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Angry and disobedient 17-year-old


My sister is having difficulties with her 17-year-old son. He is an angry young man who resists people who tell him what to do. He does not take on responsibilities around the home, and he comes and goes as he pleases without parental permission.  

His behavior changed about three months ago when my sister prevented him from leaving their home by blocking the door. My nephew physically pushed his mother aside and left the home without her permission. My sister works nights, and often comes home to find her house full of my nephew’s friends. What can I do to help? How can my sister handle her son?


Adolescents often ​rebel, but your nephew’s actions extend beyond typical teenage behavior. It may not be easy, but change can happen. The first step is determining when or why the problems started. What happened three months ago before his change in behavior started? Did a major trauma occur in his life at this time? Has he always been allowed to do as he pleases? Have there been any consequences for his behavior in the past? 

It is important that your sister consider each of these questions to see if the answers can explain some of these situations and reasons for his behaviors. Sometimes challenging situations can cause a child to act out in ways he did not before. If he was always able to get what he wanted in the past, he is going to believe that should always be the case. If he never suffered negative consequences for his actions in the past (such as loss of electronics, grounding, etc.), he most likely thinks there will never be consequences.  

Your sister’s work schedule is not her fault. But as long as there is no supervision while she is gone, she will have problems. Can she make other arrangements for her son while she is at work? Are there other family members who can get involved? Is there a father or a strong male influence who can talk to him about his behavior? Can she contact her son’s friends’ parents and tell them that their children are not allowed in her home while she is at work?  

The bottom line is that she needs to reach out to as many people who can help as she can. If your nephew continues to be unsupervised, he will most likely continue to disobey her.

If your nephew is willing to sit down and talk with his mother, the two of them should have an honest conversation about what is happening. They won’t agree on all points, but it will provide a chance for compromise and hopefully establish a degree of respect for each other.  

Your nephew at age 17 is not an adult and therefore cannot come and go as he pleases. With age comes responsibility. Your nephew is not taking responsibility for himself. Your sister can help by showing a little tough love; if she stops providing some privileges and luxuries for her son, he will quickly get the point.  

We encourage you or your sister to call our hotline at any time to talk to a counselor and explore other options. The number is 1-800-448-3000.