Raising a teenager can be very challenging and the constant power struggles and defiance that define the adolescent years can be exhausting. While these emotional years are a time for kids to test their independence, each generation is more heavily bombarded by elements and opportunities to get them in trouble and less likely to obey their parents. Exposure to violent media, pornography, drugs or alcohol, sexual promiscuity, cyber-bullying and gang activity are all things that can affect healthy development. Parents of troubled or particularly defiant teens need to be vigilant in order to help their teen avoid activity that could result in permanent consequences. It can be helpful to know what to look for in your teen as you work to keep your child safe and healthy.
- Abrupt Change – During the adolescent years, the pre-frontal cortex is still growing and reorganizing. If you notice dramatic changes in things such as values, beliefs, attitudes, social group, appearance and relations with authority figures, you may need to dig a little deeper to determine what your teen is up to.
- Irresponsible – A pattern of irresponsibility, such as manipulating, lying, being consistently late or not showing up are also warning signs.
- Unstable – Depression is one of the hallmarks of the teen years; however, extreme versions of moodiness, agitation, belligerence, sadness or hostility should lead to a consult with a therapist specializing in teen behavior. Severe hopelessness or talk of suicide are warning signs and you should seek professional help immediately.
- Defiance – Extreme defiance is something that every parent of a troubled teen will face. Yelling, threatening, rebellion and outright refusal should be met with consistent and meaningful consequences
What Do I Do Now?
Troubled teens and their parents can greatly benefit from behavioral modification therapy. In essence, it is a system of rewards and consequences for right or wrong behavior. What sets it apart from regular discipline is that the rewards are considered more powerful and therefore get the most emphasis. Individuals are guided to adopt better skills rather than simply learn all the things they shouldn’t do.
If your troubled teen’s behavior is jeopardizing his health, his education, his social relationships or his safety, it may be time to talk to a professional. A therapist who has experience working with teens can help you determine the severity of the problem as well as a plan of action to make sure you are able to effectively parent while your teen is working on positive changes. Taking steps to get professional help may be the best thing you can do for your troubled teen and for your family.