Parenting a teen is almost always fraught with challenges, but it is extra difficult when your son is engaging in activities that endanger his life or jeopardize his future. While the endless fighting and open defiance can leave you exhausted and intimidated, there are some things you can do to try to help your troubled boy change his attitude and relieve the tension in the home.
Know the difference between normal teen and troubled teen behavior
All teens will talk back at some point and all teens will push boundaries and attempt to defy rules. This is a necessary part of achieving independence and determining identity, even if it is a headache for parents. Sometimes it can be difficult to determine whether your son’s behavior is normal or not. There are some warning signs to watch for that can help you head off real trouble.
- Extreme Changes – Extreme changes to appearance are common for troubled teens, especially if it is accompanied by issues at school. Watch for evidence of self-harming behavior such as cutting, or extreme weight gain or loss.
- Increased Rebellious Behavior – While arguments are normal for teens, constant escalation, violent overtones, getting in regular fights and run-ins with police are all red flags that should be addressed
- Substance Abuse – While many teens will experiment with drugs and alcohol, habitual use is a serious problem.
- Peer Group – While teens are usually more influenced by their friends than their parents, an abrupt change in social group or a sudden desire to spend too much time alone can be considered problematic.
What Do I Do?
Every teen is different and you may need to adjust your reactions based on his greatest needs. If his behavior is imminently harmful, such as substance abuse or severe depression or self-harm, you should seek the help of a professional right away. Some things you can implement at home are:
- Consistency – Make sure your teen knows what the rules and consequences are for the household and his behavior at school. Be prepared to follow through with a meaningful punishment when he breaks the rules.
- Maintain Communication – Keeping the lines of communication open with your teen can very difficult during the adolescent years, but it is important to continue making the effort. Undesirable behavior is often caused by underlying issues and you need to make sure you consistently present options for your teen to open up if he chooses to.
- Remain Calm – When you let an argument escalate into shouting and yelling, then you are handing control over to your teen, which can actually be confusing to them. Do your best to keep calm when engaging in power struggles with your teen and walk away if you need to in order to regroup. It is up to you to show your teen a positive example of conflict management.
- Create Structure – This can include anything from reducing screen time to making sure your teen eats right and gets enough sleep and exercise. Troubled teens actually respond positively to a consistent and predictable environment.
There are times when nothing you do at home seems to be changing your teen’s trajectory. In such cases, it is a good idea to research residential treatment programs that can give your troubled teen the full time care he needs in order to make changes and transition into a healthy and successful adult.