The 10-second parenting rule for dealing with stubborn teenagers.

If you want the end result – that is, socks picked up and the dishwasher unpacked, then this is my advice.  Pick your battle carefully and then keep your requests short and simple. Let me explain…

The reason why your teen isn’t listening could simply be that you are using too many words.  Parents often think that using more words will give them a higher chance of their request being heard.  Unfortunately, not.  If you converse for longer than 10 seconds with a teenager chances are the stakes will swing in their favour.

When too many words are exchanged, parents often get dragged into long-winded debates with their children.  By explaining the why and why nots of their requests, they give their teens ammunition to argue and manipulate with.  In turn parents get worn down and give in.

Mums, this is especially true when it comes to us. We tend to over talk and attach way too much emotion to our words.

One thing that railroads parent’s requests every time is when they talk to their teenager about their personal needs and feelings.  They might say to their teen, “I need you to understand how much this is affecting me” or “You need to know how tired I am right now.”  This is a BIG mistake.

Teenagers barely understand that their parents have feelings, let alone care about those feelings.  They also smell their parents’ fear, and have been known to use it against them.  Harsh but true.

Let me give you some 10-second examples…

Say:  I need you to put that phone down and have a shower.  It’s time to get ready for bed.

Stop talking.

Say:  In the next ad break go and pack your lunch and get your uniform ready.


No more words.

If you are a parent reading this, you are now asking me, “What do I do when they don’t move?”  If you ask your teen to do something and you don’t get a response, politely ask one more time.  Everyone deserves a second chance.  If you still don’t get a response, don’t keep asking.  That will only make you look desperate.  Talk less and do more.

Think of it like this. If the police simply asked people to stop speeding I highly doubt they would get results. That is what speeding fines are for.  Issuing the right kind of consequence, in the right way, will help motivate a teen in the right direction.  It will also save you hours of ranting, explaining and over-talking with no results.

These tips will help parents get the socks picked up a bit quicker this week!

rules for parenting teenagers
Image: Getty.

Tip 1: Find the Right Bargaining Tool

Finding the right consequence is critical, but far more difficult than it looks.  A consequence must make your teenager stop and take note, quickly, without being over the top.  Thinking through appropriate consequences before you are in the heat of the moment can save you from choosing a consequence you regret.

Some commonly used consequences include:

  • Phone time
  • Curfews
  • Television time
  • Social time
  • Time you are prepared to drive them places
  • Phone credit
  • Extra pocket money for that week
  • Money you are prepared to spend on extra curricular activities
  • Money you are prepared to spend on clothes or make up

Tip 2:  Don’t Touch Key Positives

The only thing I suggest is that you try not to use key positives in your teens’ life.  I find this ends up counterproductive.  Our teens need positives as much as they need the air they breathe.

I know that it might be tempting to touch your teen’s soccer, ballet and piano lessons, especially if they really enjoy them, but I encourage you to get more creative. Some families have told me they have literally had to buy their child something unnecessary, just so they have something to negotiate with.

While consequences sound good in theory, I find they work best for those who have ample positives in their lives to start with.  Those who struggle with depression, who are struggling socially or who are extremely stubborn may not respond well to consequences.  Parents of those teenagers usually don’t want to take many more positives away from them, they want to add them.

LISTEN: Mamamia Out Loud ponders... do parents have to crack down on teens? Post continues below.

Tip 3: A Piece by Piece Approach

For low level every day issues, try a piece-by-piece approach to issuing consequences.  For example, you could say, “If you don’t get up right now and unpack that dishwasher you won’t be going to Emily’s party.”  Once you have said that you have played all your cards.  If she doesn’t move you have no more ammunition left!


For piece-by-piece consequences say, “For every 15 minutes that dishwasher isn’t unpacked I will pick you up fifteen minutes early from Emily’s party.  If it isn’t unpacked in two hours you won’t be going at all.”  As the minutes pass, our daughters are more likely to slow down and think about what they should be doing and the consequences associated with it.  It’s true, some will get stubborn and dig their heels in and refuse to respond.  Some will learn easier than others.

Our children are not lab rats or puppets.  They are far more complex creatures than that. Although they are influenced by rewards and punishments, I hate the thought of my kids thinking that their life is a series of tit for tat reactions.

You should have a strong relationship with a teen before you tell them what to do, because rules without relationship will only breed rebellion.  Proven love is the only base which enables you to be the parent and hold a teenager accountable for their actions.

Michelle Mitchell is the founder of Youth Excel. For more great parenting advice, check out Michelle’s new book “Parenting Teenage Girls in the Age of a New Normal” (Ark House $24.99), now available at all good book stores.  Visit www.michellemitchell.org.

For more imperfect parenting advice, get the This Glorious Mess podcast in your ears here.

Or want more meaty book extracts to sink your teeth into? You can find more here.