Teenagers and Needs

Teenagers and Needs
I’ve been a child psychologist for over two and a half decades. I’ve written hundreds of articles, this one on Teenagers and Needs. The overall theme is How To Change Teenager’s Behavior, which is covered in depth in an ebook by the same title, linked to the author’s website, below. In the present article, the concept of Need is
isolated and reviewed in the context of maneuvering around sometimes
difficult-to-understand teenager’s behaviors, specifically changing
those behaviors…
When thinking about your teen’s needs, you, as the acting parent,
actually have to be a bit of a psychologist. Accurately assessing and
addressing children’s needs often changes negative behaviors more quickly than just reinforcing the opposite positive behaviors (“left column” behaviors, as described in previous articles by this author.). This is truer of teenagers than of younger children, the exception being if your kids (of any age) have a mood disorder, proper (see next series of articles).
I want the principles to be very clear. Like two year olds, teens have a strong need to individuate; that is, separate from their parents and be their own person. These needs are built into all human psyches in one form or another, and as developmental theorists state, they manifest themselves over and over at each developmental stage. So, the teen is actually expressing the same needs as the two year old, only through different more developed and complicated behaviors.
With teens, there is the added press from hormones, but the needs are the same. You deal with your teenager by giving him or her the outlet for his or her needs by reinforcing behaviors that highlight his or her many fine qualities, just like with two year olds.
Here are some categories of teen needs, disguised as wants. Not
coincidentally, these are the usual problem areas that cause teenagers
and parents to bump heads; in my terms “engage” in “The Dance.” Also not
coincidentally, these behaviors can be used as rewards. These behaviors
are really only the grist for teenager’s developmental mill, so to speak,
channeling their biological pressure and maturational imperative through
more superficial issues. But we parents have to deal with “something” to
get to the deep stuff, so in the next article in this series are twelve
commonly experienced teen “issues.”


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