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Parenting Hacks that Worked: How to Change Your Teen’s Behaviors

Have you ever had an ongoing behavioral problem with your teen that you just couldn’t solve? Parenting hacks that other parents have come up with—that actually worked—can be so helpful. The Your Teen editorial staff shares some of the solutions that worked for us to change our teenagers’ behavior.

My son was in middle school, and he had developed an annoying habit of not doing his homework—or even worse, doing the homework but not turning it in.

Nagging, punishments, lectures—nothing seemed to work. We finally realized that we couldn’t appeal to any sense of duty, pride in his work, or desire for good grades because those things did not motivate him. So we reflected on what was most important to him, and not surprisingly, it was time spent with friends playing video games.

So every Friday, he had to bring home a piece of paper signed by all of his teachers saying that he was current on his work or listing any missing assignments. If he was current, then great, the weekend was his to play video games and have computer time. If not, tough luck, pal. Forgot to get the paper signed? Gee, that’s too bad, gonna be a lot of book reading this weekend, I guess. This put the onus and all the pain on him to get his work done and to check in with teachers, instead of on us to monitor his online student portal. When it affected what he cared about most, he suddenly was able to “remember” his homework. We still occasionally had issues with forgetting assignments, but this approach was about 90% effective.

Jane Parent, Senior Editor

Some kids (not yours or mine, naturally–our kids are perfect, of course) will lie when they wish something were true.

“Did you brush your teeth/study for the test/take your meds?” Yeah, Mom. Here’s a simple solution that gets more honest answers: Allow for the possibility that they didn’t do it. “Did you brush your teeth/study for the test/take your meds, or do you still need to do that?” A few more words from me, a lot more truth-telling and cooperation from them.

Sharon Holbrook, Managing Editor

When my daughters were starting to drive, we came up with a contract regarding our expectations and acceptable behaviors when driving the car.

We came up with consequences together for when those expectations were not met. When there was a problem we didn’t need to say anything; we put out our hand and they dropped the keys in there and knew that their car privileges had been revoked for the predetermined time mutually agreed to days/weeks/months before.

Eca Taylor, Circulation & Data Manager

Family vacations got harder to plan with teenagers.

Everyone wanted to do something different, and no one wanted to be told what the plans were. I learned the hard way that asking for suggestions meant someone won and someone lost. The suggestions that weren’t picked left someone frustrated and unhappy. I discovered the plan that worked for my family. I make plans with my husband. We decide what we want to do. Then I share our plans with everyone and ask who wants to join us. No one gets mad. And typically everyone joins in, resulting in tension-free family vacations (Haha). The best outcome—the plans evolve with much less stress.

Susan Borison, Editor

One of my sons lived for video games when he was younger.

For better or worse, we had a policy that they could only play on the weekends. If he could have moved his bed to the basement on Friday at 3:01 when he got home from school, he would have (although he would not have slept). No food necessary either, he was that intense.

While we did appreciate the extended hours of quiet and his siblings enjoyed not being annoyed by him, we knew that we couldn’t just leave him down there. Therefore, I gave him a stack of notecards and every morning when he woke up, he had to make a list of all the things he had to do before he could play X-Box.

This list included things like homework, chores, and reading as well as places he had to go – like religious school or soccer games – so that he knew when he had to be dressed and ready to leave the house. When he completed what was on the list, he had to come see a parent and go over everything that he had completed. Sometimes, this review led to some re-doing, but most of the time, he was so focused on getting to where he wanted to be that he was completely on point.

And we didn’t have to remind him to get ready (as much – let’s face it; no hack is perfect). He still got his time with FIFA and NBA Live, and we got him to take care of what he needed to do before immersing himself in what he wanted to do. The best unintended benefit? To this day, he wakes up in the morning and makes a list of what he wants to accomplish – and he’s 21.

Jody Podl, Digital Content Editor

When my son was in middle school, rather than taking the bus home (it was not cool, too long, too hot blah, blah, blah), he and a friend would hang around the parent pick up area and ask friends’ parents for a ride home, claiming they missed their bus.

One day, after being told not to do this and to take the bus home, my son called. He and two friends were at school, the bus had left, and they had no way to get home, because they had hung around hoping for a ride. Walk, was the answer. And walk they did, 2+ miles home. One of their middle school coaches passed them about half way home. He stopped and asked where they were going. When they told him (at least they were honest), the coach replied, “I love it, good for your moms! Enjoy your walk!” They never missed the bus again.

Mindy Gallagher, Social Media Manager

When my kids do something that warrants an apology, I prompt them with this: “Saying you’re sorry isn’t enough. What can you do to make up for it?”

Having them think about the damage they’ve caused and how they can best compensate for it has led to them being more likely to resolve conflicts without needing to be prompted. There are still days when my house feels more like an episode of Game of Thrones than the peaceful home I want it to be, but I’ve seen their empathy grow and I don’t feel like Mean Mom doling out punishments because they know that the responsibility falls on them.

Kristina Wright, Digital Editorial Manager

Want more Parenting Hacks?

What’s for dinner? Worst question ever, am I right?

There are so few dinners I can make that everyone will eat. One kid is a vegetarian, and the other is what I call a “selectatarian.”  After years of being a short-order chef, I came up with a different strategy. Instead of providing customized meals for everyone, I let them know what the main dish is that I am serving, as well as some additional items we have on hand that they are free to substitute or supplement for their meal. For example, “Dad and I are having meatloaf and baked potatoes. There are some black beans and cheddar cheese in the fridge if you want to build your own baked potato.” Throw in a salad and voila—dinner is done.

Jennifer Proe, Sponsored Content Editor

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