My mother often says she was never as stupid as when her children were teenagers. In other words—she claims—my brother and I thought (nah, we knew) we had all the answers and our parents just Didn’t Get It. This phase of childhood, in which a teenager reaches the physical size of an adult human but without a fully developed frontal lobe to match, can be challenging.
A teenager’s decisions and preferences are more likely to be based on emotion than on logical reasoning. If it suddenly feels like your teenager is battling you over every little thing, that’s because they’re trying to carve out their independence, particularly as their peer relationships become the more dominant influence in their lives.
This is actually not the time to reinvent the disciplinary wheel, but the time to fall back on the tried and true techniques that have gotten you to this point. Model the behaviors you want them to emulate. Look for natural consequences to misbehavior, and continue to utilize those “when/then” statements as needed. (“When you finish your chores, then you’ll get your phone back.”)
Teenagers may not want clear boundaries, but they feel more secure when you provide them. They need you to stand firm in the areas you deem most battle-worthy; and they still want you to recognize and praise them for their accomplishments.
And, most importantly, they still need to feel the unconditional love that was so much easier to give them way back when they’d climb into your lap 15 times a day to cuddle—so give ‘em a hug! Make time to connect with them, and tell them you’re proud of them. They might roll their eyes, but they’ll also probably crack a smile because deep down, they need to hear it.
And finally—just because they’re a grown adult doesn’t mean they’re not still your kid. But it does obviously mean you can’t really discipline them the way you once did.