When Adolescent Anger Becomes Aggression Toward Parents

Disagreements are to be expected as part of family life, and these can start to happen more frequently as your youngster enters his adolescent years. Sometimes disagreements will turn into blazing rows, with your adolescent insulting you or cussing. This can be hurtful and disappointing, leaving you asking yourself how things ended up this way, or what you could have done differently.

A certain level of moodiness and irritability is to be expected from adolescents, but it’s important for parents to maintain disciplinary boundaries. It’s NEVER acceptable for an adolescent to become aggressive and physically hurt the parent. If violence against parents goes unchecked, it sends the message to the adolescent that violence is a way to get what you want in life. If violent behavior gets rewarded (due to the fact the there was no significant consequence for it), the adolescent will likely be violent toward others down the road. But unfortunately, other people will not be as accepting of such behavior and will either retaliate with violence of their own, or call the cops and have the aggressor arrested for battery.

If you have experienced aggression from your adolescent, then you need to face the issues behind all the rage. It may be hard to admit that there is a problem, but if your adolescent is pushing or smacking you, then this is domestic battery and needs to be dealt with severely. You deserve to feel safe in your own home.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Tips on coping with disagreements:

1. When possible, try to resolve arguments with a compromise, or at least show that you have understood where your adolescent’s emotions are coming from. If the situation becomes too heated and you are finding it difficult to stay calm, walk away. Avoid blame, and let your adolescent know that you will be able to talk to him again when you have calmed down.

2. Listen to your adolescent and try to see his point of view. Even if you only see it slightly, let him know instead of just disagreeing with everything. When your adolescent trusts that you can hear his views, he may be more likely to talk calmly instead of yelling and swearing.

3. If you find disagreements are getting out of hand regularly, strongly consider counseling. Your adolescent may find it helpful to talk to someone new and unbiased, someone who in not in his family and won’t judge him. Also, you can even attend family counseling sessions together.

4. Accept that disagreements do happen. Sometimes your adolescent will say really troubling things, but remember that he is still learning to cope with new situations and new emotions. Difficult feelings like rage and anxiety can be frustrating for your adolescent, and the expression of these emotions may come out in ways that are difficult for you to hear. Try to stay calm and avoid saying anything you may later regret.

Tips on dealing with aggression:

1. Understand that all adolescents need opportunities to be independent, push boundaries – and even hurl some hormone-induced verbal abuse at parents from time to time. Teenagers are entering a new phase in their life. They are searching for a new identity and trying to reject the old one, while all the time wrestling with raging hormones they can’t control.

2. Avoid using aggression with your adolescent. For example, if you are smacking your adolescent as a form of discipline, or even because you are losing control of your temper in a disagreement, then you are giving him the message that it is OK to use aggression to solve disagreements. By avoiding using aggression, you are setting a positive example of what you find acceptable.

3. Don't become hysterical and lose all control if you discover something serious that your teen is up to that you don’t approve of (e.g., being part of a gang, having a weapon, abusing drugs, etc.). When a teen with aggressive tendencies is attacked, he will be more likely to retaliate with hostility and physical force. Instead, ask him calmly why he is involved with the risky behavior, and what you can do together to address the situation.

4. Give your teen space. Recognize that he is taking anger out on you and may not know how else to deal with troublesome emotions. Once he has calmed down, you may be able to talk to him about what has happened and suggest he let you find him some help.

5. Having an aggressive adolescent “rule the roost” in your home definitely needs to be dealt with – its effect on the family can be far-reaching. Not only does it make life miserable for everyone else in the house, but you could find the younger siblings copying the aggressive adolescent’s behavior. Some door-slamming and arguing is totally understandable – and even healthy on occasion. But, if your adolescent is becoming aggressive verbally and physically, then as a parent, you need to take control in a firm but non-aggressive way.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

6. Hostility breeds hostility, so take a deep breath and attempt to get to the root of the problem calmly with your teenager to see where this is coming from. Admitting to him that you sometimes find parenting difficult – or that you are sorry for something you said or did – can also help.

