What Can Parents Do When Teens Are Violent?

When you’re faced with violence of any kind, it can be overwhelming and shocking. It can leave you speechless and breathless. However, when the violent behavior occurs in your own home and comes from your teen, it can be beyond overwhelming.

You could find yourself going through a range of new emotions, including denial, and trying to justify what you’ve been experiencing.

What should your next steps be?

How can you take control of the situation?

When should you reach out for help from the authorities?

Countless questions and concerns could be flying through your head as you try to navigate this new phase of parenting.

Safety is your priority

Is your teen safe?

Is he hurting himself when he’s punching walls and other objects?

Are you and the other members of your household safe?

Safety is your priority when it comes to violent outbursts under your roof.

Prioritize keeping younger children and pets safe. Then, if need be, physically remove them from the situation. Sending them to stay with other family or trusted friends can be a temporary solution as you approach the next to address the violent behavior.

If your teen is physically injured or seems like he needs medical intervention, you shouldn’t hesitate to get him seen by a doctor. This may also be a point where you need to call in the authorities to help get him to the hospital if he is challenging.

It can be helpful to develop a safety plan that will address the needs of every member of the family.

Don’t blame yourself or each other

You and any co-parents may be tempted to blame yourselves or point fingers at one another when you’re faced with angry and violent outbursts from your teen. While it’s true that none of us is immune to making mistakes at some point along the way with our kids, there are good odds that this violent behavior has nothing to do with you.

Now is not the time for parents to be divided and confused about what is going on. Instead, now is the time to present a united front when working to help your teen work through and resolve his anger issues and violent tendencies.

With that, it’s also crucial that you take a bit of time to yourself when needed. Whether this looks like an hour just sitting in the car, going for a walk, or perhaps going out of town for the weekend, the most important thing is that you allow yourself to get much-needed time to rest, relax, and refocus.

Pick your battles

Arguments are bound to happen in any family. Learn to pick your battles when arguing with your teen and other family members. Sometimes a slight disagreement overtaking his plate to the kitchen or picking up his shoes can potentially trigger your teen into an explosive and violent rage.

The violent reaction isn’t necessarily about being told to take his plate to the kitchen but feeling attacked or cornered may trigger him.

This is also why paying attention to what seems to be setting off violent and disagreeable behavior is essential.

Getting to the root cause of the behavior

In most cases, there is something that is triggering this behavior. However, it could be that there have been issues slowly escalating that didn’t truly come to light until your teen started punching holes in the wall or throwing the trash can across the kitchen.

Some of the situations contributing to his violent outbursts may include:

  • Problems with friends and other relationships.
  • Being picked on and bullied at school or even outside of school.
  • Pressure from too many commitments at school or with outside pursuits such as sports.
  • Trouble within the family that he is struggling to cope well with. This could include divorce, remarriage, or changes to the sibling dynamic.
  • Illness, whether physical or mental health, can also be a severe trigger for behavioral changes in teens.

Is this violent behavior something new?

Can you see the signs of it slowly escalating over some time?

Again, it’s important that you try to establish a timeline for the behavioral changes and the potential triggers that may have been the catalyst for what you’re now seeing in your teen.

Don’t take it personally, but don’t excuse it

If your teen is struggling with something in his life, it truly has nothing to do with you when he turns you into the target for his rage and violent behavior. You are just a convenient target.

That said, don’t excuse the violence. If your teen is hitting you or his siblings, that is considered domestic abuse. It’s never okay for anyone to hit or harm someone in their family. This violent behavior cannot be excused away as your teen simply struggling and going through some stuff.

You can provide your teen with the support and resources that he needs to address his anger. But you do not need to continue to give him a convenient target for his aggressive attitude and behavior. Instead, you can love him without limits but get him help from professionals trained to deal with violent teens.

It’s also important that you don’t ignore the behavior. While it’s easy to dismiss it, try to ignore it, and pretend that this isn’t a serious concern, the truth is that it’s unlikely to stop and go away unless directly addressed.

If the behavior is not addressed, the violence may increase and escalate. Your teen may find himself struggling with violent patterns as an adult. There are much more severe consequences to face when an adult abuses a partner or child.

When should you call the police?

Deciding to call the police on your teen can be one of the most difficult that you face. After all, you should be able to circle the wagons and help your teen within the confines of your family. Of course, you don’t want your teen to face legal troubles, but it’s important to remember that law enforcement and other authorities have been trained to work with families in crisis.

If they arrive at your home, it will not be with the immediate intention of taking your teen away to jail. Instead, it will be to identify the situation, diffuse the situation, and find a solution that works for everyone. Having that authority figure in the room can help keep a problem from escalating to something life-threatening.

If you feel threatened or don’t otherwise feel safe, now is the time to get the help that you need. Police can also offer resources to help everyone in the family.

You deserve to feel safe in your own home. However, if your teen is violent, whether it involves hitting others or strictly throwing things around the house, it needs to be addressed as soon as you are able. The sooner you and your teen begin to address it, the sooner peace will be restored to your home and family.

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