HELP FOR PARENTS WITH STRONG-WILLED, OUT-OF-CONTROL CHILDREN AND ADOLESCENTS

Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Oppositional Defiant Disorder and ADHD

Quick Tips for Regaining Control of Your Out-of-Control Teenager

The adolescent years are notoriously difficult to navigate, which can create a nightmare for moms and dads whose teenagers are out-of-control. Whether your son or daughter is lying, stealing, doing drugs, or acting defiantly – you CAN resolve these issues with the proper strategies. 

Here are some quick tips on how to regain control:

1. First of all, YOU have to take care of YOU. Dealing with out-of-control teenage behaviors is very stressful. Build in some time for social support and recreation each week so that you can recharge your batteries and feel refreshed and motivated to continue on.

2. Come up with a plan on how you will hold your teenager accountable. What will you do if he does not meet your expectations?  How will you respond? In the heat of the moment, it’s most effective to state your expectations – and then walk away. Then after things have calmed down, do some “problem solving” and give a consequence if the situation calls for it.

3. Don’t over-negotiate. If you over-negotiate with an adolescent that is trying to be the boss, you're giving her the message that she's your equal. Soon she’ll start bargaining with you in order to behave appropriately.

4. Expect setbacks. Change is a slow process. Be patient and take one day at a time. Things will get better, but your teenager will still make mistakes along the way – it’s the way he learns. Start with a fresh slate each day and stay positive.

5. Expect your adolescent to react strongly to the new structure you impose as soon as you establish it. Adolescents do not give up power easily.

6. Find a support group for moms and dads of troubled adolescents. Listening to the struggles and solutions of other parents will make you feel less alone and will give you strength to face challenging situations at home.

7. Find out everything you can about your adolescent. Adolescents are experts at hiding what they don't want you to know about, and many times moms and dads are experts at turning the other way and ignoring unacceptable behaviors in hopes that they will get better on their own. Although checking up on your adolescent may feel like spying, and snooping through his backpack may feel like an invasion of his privacy, it is your job as a mother or father to know what your adolescent is up to so that you can protect him. Talk to his teachers, friends and siblings to get another perspective on your teen. Have regular discussions with him about his life. Listen carefully – without interruption – to what he says, and try to understand what he is feeling. Remember that adolescents feel things much more intensely than grown-ups. Don't discount strong feelings simply because they don't make sense to you.

8. If everyone understands what the rules are, the chances of your teenager following those rules increase. Thus, write up a behavior contract with your adolescent. If something is written down on paper, it becomes more real. The contract should clearly define what she has to do in certain key areas. If she complies with the contract, she will be rewarded (be sure to outline what those rewards will be). If she does NOT comply with the contract, she will receive appropriate consequences (be sure to outline what those consequences will be).

9. If the problems seem too big for you to handle, seek support elsewhere. This is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of resourcefulness, commitment to change, and a good way to add another tool to your parenting toolbox.

10. If you have more than one teenager in the house and want to regain control over ALL of them, you will need to first regain control of the “dominant” teen. Even though his siblings may be acting out as well, your “alpha teen” is causing the imbalance in authority; thus, he is the one you have to manage initially. Of course, you have to hold your other teens accountable for their poor choices, but your main priority should be to address the behavior of the dominant teen (e.g., give him consequences that he can't undermine, then be firm and follow through with them).

11. If your teen is severely out-of-control, consider making an appointment with a mental health professional to rule out disorders such as ADHD, depression or anxiety. These disorders and others like them can prevent your adolescent from reaching his full potential and leave him feeling frustrated, stressed-out and unable to live a happy life. Medication to control these disorders can make an enormous difference in your adolescent's attitude and general well-being, and may put an end to any related behavioral problems.

12. Know that lectures and speeches aren’t effective. Instead, have conversations that are focused on what your teenager’s responsibilities are, and how she can meet them.

13. Know the difference between motivating your adolescent with a “reward system” versus “bargaining.” When you’re bargaining with her, she’s often wearing you down until you give in (e.g., you may end up saying, “Okay, as long as you don’t drink any alcohol, you can go to that party”). On the other hand, when you're rewarding her, it's clear that you're the one with the authority giving out the reward.

14. Know what your expectations are and write them down for future reference. Also, make sure you are able to communicate your expectations in clear terms. 

15. Moms and dads need to partner together and come up with a game plan that outlines how they will deal with their adolescent as a team. Develop a plan that you are both comfortable with. Have a “parent’s-meeting” and get clear about your unified message before presenting it to your teenager. The mother and father that can't get on the same page about how to hold their adolescent accountable will end up creating a vacuum in power (which their out-of-control adolescent will only be too happy to fill).

16. Parenting classes and therapists in your local area can be a big help if you are struggling to regain control of your teen’s behavior.

17. Refrain from making excuses for your teen’s attitude and be honest with yourself regarding her behavior. It's easier to overlook a few lies or turn the other way when you know your adolescent is engaging in risky behavior than it is to confront her and meet challenges head on. But without your strict guidance and intervention, these behaviors will only get worse.

18. Remember that your journey toward more effective parenting will start with just one step.

19. Reward positive behavior in your teenager whenever you see it (e.g., “Hey, I noticed you put your dirty laundry in the clothes hamper – great job!”).

20. Lastly, when attempting to address behavioral issues, simply focus on your top 3 concerns. What behavioral problems are causing the most chaos in your home? Choose the 3 most problematic concerns and write them down. Your list might look something like this: “(1) refuses to do homework, (2) picks on his younger brother, and (3) slams his bedroom door really hard when he’s mad.” Then rank your top 3 concerns in order of priority. The top issue on the list is where you put your main focus for now. The other 2 issues can wait until you have more time and energy. Working on just one thing is enough for now. Keep it simple.

My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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