7. If your teenager is unwilling to accept that she has a problem with violence, then try to arrange counseling for her. Speak to your doctor or your teen’s school about what kind of help is available.

8. If your adolescent admits he has a problem with violent, acting-out behavior – and is willing to get help, book an appointment with a counselor as soon as possible.  Show your teen that you will support him in getting through this stage. With your love and forgiveness, your adolescent stands a much better chance of identifying rage and learning to express his strong emotions differently.

9. The most important thing is to put your safety first. Any time your youngster lashes out violently, get out of the way and go somewhere safe. If you still feel threatened or scared and don't know how to protect yourself, then you have every right to contact the police. Be clear that you will stand by the boundaries that you have set and the values that you believe in – even if that involves having your teen arrested for domestic battery.

10. If your youngster is being aggressive in some situations only (e.g., at home, but not at school), then the good news is that she knows what she is doing. She has the capacity to control her behavior, and so can change.

11. The basis of a good relationship with your adolescent is good communication. So talk to him rather than shout at him. Be as non-judgmental as you can, and that way he should be more likely to open up to you.

12. The main thing to remember is that, unless your youngster has a mental health problem, or a disorder such as ADHD (which often goes undiagnosed), then there will be an underlying issue which is making her unhappy and act aggressively. And while “going in guns blazing” may feel like your only option to combat the behavior, it’s actually the worst thing you can do.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How to Get Teens to Complete Homework and Chores

Do you find yourself getting sucked into a power struggle over homework and/or chores with your teenager? A lot of moms and dads tell me that this is one of their main, ongoing battles. If this is the case with you, you may have, for example, abandoned the statement, "Okay it's time for you to get off the computer and do your homework" ... because that request usually results in an argument.

Dealing with homework battles can be one of the most stressful things parents have to deal with while raising unruly, and often a responsible, teenagers. Unfortunately, too many parents take on more responsibility for homework than their child does. When this happens, it's the beginning of many years of homework battles. The teenager has learned that he can push off the responsibility for doing homework, and then his parents will take over. Not that the parents will literally complete the homework for the teenager, but they will nag, lecture, threaten, plead and beg -- all of which is a form of taking on too much responsibility for what is really the child's job.

It is certainly okay to help a teenager with a particular problem or sticking point. If he or she asks you a question about a particular problem or subject, then this form of assistance is acceptable because the teenager is just using the parent as an additional source of information -- not a crutch. But that's where the parent’s job starts and ends. Doing the work FOR the child, or begging and pleading the child to do the work, sends a very clear message that homework is a “shared responsibility.” But in reality, it's your teenager's job to go to school and to learn -- including completing homework. Your teen's teachers will be the judge of how correct or incorrect his or her work is. You are not responsible for the homework itself, but you are responsible for holding your child accountable. It's okay to make suggestions, but in the end, it is your teenager's responsibility to complete assignments, and it is the teacher's job to grade them.

Homework battles occur for many reasons. The main reason may be because your teenager would rather be playing video games, texting friends, watching TV, etc. -- anything other than opening the textbook. But no matter the reason, parents need to understand that nagging and pleading on the one end – or letting the teenager “off the hook” on the other end (to avoid an argument) – will just perpetuate the power struggles associated with homework. Rather than nagging, arguing – are just plain giving up – parents need to teach their child how to follow through on expectations ...how to be responsible for their own work ...and how to accept accountability. In other words, instead of working on a symptom of the teen’s irresponsible behavior (in this case, failure to complete homework), the parent should spend time and energy addressing the core problem (i.e., avoiding personal accountability, in general).

On that note, here is how parents can hold their child accountable and teach them to take responsibility for their own work in general, which should eventually translate to homework completion in particular:

1. Act as a role model, providing an example of what responsibility means (e.g., point out that you go to work every morning to contribute to the family's needs, or take your adolescent with you when you go to the bank to deposit money into a savings account).

