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What Is Considered Defiant Behavior In Teens?

As the parent of a teenager, you can expect some tension. During the teen years, kids try to exert more independence and do things on their own. However, they will also try to do some things that you don’t allow them to do, and they will likely question your authority.

Your teen might test the limits of your rules, or they might even flagrantly break your rules. While your teen is going through this phase, it’s essential to know the difference between typical teenage behavior and defiant behavior.

Almost all teens will push back against their parents’ authority from time to time. Some teens take their rebellion further and display defiant behavior.

What is defiant behavior in teens?

All kids are going to power struggle with their parents or be oppositional from time to time. Little kids might throw a temper tantrum to get their way. They might cry or fight back when you try to bathe them or get them dressed in the morning.

As they get older, they might be cranky sometimes and try to skirt the rules. This is all expected when you have a kid. However, some teens struggle with authority more than others.

Defiant behavior in teens shows up as rebellion against authority. Teens diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are more likely to fight back against all authority. They might defy your rules at home, get in trouble at school, or even get into legal trouble. According to the CDC, ODD tends to begin around elementary or middle school.

Some signs of defiant behavior include:

  1. Ignoring rules

  2. Frequently arguing with authority figures

  3. Purposefully annoying or antagonizing others

  4. Blaming other people when they get in trouble

  5. Becoming easily annoyed or irritated

  6. Abusing drugs or alcohol

  7. Having trouble maintaining friendships

  8. Getting angry or aggressive easily

  9. Seeking revenge or acting spitefully

  10. Acting impulsively without thinking through consequences

  11. Refusing to follow directions

If your teenage son is displaying signs of defiant behavior, contact us for more information about how to help him.

Teens with ODD run the risk of getting into serious trouble or creating lifelong problems for themselves. When ODD is addressed proactively, teens have a better chance of learning to overcome it.

Strategies for parenting a defiant teen

Parenting a teenager is tough in general. Even if they don’t have ODD, you can still expect your teen to be defiant at times. As teens start to grow into adults, they want more freedom. They want to do what they want when they want to, but they still have to live by their parents’ rules. This dynamic can create friction in any household.

Raising a teen who has ODD can be complicated. Along with all of the usual teen angst, your teen comes with unique parenting challenges. They might fight you on every little thing and make your home life much more unhappy.

Here are some strategies for parenting a defiant teen.

1. Set clear rules

Make your household rules extremely clear. Defiant teens tend to pick apart every rule, look for loopholes, and exploit any chance to buck the system. This can lead to extra arguments and frustration on your end.

By making your rules extremely clear, you reduce the need to argue. When your kid tries to say that they didn’t break the rule or tries to blame someone else, you can point to the rule.


  1. Unclear: Make good grades in school.

  2. Clear: Establish which classes your son is taking in school that semester. He needs to pass each one of those classes for the entire semester. This includes making a passing grade on every single quiz, test, project, homework assignment, or any other graded assignment.

2. Set clear consequences for following or breaking rules

Teens with ODD will try to argue with you about their rules and their consequences. When you set a rule, set clear consequences for following or breaking that rule.

Again, this will help remove the need for arguing. If your teen already knew the rules and already knew the consequences, there’s no real need to discuss it further.


  1. If you earn a grade less than passing, you lose your video game privileges until you earn a passing grade in that same class.

  2. If you consistently earn passing grades in all classes for two full school weeks (10 school days), you earn something you’ve wanted that the parent feel is appropriate for that time frame.

3. Review the rules and expectations with your teen

If your teen is up for it, try to get their input when setting their rules and consequences. Let them know that you’re trying to reduce the amount of arguing in the house and that you want your relationship with each other to be happier.

Chances are, they want to have a happy home life too.

Once you have set all of the rules and consequences, review them together. Make sure that your teen understands all of it and see if they have any clarifying questions. Then, officially agree on the plan.

For many teens with ODD, it’s beneficial to create a household contract and have them sign it. That way, you can reference the agreement later when they try to argue with you about the rules they agreed to follow.

4. Emphasize the positive

Teens with ODD are used to being in trouble. They anticipate that their parents (and most authority figures in their lives) will be mad at them and focus on what they’re doing wrong, but this only fuels the fire. If they feel like they’re always in trouble anyway, then they might as well do whatever they want.

When your teen does something right, acknowledge it. This may seem trivial, but it matters. You’re going to be correcting your teen a lot. You need to emphasize the positive things they do so that they don’t always feel like they’re in trouble.

5. Get help as needed

Teens with severe ODD often suffer from other mental health problems as well. They might also have ADD, ADHD, or other behavioral disorders.

If you are worried that you can’t handle your son’s behavior alone at home, get additional help. Contact us today for more information about our therapeutic boarding school for troubled boys.

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