How to Deal with a Difficult Teenager to Save your Marriage

Barbara Firer
How to deal with a difficult teenager

Is your difficult teenager putting a strain on your marriage? 

The teenage years can be very stressful; for the teen and the parents alike! Challenging behavior, regular arguments and difficulty keeping tabs on a wayward teen are common and difficult family issues. Teenagers are hard to handle for any parent, so learning how to deal with a difficult teenager could well strengthen a struggling marriage.

Disciplining your Teen

Teens seem to fall into conflict with regular ease. They often display poor communication skills that leave parents second guessing where they are, who they are with and what they are up to.

Before tackling an issue or disciplining a teenager, parents need to talk through their expectations as well as the disciplinary options for transgression of these. It is vital that parents are on the same page and put on a united front with their teenager. This not only helps give a clear and consistent message to the teenager (and prevents them from manipulating any obvious areas of disagreement between their parents) but it also prevents the issue from creating a rift in your marriage.

Advice: Discuss the issue with your spouse and jointly agree on how you are going to handle it. You can speak to your teenager together or individually but the important thing is that they get the same message from both of you. They should clearly understand what your expectations are and how you will deal with them should these not be met. 

Feel the Love

Unruly teens should be dealt with firmly. However the fact that you are disciplining them needs to be coupled with clear statements of love. They should understand that you may dislike their behavior but you love them to bits.

Advice: Even if you don’t think your declarations of love are registering with your surly teen continue to reaffirm your love for them. Rest assured this really is important and whether acknowledged or not, it does hit the mark.


Teenagers often feel weighed down by the demands of their lives; they have school, family, social, emotional, physical and other pressures on their young shoulders – which they are often trying to navigate with a higher degree of independence.

Teenagers are going through the difficult transition from childhood to adulthood. They are on a journey of self-discovery and are often very self-critical. They may stumble through quite challenging situations; peer drinking or drug taking, lost friendships, first relationships and more. They may not feel comfortable discussing any of these issues with a parent and you may feel very left out and ill-informed about their what’s going on in their lives.

Advice: Now is the time to change how you relate to your teen. You need to give them information and advice and encourage them to use that to make wise choices in their lives. Try to encourage communication and agree between yourselves not to be judgmental.

In short, help your teenager to develop their own views and make their own independent decisions but position yourselves as a trusted sounding board. This may take some adjustment from you, as parents you have been used to making decisions for them and enforcing these; now is the time to work with your teen and prepare them to stand on their own two feet.

If you continue to treat them like a child then you may just push them away and encourage rebellion. Be prepared for a bumpy ride with your teen making some great decisions you are proud of but also making mistakes along the way. Rest assured, sometimes the best way to learn is from mistakes. If you need help with changing the way you parent your teens seek guidance on this.

Be Open

Don’t shy away from difficult topics. If your teen brings up sex, drugs or other hot topics give them your views. Honestly explain the risks and talk to them about sometimes having to resist peer pressure and make good choices by themselves.

Advice: Always encourage open and honest discussion with your teen. If they don’t seem able to bring up difficult topics you could discuss them when they come up naturally, perhaps after watching a film or soap opera on TV.  This natural discussion may be a nice, relaxed way to impart some parental guidance.


Give your teenager responsibilities; allow them to prove their skills and abilities. You may be able to give them pocket money for regular chores. Something else that may work for you is to get them involved in a family decision, for example by asking them to shop around for an item you need to buy. Always praise them when they do a good job. Help them have a positive self-image and to understand their strengths.

Advice: Keep your teen involved in family life. Reward them for their efforts and give them affirmation of their skills.

Your teenager may trigger all sorts of pressures in your life and in your marriage. Don’t let the stress of parenting your troubled teen cause division between you and your spouse. Deal with your difficult teenager as a team and feel the strength that this gives you to get through these stressful years.

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