2. Don’t argue, just focus on the obligation. If you argue or debate about your teen’s “excuses,” you’re simply encouraging her to come up with bigger and better ones. For example, if you say, "Why didn’t you complete your homework," you are really asking, "Why didn’t you fulfill your obligation?” When your teen says, “I forgot to bring my books home,” she’s really saying, “It’s not my fault that I didn’t fulfill my obligation.” You can respond by saying, “We’re not talking about whose fault it is, we’re talking about whose obligation it is.” In that way, you can shift the focus back onto your teen’s obligations, thus avoiding getting stuck in a disagreement about the nature of the excuse. If your teen makes excuses about her behavior, you can respond with, “We’re not talking about why you behaved that way, we’re talking about why you didn’t meet your obligation.”

3. Go slowly, gradually letting your teenager have more responsibility. Give her more responsibility in steps or increments (e.g., let her stay home by herself on a Saturday evening, then after she shows you that she can manage herself, allow her to babysit her younger siblings.

4. Point out irresponsible behaviors – and the consequences of acting in these ways. An impressionable adolescent may see “responsibility-free” celebrities as role models. Take the destructive behaviors that the tabloids expose and use the opportunities to show your adolescent what NOT to do. Initiate an open discussion when your adolescent sees, hears or talks about irresponsible celebrity behaviors (e.g., a young singer trashing a hotel room and not paying for the damages). Ask him what he thinks of the behavior and how the celebrity could act in a more responsible manner.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

5. Set clear expectations around work in general, for example chores, picking up after one's self, personal hygiene, as well as homework. Let your teenager know that you expect him to get the work done, get it done on time, and to the best of his ability. As you do this, be sure to pay attention to this important point: REWARD EFFORT as much as you do positive outcomes. This is a critical tactic here. Your child is not always going to meet your expectations to the extent that you would like. But if he makes an attempt, that should be rewarded in the form of acknowledgment and praise. For example, you ask your teenage son to clean up his room. When you go in to inspect, it doesn't meet your standards, but it looks 75% better than it did before he cleaned up. Take that 75% and run with it! And say something like, "You did a great job of getting your dirty clothes rounded up and put in the laundry basket. That's you being responsible."

6. When teens focus on excuses, moms and dads need to focus on responsibility. Of course, some excuses are valid, and the responsibility for knowing how to sort that out rests with the mother or father. But too many excuses are just that (i.e., thoughts teenagers use to excuse themselves from not meeting their responsibilities). When those are raised in a conversation where a teen wants to shift the focus away from the responsibility and onto the excuse, moms and dads have to shift it back from excuse and onto the matter at hand (i.e., the teen’s responsibility).

7. As an adolescent, your son or daughter is becoming increasingly more able to think in both abstract and rational ways. This means that your teen is developing his or her own moral code and way of thinking that is different from yours. Encourage this autonomy-seeking behavior. You want your teen to become totally independent at some point.

8. Remember that a teenager is not finished developing yet. She is on a huge learning curve. If she was a little kid and just beginning to walk, would you turn her loose in a crowd and let people knock her around, or would you be there to provide safety and structure? Of course, the latter. As a teenager, she is similar to a young child entering the grown-up world. Letting her toddle into adulthood without a safety net could be very dangerous. Many adolescents try to justify their actions with comments such as, “I want it, so I should have it,” or “All my friends are doing it, so I should be able to do it.” But, it is the parent’s job not to ignore this kind of faulty thinking. Part of the safety net is teaching a teenager why this thinking will not get her where she wants to be in life.

9. Teach your adolescent how to manage money in a responsible way. Provide him with an allowance if he isn't old enough to have an after-school job. Explain that he needs to use this money to buy the "extras" (e.g., video games, apps for his cell phone, etc.). Ask him to make a monthly budget. If your adolescent spends all of his allotment, don't give in and offer extra cash. Instead, suggest that he do extra chores around the house to earn money for what he wants.

10. When establishing rules and routines around chores, homework, etc., try to match your help with what is most needed. Some kids need hands-on guidance to complete tasks, while others are more self-directed and just need the parent’s occasional monitoring.

