High School

Grades 9 - 12 Behavior

How can I help my child at home?

Social and emotional development during high school can be difficult for parents and their teenage children. They continue to need boundaries while they work on how to be independent and how to form more adult relationships. These developments can put parents and teenagers into conflict and may result in challenging behaviors for your child. Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) provide ways for children to meet their needs in ways that don't result in "acting out" behaviors. School districts are increasingly using these approaches as ways to help reduce challenging behavior and increase appropriate behavior. Using these approaches at home may also be effective at improving your child's behavior.

Suggestion #1

Develop Positively Worded Behavior Expectations
It can be helpful to write down a list of behaviors you want your child to show at home. When writing the list of behaviors, you may find that keeping the focus on what they should do rather than not do will prevent teenagers from resorting to troublesome patterns of behavior. Select a set of three to five behavior expectations that all family members agree on and are willing to enforce. You can then come up with a longer set of positively stated rules that can help define the expectations. Teenagers should be encouraged to help define and agree upon the behavioral expectations to help them buy into the expectations.

As a family, decide on three to five rules such as 1) Respect others, 2) Respect house property and 3) Respect yourself. Then brainstorm a list of positively stated rules such as "Use respectful language," "Ask permission before using someone else's things," "When you finish with an item, put it back in its place," and "Tell us where you are going before you go." These types of statements will work much better than a list of negative statements such as "Don't swear" and "Don't leave your things lying around the house."

Suggestion #2

Stay Calm and Be Consistent
When your teenager's behavior is unacceptable, keep in mind that when it comes to parent response less is more. Acting calm will reduce the risk of strengthening the very behavior you wish to discourage because it puts less attention on the behavior. When you remain calm, you model for your child appropriate ways to respond to difficult situations. It can be difficult to react calmly to challenging behavior. To help yourself remain calm, keep your verbal responses short and specific to the behavior. You will also find that when you are calm, you are much better able to be consistent with your consequences. It is important to remember it is not the intensity of the consequence that gives the consequence power; it is the consistency that the consequence is given.

Your daughter comes home four hours after her curfew. Instead of grounding her for an extended period of time, have her earn back her privileges by having her write a plan to come home at an earlier curfew time. Have her increase the length of her curfew time until it matches the original curfew time. She is able to earn back her original curfew if she is able to come home at the times you and she have put in her plan.

Suggestion #3

Talk to Your Teenager About Their Behavior When Everyone Is Calm
People do not think the same way when they are angry or excited as opposed to when they are calm. Calm time cannot be found in the middle of a difficult situation that is filled with strong feelings. Instead, talk when everyone is calm enough to think and talk and listen. This can occur either before or after a child's problem behavior occurs, but not during. You can use these times to talk about positive ways to handle problems in the future.

Getting your teenager to begin his homework has become a nightly struggle. You create a schedule where homework will begin every night right after dinner. You calmly remind your child during dinner, "Homework will be right after dinner. I will help you with your homework after you try it by yourself, and we are just going to try our best."

Suggestion #4

Guide Your Teenager Through Writing Their Own Problem Solving Plan
Teenagers can begin to show they want more responsibility, even when they show they are not ready to be independent. One way to help guide them toward more responsible thinking is to guide them through writing a problem solving plan. These plans should be written during neutral time when everyone is calm enough to think, talk and listen. Make sure you tell your teenager this plan is not a punishment, and it is something that you will do together.

Ask your teenager to write down what behavior they are doing that is causing problems. After they are done, ask them to write down two things they could do instead of the behavior. You will need to help make sure the "instead of" behaviors are still acceptable to you and the family. Then ask them to come up with things you could do to help prevent the behavior. Then you and your teenager could come up with a positive consequence (reward) for doing the "instead of" behavior. The reward could be something you give them, or something they could get naturally from being successful with the plan. The use of rewards may depend on how motivated your child is. Post the plan somewhere in your house that will remind both you and your teenager about the plan that you wrote together.


Are you worried that your child may have been or is being bullied? Has it been reported to you that your child may have bullied or is bullying others? Bullying is a serious problem, and all adults have a role in helping to stop it. The Center for the Study and Prevention of School Violence (2008) uses three criteria to distinguish bullying from other occurrences of misbehavior or isolated cases of aggression:

  • It is aggressive behavior or intentional harm-doing.
  • It is carried out repeatedly and over time.
  • It occurs within an interpersonal relationship characterized by an imbalance of power.

Click here for information about what bullying is and how to recognize when it is happening.
Click here for information about what parents can do about bullying.
Click here for information about what kids can do about bullying.
Click here for more information about how to respond to bullying.