to do it when everything is good, not when there is stress and fights.
    Go to her and say ” I need your help” ” can you please help me?” be calm. never be angry if she says “No”.
    Tell her 10 good things every day and try to increase it every day.
    I have a rule that works 100% – if you don’t have anything good to say – shut up! ( not saying is better than saying rude, sarcastic, painful things.
    Work on yourself, develop confidence and strength from within. I know it is hard because you don’t have good role models. Find a family member who is a good role model and hang around this person as much as you can.

    Read chapters in this blogs about building your self esteem and confidence.
    Good luck


  • Benni Sand

    I’m 23 years old (11 year difference) and I’m generally a positive person. It’s not like I abuse my power by being mean.
    I love my sister very much and I believe she loves me too. Everyone argues and I’m not letting one bad day or bad mood define my sisters and my relationship.
    I don’t think she manipulates because she needs to survive but because she wants to be “left alone” doing what she wants.
    Her response to me telling her she can’t do what she want is “But you do what you want”
    Me being 23 years old and making my own decision like going out until 6 in the morning or shaving my head comes with responsibility. I have to work and pay my Uni-Fees and what not.
    I tried many times to explain to her that I actually don’t do what I want when I want it BECAUSE society doesn’t allow that. If I want to be a Doctor and travel the World I have to work.


    She got an equivalent to an American E in Maths and I asked her why she is not working harder (she had a B in the previous Test) and told her she’s not stupid and that I don’t understand how she got from a B to an E.

    Coming from a very academic Family this is quite a “big deal”.

    People (her Teachers and Classmates) seriously underestimate her and I told her “those people don’t know you and will base their opinion of you on things like this, and say you’re stupid when clearly you are not.”
    And these are the people she focuses on, so she to is saying she is stupid. She is very bright and she can be whatever she can whether is an Astronaut Doctor or even if she “just” wants to be a nurse.
    Obviously being a teen is sometimes reason enough to fail on a Test but I asked her what the reason was and she said she understood everything but she couldn’t do it during the test.

    Maybe it’s the cultural difference but I do think there is such thing as spoiling a child. Giving a child what they want or what they need is very different.
    I was raised with love, moral integrity, discipline, sovereignty,patience and not Laptops and Video Consoles.

    Saying Yes to everything because you feel guilty for “letting you child down” is wrong and not educational.
    What is that going to teach my sister?
    I know that the youngest one always gets like a free pass , and it okay, but I don’t want my sister growing up to be a bully because she doesn’t get her way because she never heard a no.

    Now to my self-esteem and confidence.

    I know who I am, meaning that I understand what I can do and can’t do my strengths and weaknesses and I accept myself for who I am. Being a young adult, or a human with needs and desires, I know that there are things I will struggle with but I’m not going to let those things stand in my way of being a healthy young woman.

  • http://www.ronitbaras.com/ ronitbaras


    23 is a grown up.

    You are like a mother to your sister.

    I think she will grow up and think of you as someone who cared for her even if now she is angry.

    I want to suggest you to read in this blog everything you can about “pink elephants” and it will help you change the language towards an empowering language.

    Instead of saying you are not stupid, you can say, ” you are smart” – say it many times, it will be a seed that will grow to a strong belief .

    I can understand growing up in an academic family can be hard for her. I work with many kids that the pressure of family takes the fun out of learning. NO, Not everyone needs to get an A and you can be very successful in life even if you are not very academic.

    The main reason to get an A is that life is so much easier when you are a top student.

    When any of my kids doing coaching say bad things about themselves, I say ” it is not allowed in my coaching” or if one of my kids say something like that I say ” I do not allow you to say bad things about my child”

    You can say ” I don’t allow you to say bad things about my sister. My sister is a very smart girl and she is destined to do amazing things in life”

    In coaching, we have a rule that we never ask a question that will risk that the client will justify something we want to eliminate. If you ask why are you smart? that is a good question. the person will come up with reasons why he/she is smart. If you ask, why are you stupid? the brain will find answers and you do not want that.

    Selligman, who is the author of the “Authentic Happiness” has an activity that makes people increase their happiness which is very simple, at the end of the day, people need to write in a diary something good that happened to them that day and why it happened that way. The what? creates focus on good things and why? brings reasons to support it.

    Never do that on bad things.

    never ask:

    Why are you talking to me like that?

    Why are you a bad student?

    Why are you saying bad things about yourself?


    So she would never hear the answer.

    If you grew up in a good way it means your parents are capable of giving the same to her. She needs love not laptops.

    I agree, she should not get everything she wants.

    She is a kid, she doesn’t know any better. Not because she is teen and hormonal but because she has no life experience. .

    You sound like a very loving, caring, responsible sister. Parenting is not your job and you still have to do it without the power of being a parent and without growing into it.

    Find things you can do with your sister, fun things that will increase the bond between you. She will look up to you and use you as a role model.

    Keep planting seeds in her mind that she is wonderful awesome smart, caring, able, friendly, creative, talented and respectful and it will grow. I promise!
    there is no kid in the world who don’t want to believe it.
    Good luck and thanks for sharing.