11. When possible, establish "flexible times" for completion of work, and post these times on the refrigerator. What I mean by "flexible times" is to give your teenager a window of opportunity to complete certain tasks. For example, let's say you have set aside 30 minutes to complete homework. But that 30 minutes of homework can be done any time between 4 PM and 7 PM. Your teenager gets to pick the "exact time" that he or she can do homework, as long as it falls within that two-hour window. The same concept could apply to chores. For example, if it is your teenager's job to take out the trash and feed the dog, then he or she has the choice of doing that anytime between 3:30 PM and 5:30 PM. In this way, it has been established that your teenager has certain work to do, and that work needs to be done within a certain time-frame – but he or she still gets to pick the exact time that the job is undertaken.

12. When you formally develop a set of expectations for your adolescent, you begin to set him up for success in meeting those expectations. That’s a crucial step in learning to handle obligations. Below are just a few suggested expectations for adolescents (pick a few and add-on as your adolescent is able to handle more obligations): 
  • Cleaning her room (e.g., vacuuming, dusting, etc.) weekly (with some parental help, if needed)
  • Completing homework
  • Doing a daily household chore (e.g., cleaning the dinner dishes, straightening the family room, swiping down the bathroom, etc.)
  • Having useful daily habits (e.g., making his bed, picking up his room, etc.)
  • Helping with the weekly household chores (e.g., mowing the lawn)
  • Making sure the gas gauge in the car does not go below a quarter of a tank
  • Making plans with friends and giving you all of the necessary information
  • Managing an allowance 
  • Marking special dates and plans on the family calendar or planner 
  • Taking phone messages and putting them where someone will see them

Adolescents are on the threshold of becoming grown-ups. Even though your adolescent doesn't have to deal with all the challenges of adulthood (e.g., balancing a full-time job, paying a mortgage, etc.), he can learn what it means to be responsible. During adolescence, your teenager is gaining independence, trying new activities, and meeting new challenges. Take advantage of these opportunities to teach him a lesson or two on taking responsibility for his own behaviors, actions, and future.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

How To Set Effective Boundaries With Defiant Teens

As a youngster grows into an adolescent, parents often discover that their usual disciplinary methods are no longer effective. Many parents come to realize that they are no longer “in charge” – and that positive change needs to happen soon as their teenager is seemingly on a course of self-destruction.

When old disciplinary techniques no longer work, the parent may be tempted to try and be her teen's “friend” in a last ditch effort to maintain the peace. But, even when teens are rebelling, they still need the parent to be the parent (not a “buddy”) and let them know what the rules and boundaries are. Adolescents need to figure out what being a young adult means for them, and this will inevitably lead to some clashes with the parent.

If the parent’s way of setting boundaries used to be to “lay down the law” with her children (e.g., to insist, “Because I said so!”), she may find it more difficult now with her teenagers. It's much easier to exert pressure on youngsters who look up to the parent than it is over adolescents who are seeking their autonomy. Younger kids have a vested interest in maintaining the security that comes from them feeling that the parent knows best. Adolescents are not like that!

One of the major tasks of adolescence is to learn to “take control” and to decide what is right and wrong. One of the first things adolescents may discover is that the sanctions that the parent can impose are not that powerful. Teens may be the parent’s size – or bigger. What keeps teenagers in the house when they're grounded is mutual consent and mutual respect – not pressure tactics from the parent.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

The only thing that might (emphasis on “might”) make teens do what the parent says is the thought of what it may do to the parent-child relationship afterwards if they defy the parent. But if the relationship is already going downhill, and if the sense of defiance is greater than the need for parental approval, then the “parent-child relationship” takes a back seat (in the mind of the teenager).

So what can parents do in this situation? While boundaries are important, parents will find that it's much more effective to enforce them by considering the various needs being expressed when they clash with their teenager. This may mean swallowing their pride and need to be in control. A younger kid needs parental approval. An adolescent wants parental approval too, but he or she wants “respect” even more!

