My teenager is out of control … What do I do?
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The teenage years can be frustrating for many parents. These are the years when a young person’s out of control behavior can range from defying household chores to running away or extensive drug use.
There are some possible reasons why your teenager may be misbehaving. The teenage brain is truly under construction. In the last year, there has been much research done on the adolescent brain. This research shows that when teenagers, compared to adults, are making certain type of decisions, they rely more heavily on the emotional center of the brain. This may explain their impulsiveness. The frontal lobe of the brain, which governs rationality, stays underdeveloped throughout the teen years, possibly limiting judgment skills. The corpus callosum of the brain, which is involved in self-awareness and intelligence, continues to grow and be pruned until the age of 20. Consequently, researchers have found that even in teenagers who generally show good judgment, the quality of decision-making fizzles in moments of high arousal. For a teenager, happiness, jealousy, and anger often supercede logical thoughts, especially when they are around peers. As a parent, you may have found yourself saying to your teen, “What were you thinking?” You can be sure that your teenager was thinking, but they were thinking with a brain that was processing things very differently than you would have as an adult.
There can be many reasons why a teenager exhibits out of control behavior. 1. Teenagers know how to push parents’ buttons through words or actions, so that the parents become angry and lose control. By determining the mood of the argument, your teen will try to control you by providing reasons for you to become angry, upset or frustrated. This will allow the teen to get what they want by taking your focus off the real issue at hand. 2. Many teenagers operate on pleasure. In fact, some teenagers would rather suffer consequences then give up the immediate gratification received from their out of control behaviors, i.e., ditching school or drug and alcohol use. 3. Some teenagers are unable to keep moral boundaries when they are in a peer group and the group becomes reckless.
The first step to understanding how to deal with your teenager’s “new attitude,” is to keep yourself from getting hooked into their negative attention-getting behavior. Such behavior by a teen will often set parents in a direction of personal anger. In trying to bring new hope back into your family, there are six important steps. 1. Learn the real reasons for teen misbehavior. 2. Create ironclad agreements with both consequences and rewards for the entire family, not just the teen. 3. Troubleshoot future problems. 4. Come to understand what your teenager’s buttons are that you push, and what buttons your teenager has mastered pushing in you, which create the majority of the conflict. 5. Mobilize outside help. 6. Reclaim your lost relationship with your teen.
Be aware that for every consequence you put into place, there will be an equal or worse reaction from your teen. Undoubtedly, things will get worse before they get better. This is where YouthZone can be of assistance to you.
YouthZone offers real-life solutions to real-life problems. Call any YouthZone office and schedule a parent consultation with a YouthZone counselor. The consultation will give you a 50-minute session in which the YouthZone counselor will listen to your concerns and focus on options and resources to help your family. The cost for this program is $28. YouthZone also offers the parent education class, “Parenting Your Out-Of-Control Teen.” The goals of the class are to support parents who are going through extreme challenges and to help provide parents additional tools to strengthen the family.
Before you give up hope, give YouthZone a try.
You can find YouthZone on the Web at http://www.youthzone.com; or call 945-9300 (Glenwood), 625-3141 (Rifle), 927-1545 (Basalt), 963-0618 (Carbondale), or 920-5702 (Aspen).
Kerri Cheney is a YouthZone counselor. She has a masters degree in counseling and a bachelors degree in child life and family studies. These credentials are combined with 10 years of work in the field of youth/family counseling.
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