Teen Out of Control Behavior: Handling Defiance, Anger and Poor Grades

It’s a relatively normal developmental milestone for teens to begin to show signs of rebellious or defiant behavior. In some situations, things can take a turn towards the more challenging. Your teen may display signs of anger towards everyone in the family. His once sweet personality may take a turn for the defiant and dark.

He may also start to see his grades slipping as he spends less time focused on his education. He could start to skip school entirely, which can be concerning as you start to worry about his ability to get into a good university. His entire future can be potentially riding on his ability to get good grades and maintain a positive crime-free life.

These parenting challenges are rarely discussed on social media amongst parents or even amongst friends dealing with troubled teens.

Getting to the bottom of the defiance and anger

Poor grades and a lack of interest in his education and future can often be just part of the fallout that comes from a defiant attitude and the anger your teen is expressing.

But just what is to blame for his defiance and the anger that he is displaying?

For many, living with depression and anxiety can lash out due to not knowing how to handle what they are feeling. Someone may be in the midst of a depressive episode or having extreme anxiety over something in their life but come across as really angry and defiant. This can be confusing, but it’s important to recognize whether your teen is struggling with his mental health and is not just being a jerk to you.

Is your teen struggling at school or with his peers? If your teen is not depressed, your teen may not know how to handle his struggles. This can lead to him lashing out at the people he’s closest to. Our children and teens often turn their frustration and upset on their parents, knowing that their parents are their safe space.

Tackling defiance head on

It’s important, as a parent, that you don’t engage in arguments with your defiant teen. Engaging in arguments with a teen who feels every inch the rebel as he stands up to you will only encourage the behavior.

Establish household rules. These rules are non-negotiable and should be followed by everyone living in your home. They could include having everyone be responsible for certain chores, and of course, having a good attitude. Your teen doesn’t need to turn into a sunshine and roses kind of person suddenly, but he does need to speak in a respectful tone to you and other members of the family.

Make it clear what the consequences are for breaking the rules of the household. With a defiant teen who is prone to arguing, you can’t have any room for interpretation. If he violates a rule, stays out past curfew, or is rude and disrespectful, he should know the consequence.

Offer a focus on positive behaviors and attitudes. When your teen strays from his unpleasant defiant attitude, be sure to recognize it and praise him for it. This could be as simple as recognizing that he took out the trash without being prompted. Or it could be as monumental as getting through a family dinner with good conversation and a distinct lack of disrespect and poor behavior.

Acknowledge their positive behaviors. Here are some examples:

  • “Thank you for taking out the trash. It’s appreciated.”
  • “Thank you for being such good company at dinner. I enjoyed our conversations.”

These little acknowledgments can help him to make more shifts away from the defiant attitude he’s been toting.

Approaching the anger

You may want to respond with anger to his angry outbursts. As tempting as it may be, it’s better to keep a cool and level head when approaching an angry teenager. If you find yourself in an angry space, take a moment to regroup and refocus your emotions.

Make it clear to your teen that his anger is misplaced. Ask him whether there is something else that’s bothering and upsetting him. Ensure he knows that he can always talk to you and confide in you. Yours should be a space that’s judgment-free and open to discussion.

If your teen begins to display signs of violence, make safety your priority. Don’t hesitate to call law enforcement to your home if needed. They will understand what you are facing, help ensure that everyone in the house is safe, and often offer resources for every member of the family.

If he is violent towards himself, consult a mental health professional who is well versed in the needs of self-destructive teens.

Help your teen learn better and healthier ways of expressing his anger. What works for one teen may not work well for another. It can take a bit of trial and error for all teens and parents to find the best solution.

Other ways to help your angry teen:

  • Encourage your teen to participate in physical activity when he feels the anger beginning to surge. The urge to do something physical when anger takes over is strong in many of us. Encouraging your teen to hit a punching bag, ride his bike or go for a walk or run can help alleviate some of that tension he is feeling.
  • Remind your teen of just how much music can help him to refocus. Listening to favorite music can help your teen take a well-needed time out from what he is feeling. Whether he’s angry at you, angry at a sibling, or doesn’t know why he’s feeling anger, turning up the music and tuning out can help him to refocus.
  • Help your teen to learn to identify the triggers that are leading to angry outbursts. If he can connect what is leading to those bursts of anger, the more control he will be able to take when it comes to expressing how he is truly feeling.
  • Work with your teen to find a creative outlet for him. Sometimes writing, music, or another artistic pursuit can be an effective way for a teen to express and understand the anger he is feeling.

Dealing with the poor grades

If your teen couldn’t be bothered with school, helping him refocus could be as simple as helping him understand the importance of getting a good education. It could also be that your teen is struggling with the workload. Talk to him about school and his relationships at school as well. He may have a significant personality conflict with a teacher or a coach that you didn’t know about.

Speak to your teen when cooler heads prevail to find out what is going on. Good communication with your teen needs to be the cornerstone of the evolving relationship with him.

Talk to his teachers, coaches, and school administrators. They may have an insight as to what is going on, and they may offer solutions and resources to help your teen get his education back on track.

Get your teen a tutor. Working closely with a tutor can help your teen focus and help to fill in any knowledge gaps he may have. Some teens, particularly those with ADHD, don’t do as well in a larger classroom setting. More individualized attention from an educator or tutor can often prove beneficial.

It could be that your teen needs a fresh start in a new school and environment that will better support his needs. There are several options to help your teen get this fresh start, including a residential treatment center focusing on his mental wellness and education.

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