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Conventional wisdom suggests that teens are difficult and that parents must suffer through these parenting years. Many people think of teens as self-absorbed and entitled, emotionally volatile and defiant.

Many parents find their teenage children to be challenging. Think about your teen and ask yourself which behavior you want to change or reinforce in your teen. Consider the following options: studying harder or getting better grades; honoring their weekend curfew; not talking back or being disrespectful; and reducing the amount of time spent playing video games or using the computer or phone. Because teens are working so hard during this period to assert their independence, they don’t want to follow parents’ orders or suggestions. Try using any of the incentives below to get your teen to do what you want them to do.

Your kid gets to choose the next vacation spot for the family. Obviously there needs to be parameters on this one. You get final approval and you specify the number of days of the trip and all the traveling details. The good news is that you’d be surprised how motivated your teen can be if you let him or her choose the next vacation destination. Say to your teen, “If you [insert the behavior you want to see in your teen], you will get to choose the next vacation spot. The vacation could be as simple as a day trip or as long as a week because you get to make those decisions.

Your kid gets a gift card for the store of his or choice. For some teens, it will be clothes; for others, it may be video games. The amount of the gift card is up to you. Gift cards are powerful motivators, period.

Your kid gets to host a dinner for friends at his or her favorite spot, and you will simply show up at the end to pay the bill. Deep down, all kids really want is to feel like grownups. This incentive can be a very powerful motivator.

If your kid is driving age, do not suggest that he or she has regular access to a car. From the beginning, make it more of a weekly contract. For good behavior, you renew the contract for a week; for bad behavior, you don’t provide access to the car for the next week. It really is that simple.

If your kid is driving age, you pay for the gas when you see get the behavior you want from your child. Kids don’t have a lot of money, so rewarding them financially goes a long way, especially with teenagers.

Let your kid do something special or unique with their hair. First, I don’t believe that parents should dictate how their child wears their hair. Why? It’s not their hair! Kids aren’t possessions and neither is their hair. Pay for your kid to get their hair cut the way they’ve always wanted; let your daughter get a special blowout; or let them get a high-fashion hairstyle from a fancy salon in town. My son, for example, is 8 years old and he begs me to let him use gel to style his hair in a Mohawk. I told him he can start using gel when he is ten years old. Simply put, he is a kid that would be highly motivated to change a behavior if it meant that he could get a cooler haircut.

Pay for your kid to take a cool extracurricular class in the community. Examples: karate, art, cosmetology, and so on.

The takeaway

Teens aren’t the only ones who need a little motivation to do the right thing. As adults, we make deals with ourselves all the time: If I do this, I will get myself that. Use the same logic with your teens. The most important thing in dealing with teens is to give them a sense that they have some control in the situation, so be creative and make them feel that they have choices!