Navigating a Teenager’s Bad Behavior Learned From The Ex’s House

When a marriage ends in divorce, co-parenting is the best way to ensure that your teen’s needs are met. It’s great when a teenager can spend time with both parents, with both of them playing an active part in their child’s life. 

In an ideal world, both you and your ex would collaborate in raising your teen, discussing issues and agreeing on the best way forward. However, in real life, divorce is messy and joint custody arrangements can be stressful, especially if you’re dealing with a vindictive, irresponsible ex. Co-parenting can also be difficult if both you and your ex-spouse are not on good terms. 

One problem that can arise in such a situation is when both you and your ex fail to co-parent as a team. Your children need consistent guidelines and routines to thrive and nowhere is this more important than when disciplining them. Having different ideas on discipline results in your teen being allowed to act one way at your ex’s house or even getting away with certain behavior that you might not agree with. Sometimes they can even pick up bad habits from the ex. 

Needless to say, this can throw a spanner in the works if you’ve been trying to establish certain rules and consequences with your teen. Here’s how you can deal with the problem before it becomes deeply entrenched. 

Try and improve communication with your co-parent. 

Successful co-parenting is only possible when there’s clear, consistent communication between you and your ex. No matter how acrimonious the divorce was, keep your feelings about it separate from those of your co-parenting relationship. Be respectful and let conversations between the two of you focus on your teen and what’s best for them. 

Communicate how you feel about your ex allowing your teen to get away with certain things and listen to their side of the story. Maybe what happened was a misunderstanding that can be easily cleared up or maybe it’s a sign of lazy boundary-setting and discipline on the part of your ex. You won’t know until you talk to them. 

Get on the same page about discipline. 

It’s important for both you and your ex to get on the same page about disciplining your teen. Consistency from both of you helps your teen avoid confusion and also ensures that they can’t play you against each other. 

Discuss this with your ex and outline what you both think should be healthy rules and guidelines as well as effective consequences especially around issues like curfews, homework, hanging out with friends and any off-limit activities. While the rules don’t have to be exactly the same in both households, they should be similar enough to provide consistency. 

Don’t bad mouth your ex. 

Whatever happens, don’t ever bad mouth your ex to your teen. You need to remember that your ex-spouse is still their parent and they love them regardless of what happened between the two of you. Always speak respectfully about them and find other ways to vent your feelings e.g. talking to your friend or therapist. 

Call in professional help. 

If you’ve tried addressing the issue with your ex-spouse and they refuse to stop enabling your teen’s behavior, maybe it’s time to get some professional help. While the courts won’t interfere with some decisions, they can still step in when major issues are involved e.g. allowing your teen to get away with underage drinking and other kinds of risky behavior.  

Another option to consider is family therapy. This route gets everyone involved in expressing themselves and working towards a solution together with a neutral mediator.  

If these tactics don’t work, you might consider sending your teen to a therapeutic treatment center for troubled teens. where they can receive dedicated help from qualified professionals in a supportive environment to get his behavior back on track. 

Sticking to your guns and instilling discipline in your teen might not make you the fun parent, but it will ensure your teen grows up to become a responsible adult.  

Author of this article, Tyler Jacobson, enjoys going to the mountains near his home in Draper, Utah to connect with his wife and children through camping, hiking, and quality time together. When he isn’t rebooting in the outdoors, he shares his fatherly experiences with the world through writing and creative work. Tyler shares the ups and downs of family life and the solutions he’s found through lengthy research and involvement in the industry and his own experiences to help parents everywhere. Follow Tyler on: Twitter