What to do with a teenager that is out of control?

Parenting can feel like the wildest roller coaster, particularly when you enter the teen years. There are so many factors that can contribute to your teen struggling, acting out, and spiraling out of control.

As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed, stressed, and highly emotional. You likely also feel helpless as you watch your teen lose control, act out with aggression, and be someone you don’t even recognize.

What does out-of-control behavior look like?

What looks like out-of-control behavior can vary between individuals and families.

Some examples include:

  • The use and abuse of alcohol and drugs
  • Violent and angry outbursts directed at family
  • Staying out past curfew and running away
  • Making threats to harm others
  • Stealing from family and friends
  • Getting into trouble with the law
  • Engaging in risky sexual behavior

Whether your teen is engaging in each of these, some of these, or is doing something else entirely, being faced with an out-of-control teen can be overwhelming. As an adult, you must take control so that you can help to restore peace in your family and get your teen back on track to a healthy and happy life.

Communicate calmly and rationally

When communicating with an out-of-control teen, it’s best to wait until things are somewhat calm before you address their troublesome behavior. If you try to tackle the situation when the situation is emotional and intense, you risk making things worse for everyone involved.

Your teen is likely to react with anger. You are likely to respond with anger, frustration and possibly find yourself saying something in the heat of the moment. Your spouse and other children could get caught in the crossfire of angry words.

Approach the topic of their behavior calmly and rationally as a concerned parent. Not as someone angry and looking to punish them.

  • Don’t make assumptions about why they are acting out.
  • Ask gentle, probing questions that are not accusatory.
  • Delve in to find out if there are underlying concerns such as struggles with friends or school.

Of course, in some situations, it doesn’t matter what you say or do. Your teen will react with anger, foul language, and violence if they are prone to it.

Be clear with the rules and expectations

When it comes to the household rules and expectations for your teen’s behavior, there should be no room for confusion or interpretation. You should ensure that you have direct expectations and rules, so your teen knows what you ask of them.

If there is any room for interpretation, you’ll soon find yourself going toe-to-toe with your teen as he pushes the boundaries.

Along with established expectations should be details about the consequences your teen will meet when he does not follow the rules. If your teen is well-informed and well-warned about the expectations, there is less room for argument.

Stand firm on following through

When it comes to an out-of-control teen, there is no room for any leniency when following through on consequences for breaking the rules. With consistency will come more respect for you and those established rules.

It will also help you to avoid being manipulated by your unruly teen. He will recognize that the rules are taken seriously, and there is no room to bend them.

While you may feel like you want to protect your teen from all types of bad, including the consequences of his actions, being the hero is not always the best option. If your teen has found himself in legal hot water, you will need to consider allowing him to face the consequences.

Following through is essential, whether it’s at home or outside in the real world. It’s also one of the best ways for your teen to learn from his actions to grow and improve upon his behavior.

Keeping everyone safe

If your out-of-control teen is prone to violent outbursts, you must prioritize his safety and the safety of the other members of the household. Some teens may put themselves in the way of harm, sometimes resulting from their behavior and actions.

Other times they may deliberately put themselves in danger.

It’s important to take the proper steps to protect everyone involved.

  • If younger children are at risk of harm, consider temporarily sending them to stay with another trusted adult until the situation has been calmed at home.
  • Remove yourself and others in the home from volatile situations. Don’t engage your teen if he is violent.
  • If your teen is acting violent towards you or their siblings, don’t hesitate to reach out to law enforcement for help. Not only can law enforcement agencies give you and your teen some space from one another, but many of them have good access to the resources you could all benefit from.

You also need to take steps to protect any pets in the home. Whether that means never leaving them unsupervised with your out-of-control teen or temporarily boarding them until things are safer at home.

Counseling and other options

Your teen may be resistant to counseling, but the truth is that many people are. Counseling can help your teen understand why he feels the way he feels and can help him understand the importance of changing his attitude and behaviors.

Support for the whole family can be important, as your out-of-control teen’s behavior takes a toll on everyone in your home.

Some types of medication may also be an option for your teen. Medications are not always the right choice, but there are some benefits depending on the situation. Consulting with a team of counselors and medical professionals can help you and your teen decide.

Keep in mind that your teen’s school may also be able to offer you some helpful options. School counselors and teachers can help you find resources for your whole family. A certain teacher or coach may strongly influence your teen and can help mentor him as needed.

Residential treatment center options

In some situations, it may be best to remove your out-of-control teen from your home entirely. The goal is not to get rid of your teen but rather to help him get the right type of focused care that he needs. In an environment that supports his needs, your teen will be able to focus on adjusting his behavior.

Don’t think of this as sending him away and punishing him, but rather removing him from a situation that isn’t allowing him to heal the way he needs. A fresh start in an environment that focuses on what is important to him can help your out-of-control teen find the normalcy he’s been missing for so long.

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