The physical, mental, emotional and social changes that happen to an adolescent can have a profound effect on the entire family. As the mom or dad, it may feel important to keep things the same (e.g., the parent being the one giving the orders). But at a time when adolescents are developing and looking to a new self, having the parent give the orders and trying to put the brakes on the change often provokes even more rebellion than they might have shown anyway. Thus, when adolescents defy the parent, she will do well to reach for a new way of exerting discipline. 

Discipline is something parents do to help their teens learn (the original meaning of the word is “to teach”). The best way to get adolescents to behave in ways that please the parent is to help them understand what they actually want and need, and to see how they can get those needs met in ways that don’t disrespect the parent.

Parental punishment and control is not what adolescents need when struggling with their conflicting emotions. When adolescents act up, they are often fighting to get parental attention, acceptance and appreciation – as well as independence. The parent can help her teens by talking openly about the changes they are going through, helping them express their feelings, giving them plenty of time and attention, as well as providing love, reassurance and support.

Boundaries work far better if they are made and agreed together with adolescents. When adolescents understand the reasons behind the parent’s decision, and see that she has taken their opinions into account, they may be more motivated to co-operate.

Boundaries help the parent to keep her children safe. But as they get older, the parent will need to negotiate and let them take more responsibility for their own safety. There may be times when the parent’s values conflict with the values that her teens are learning from other people and the media. This may be when she finds herself negotiating.

The parent should talk to her adolescents and let them know what is important to her and why, then give them a chance to respond – and really listen to what they have to say. When the parent is genuinely willing to compromise, she may find that the conversation is much more effective, as her adolescents gain a sense of responsibility. Parents need to figure out what is really important, and what could be let go of. Too many rules cause resentment and are impossible to maintain. Thus, striking a balance and being prepared to re-negotiate is crucial to the success of raising teenagers.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Helping Your Teen To Be Less Oppositional

During adolescence, young people are busy trying to make sense of the physical changes happening to them, changes in their feelings, sexual attraction, and the desire to be in control. Just like other feelings, some oppositional behavior is perfectly normal for teenagers – after all, it’s one of the main ways that assert their independence. However, oppositional behavior can be hurtful and destructive when taken to an extreme.

Just like physical pain, oppositional behavior itself can have an important function to tell the teenager that what is happening is not acceptable and that something needs to change. Having a strong desire to rebel against parents can be an early warning sign that important needs are not being met. For teens, oppositional behavior is a push towards making changes, a way of showing parents how they feel, and what they need to happen.

Often times, adolescents push their parents too far, and the resulting arguments and conflict seem like childish temper tantrums. When teenagers have strong feelings, they are not able to think straight or listen to reason. They get flooded with feelings. What they need is to express their feelings safely and to calm down enough to sort out the problem.

Your adolescent's oppositional behavior will often be directed at you, and she may want you to listen to her and do something. But, sometimes she is upset and angry about issues which have little to do with you. The problem could have been started by an argument she is having with a peer at school, and she may think you are interfering. Listen and take responsibility for things your teen may want differently from you, but don't get angry back. Don’t let her oppositional behavior become your oppositional behavior (e.g., engaging in a war-of-wills or power struggles), as strong feelings can be infectious.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

Make it your starting point to understand your teen rather than having a need to win the argument or make him behave. Listen to the tune – not the words. So for example, instead of hearing, “I hate you! Why don't you leave me the F*** alone?” …you hear, “I'm really hurting right now. I'm trying to manage on my own, and it feels like you don't love me or trust me!”

By trying to understand what is really going on beneath what your teenager is saying, you can help her work out what she is really feeling – and what it is she needs. Just the act of listening helps to lower strong emotions and can bring her back into balance. It can also help to name what you think your teen could be feeling (e.g., in the face of oppositional behavior, you can say something like, “You sound really upset about something” …or “It sounds as if you're feeling afraid”). By naming the feeling, you can help your adolescent work out what she wants or needs.

Understanding your adolescent's feelings and needs and why he acts the way he does is not the same as condoning or accepting some behavior. Once you have calmed your teenager down by listening and restoring the thinking/feeling balance, you can then set limits on his behavior while helping him find ways to solve his problem (e.g., you could say something like, “I'd like you to find a way of dealing with this issue without yelling at me and throwing things. What do you think would help?”).

