Helping a Teen Break Negative Habits

People usually establish bad habits because they provide a reward in some form. Teenagers are no exception but are more prone to impulsive behavior than adults. It can harrowing to watch your teen pick up negative patterns. He is a few years from becoming a young adult and is eager to establish his own identity apart from the family unit. As frustrating and sometimes scary as it can be there are things parents can do to help their teenager.


Make it clear that you are still in charge by establishing boundaries that can’t be crossed. Make it clear that negative consequences will be the result of a rule being broken. When she tests you, which she probably will, follow through. In some areas you may want to negotiate rules and expectations both parties can agree upon. If necessary call in a third party.

Stay a parent

The parent-child relationship does change as the child reaches young adulthood. But for the time being you are still in charge of the household and responsible for your minor child. Sometimes it’s okay to be the “cool” parent but when he is displaying self destructive behavior don’t worry about being a friend. You’ll need to wear the enforcer hat and lay down the law.

Stay informed

Be aware of what your teen is doing. You need to know  where he is and his choice of friends. Peer pressure is a huge influence at this age so it’s important that he runs with a good crowd. Keep tuned into his progress at school as a drop in grades can be a warning sign that trouble is brewing.


While you are the parent and in charge of the household you still need to listen to her. She will become frustrated and alienated if you’re too heavy handed.  It can be difficult but keep your own temper under control. Avoid shouting even it means cooling off before dealing with a situation. There are times when she may ask for something reasonable. It’s important to pick your battles. Depending on the situation a hair color or style of clothing may not be worth a quarrel. Allowing her to make decisions will give her a feeling of an empowerment and give her some practice for when she’s on her own.

If your teen is having trouble breaking a bad habit that is less destructive such as nail biting or knuckle cracking you can suggest that he be conscious of when he does the behavior and how he is feeling at the time. If it’s difficult suggest he keep a log for about a week. Have him list his feelings and circumstances which surround his engaging in the bad habit. Once he figures out what’s triggering the behavior have him replace it with something that will give him a like feeling of satisfaction. For instance if he’s a nail biter try having him chew sugar free gum.

Bad food habits are common in teens and can lead to serious health problems down the road. Listed below are the four most common culprits and what parents can do to help their teenager.

Too many empty calories

Foods high in fat and calories like chips and cookies are tasty and stop the hunger between meals. Unfortunately they are also from what has been termed the “other food group” and can lead to health issues. As a parent in control of shopping keep fewer of these on hand and make sure healthier snacks are around. Have fruit within easy reach as well as other nutritious alternatives.

Skipping breakfast 

Breakfast is termed the “most important meal of the day” because it helps kick start the body’s metabolism which helps control her weight, improve school performance and improve her mood. If possible make breakfast part of your routine. If you can’t cook a meal in the morning have healthy food available like whole wheat toast, fruit, peanut butter or cereals low in sugar and high in fiber. 

Fast food

Grabbing something from a fast food place is tempting particularly if your teen has a busy schedule. Talk to him about wise choices when it comes eating out. Most places offer healthier alternatives to the traditional burger and fries. He can also pack healthy snacks from home for later in the day.

Drinking calories

Sugar laden drinks can pack on pounds and are basically empty calories. Talk to her about drinking flavored water or fruit juice. Avoid buying soda and keep alternatives readily available.

Remember that despite your teenager’s urge to establish his own identity  and be free of your rules, he’s watching you. He loves you and deep down knows he still needs his parents. Set a good example as much as you can and be ready to be the rule enforcer when necessary.  Both will go a long way towards encouraging him to break bad habits and establish good ones.