How to Communicate with a Defiant Teenager

Smiling mother with her arm around her teenage son in a bright kitchen, sharing a moment of connection.

Parental Strategies: How to Effectively Communicate with Your Defiant Teenagers

Communicating with a defiant teenager can be complex and often incredibly difficult and frustrating for parents. We try to understand that a normal part of teen development is becoming more independent and testing boundaries.

We know that as hard as it is for us to see our babies grow up, it is even harder for them to deal with the torments of adolescence. However, we virtually have no relationship without the ability to communicate effectively. Instead, we live in constant fear of “what happens next.”

In this blog, we will discuss ways to communicate with a defiant teenager. The reasons for defiance and practical strategies to improve your connection with your child so you can have meaningful dialogue, improved trust, and understanding. 

Understanding Your Defiant Teen

First, let’s acknowledge that the teenage years are hard! Growing up and going through puberty not only changes their physical appearance but also their emotional and cognitive state. Your teen’s world is vastly different from the one you grew up in. 

Today’s teens face unprecedented pressures, a reality that seems overwhelming compared to how we grew up. It is easy to forget that social media and the digital age reshaped all of our expectations and experiences. 

For instance: 

  • Social Media has changed how we communicate and share information. You can share information instantly, leaving little room for thought. 
  • Connectivity is instant, and everyone has access to platforms to share their opinions and promote their cultural views. Something unthinkable when we were growing up. The downfall of the illusion of connectivity is that our ability to “connect” online has eroded face-to-face communications and made our communications shallow and superficial. We are more lonely today than ever before. (1) 
  • Mental Health Challenges are significantly prevalent among teenagers. More children are suffering from depression and anxiety, attempting suicide and feeling disconnected. (2). Our children have unrealistic expectations of themselves and others. Most teens feel inadequate and sad. 
  • The Digital Age has reshaped most aspects of our lives, from how we communicate and shop to how we study. More and more kids attend virtual school and have hundreds of “online friends,” but few have close relationships with their peers in the physical world. 


If you think about it, most of these changes are now their normal, the only thing they’ve ever known. 

Tips for Understanding Your Teen:

  • Empathizing with Their Struggles: Recognize that your teen is dealing with academic pressures, social dynamics, and personal growth, unlike anything you experienced during adolescence. 
  • Stay Informed: Keep up with the trends and technologies that interest them. This shows your willingness to enter their world.


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Strategies to Communicate with a Defiant Teenager

Active Listening

  • Practice Active Listening: Show genuine interest in their thoughts and feelings. Avoid interrupting, and make sure to understand their perspective before responding.
  • Active listening involves more than just hearing the words; it requires empathy and a willingness to understand their point of view. 
  • Avoid interrupting, especially if you are dealing with a child that has ADHD, a conduct or mood disorder. Even when you disagree or see a flaw in their reasoning. Let them say their peace (back to 1: active listening.) Everyone wants to feel heard and respected; your child is no different.

Open-Ended Questions

  • Encourage open dialogue: Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Ask for their opinion, their views, or perspective. This encourages your teen to express themselves more fully, giving you better insights into their thinking and feelings. But be careful not to sound like you are prying or distrusting them. 
  • Show them that you care about what they are saying. Most children will follow your lead; if you talk to others with kindness and respect, they are more likely to follow. If you treat them respectfully and they feel heard, they lower their defensiveness. 

Empathetic Responses

  • Validate their feelings: It’s hard to validate someone’s feelings when you feel they are in the wrong, their tone is disrespectful, or you feel provoked. But, even if you disagree with their viewpoint, acknowledge their feelings. This validation can defuse potential confrontations.
  • Instead of focusing on the differences, try to focus on the similarities. Practice empathetic responses:
    • It’s perfectly okay to feel that way.
    • I’m glad you are honest with me.
    • I can see you are hurting.
    • I’m sorry that happened to you; it must have been frustrating. 

