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Dealing with an Out-of-Control Teenager

Teen girl

​​What do you do when your teen becomes violent, breaking chairs, punching holes in walls, damaging property, and screaming and swearing directly into ​your face when he doesn't get his way? Some parents try to deal with it calmly. But then they worry that their calm approach sends a signal that they aren't upset and that it's okay for their teen to behave like that. It's tempting to react with anger, too, but that approach can make the situation worse for both the parents and the teen.

The bottom line is that dealing with out-of-control teenagers is a frustrating and exhausting process. 

That being said, it is important to stay calm in these situations. The key to changing an out-of-control teen's behavior is to establish consequences for his behavior. First, the teen should pay for repairing any damage he causes to the house or other property.  Second, all privileges, including access to the telephone, computer, video games, allowance money, new clothes or special food , should be withheld immediately and the teen should be told he can earn them back only through using appropriate behaviors. Such appropriate behaviors would include completing schoolwork, regular attendance at school, completing chores around the house and being respectful of you, other family members and other adults.    

It's a good idea to have a meeting with your teen to make sure he understands these rules and conditions. If he refuses a meeting, write a letter explaining the rules and conditions and leave it on his pillow. Either way, you must inform him about the consequences that he will earn for continued violent behavior. Beyond that, let him know you will call the police if he causes any further damage to the house or other property, or if leaves the house when he is not supposed to leave. 

In addition to providing negative consequences for a teen's violent behaviors, it is equally important to praise him when he does what he's supposed to do, including ​making an effort to improve his behavior, even when he tries and fails.

Whatever happens, make sure you stay calm when giving consequences. Your teen's emotional drama need not define your life or control your life.