Pick Your Battles

  • Choose What Matters: Not every disagreement needs to become a battle. Focus on truly important issues. Think about what requires correction. If you get pushback, is it worth a fight? Or can it resolve itself? Is it a phase? Sometimes, ignoring a phase is the best response because you know it will pass!


Don’t make immediate decisions. Tell them you need to think about it. Above all, stay calm. Please don’t respond to their emotions with your emotions; I know it’s easier said than done but trust me, you can do it!

Establish Boundaries

  • Set Clear Expectations: Healthy boundaries are crucial. Be clear about your expectations and the consequences of not meeting them.
  • When setting boundaries, be specific: “always, never and follow through, make sure they understand the reason for the limits. 
  • Compromise when possible. Find a way to compromise if the issue does not compromise your values. e.g., give them a choice and choose one and let them choose one but not both.

Quality Time

  • Spend Time Together: Engage in activities you both enjoy. Shared experiences can strengthen your bond.
  • Create lasting memories, cook together, have a family night where you play games or go to the movies together. 
  • Share a hobby or a class. Choose something they like, want to do, or are interested in. 

Respect Their Independence

  • Give Them Space: Allow your teen to make decisions and learn from their mistakes. This builds trust and respect.
  • Respect their space: Don’t just freely walk into their room when they are in it. 
  • Give them opportunities to practice their independence. 

Communicating with a Defiant Teenager During Stressful Times

Holidays, summer vacations, and festive seasons can be particularly challenging. Changes in routine and the pressure of family expectations can heighten tensions; therefore, be sensitive to their wants and needs. 

Tips for Navigating Stressful Times:

  • Plan Ahead: Discuss plans and potential stressors in advance.
  • Maintain Routines: Try to keep some semblance of normalcy in your teen’s routine.
  • Create a Safe Space: Ensure your teen knows they can come to you with their concerns without judgment.
  • Limit stressful situations: allow them the choice to participate in events and gatherings for a specified time and then go on to play their video games. 
  • Invite a friend: Let’s face it, family functions can be tedious for teenagers; they may not want to be the center of attention or just sit there. Encourage them to invite a friend to a family function, so they have someone to share their experience with. 

Wrapping Up: Key Takeaways on Communicating with Your Teen

Remember, effective communication with your teenager is a journey, not a destination. It requires patience, understanding, and a willingness for us to adapt. Often, we focus on the child’s behavior and attitude instead of our own. However, a defiant child does not need additional reasons to be defiant. 

Consider these strategies and implement the ones that apply. These strategies can help you foster a deeper, more meaningful connection with your teen during the holidays and throughout all the seasons of their adolescence.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late: Your child’s well-being is at stake, and we’re here to guide you through this difficult journey. Take the first step towards a brighter tomorrow by clicking the button below.

If your child’s defiance or rebellion is putting their future at risk? Act Now! Your Family’s Healing Can Begin Today, Contact Us to Get Started on the Path to Reconnection.


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Picture of John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden, Jr

John Baisden Jr is the father of seven inspiring children, and he is married to Kara, the love of his life. Together they have created a family-centered legacy by leading the way with early childhood educational advancement. John loves to write and is an author of a children’s book, An Unlikely Journey and plans to publish additional books. Show More

John is a visionary in his work and applies “outside-the-box” approaches to business practice and people development. He is the Founder of Turning Winds, along with several other organizations. He has extensive experience launching and developing organizations. His skills include strategic planning, promoting meaningful leader-member movement, organizational change, effective communication, project management, financial oversight and analysis, digital marketing and content creation, and implementing innovative ideas through influential leadership. As a leader, John seeks to empower others and brand success through collaborative work. His vision is to lead with courage, grit, truth, justice, humility, and integrity while emphasizing relational influence rather than focusing on the sheens of titles, positions, or things.

Finally, John is passionate about life and promoting equity among those who are often overlooked because of differences that frequently clash with the “norm.” He lives in Southern Idaho and loves the outdoors and the life lessons that can be learned in such an informal environment.

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