The bottom line is this: In the face of oppositional behavior, you need to let the initial flush of “hot” feelings cool down. Then when calm is restored, be sure to acknowledge the painful and strong feelings your adolescent has been experiencing. Help her work out how she was feeling, what she needed, what she can do to express such feelings more appropriately in the future, and get what she needs without displaying hostile, oppositional behavior. Sometimes, simply recognizing and accepting your teen’s feelings and needs is enough. Other times, you may need to help her work out what she is going to do. “Moving on” may mean having to accept there is nothing she can do to change a situation, but she can always change how she acts or feels about it.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

What To Do When Your Teen Gets Arrested

If your adolescent is in trouble with the law (e.g., for possession of drugs, public intoxication, theft, etc.), then it is understandable that you feel panic-stricken. You are probably very unsure of what’s to come in terms of legal ramifications – and your teen’s future. Things will be different now for both you and your adolescent. 

Below you will find some important information that will help you to understand – and deal effectively with – this situation. Being well-informed should alleviate some of the stress you’re feeling as the mother or father of a teenager in legal trouble:

1. First of all, make sure your adolescent is safe. Is he jail? Is he in a safe jail? Some communities have safe jails, other communities don’t! If it is safe, you should leave him in jail for the night to teach him a valuable lesson. If he is unsafe, get him out as soon as possible.

2. Don't hire an attorney for the small stuff (e.g., truancy, curfew violation). If it is a minor issue, there’s no need to pay good money for an attorney. Also, most juvenile courts provide a public defender.

3. If you feel that you should hire an attorney, but can’t afford one, there are some options. Most attorneys offer free consultations, and if you do enough research beforehand and ask the right questions, you could be able to prepare yourself to the point where you do not need to actually hire the attorney. You also have the option of being represented by a public defender (although these attorneys are often unable to give your case as much time or personal attention as a private attorney).

4. Throughout the legal process, it is important that you keep things in perspective and resist the urge to panic. Remember that your adolescent is still a minor, and as such, the penalties she will receive are likely to be far less severe than if she were charged as a grown-up. Thus, this incident probably doesn’t have the ability to ruin her future. Even though this is a disturbing situation, simply remind yourself that this is not the worst that could happen and that your family will pull through. It’s definitely not the end of the world.

5. Don't lecture or yell at your adolescent as added punishment. He’s already received a consequence (i.e., getting arrested). This problem is your adolescent's problem, not yours. Let him take responsibility for his own mistake.

==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

6. Regardless of the crime your adolescent allegedly committed, it is important that you take the issue seriously. All crimes, no matter how small, have the potential to wreak havoc on the family. Also, teens who begin to commit a series of “small crimes” now often graduate to larger crimes later.

7. Find out what actually happened. Get your adolescent to tell you the whole story, and base your actions based on the severity of the crime.

8. Stay objective and calm. Finally someone else is reprimanding your adolescent (e.g., police officer, probation officer, judge). This is a good learning experience for an out-of-control adolescent. You have every right to be worried, but don’t allow your emotions to cloud your judgment. You’re probably feeling hurt and disappointed – and that’s all completely understandable. But it’s important that you keep your head together for the sake of your teenager. At all times, remain calm and collected in order to protect your adolescent’s rights and to be the mom or dad she needs you to be.  You have every right to be disappointed, but don’t allow that disappointment to prevent you from helping your adolescent right her wrongs.

9. Your adolescent’s juvenile criminal record will be hidden from public view once he reaches adulthood, but that doesn’t mean that your problems as a parent are over with. While first offenses are often not punished very harshly, the legal system makes up for this leniency by punishing repeat offenders much more severely.  Also, juvenile offenders are more likely to become adult offenders if their underlying issues (e.g., emotional, psychological, family-related, etc.) are not addressed. Thus, be sure to provide your adolescent with the care, counseling, or discipline he needs as soon as possible. If you don’t, the law breaking habit could stay with him into adulthood, where it will carry much stiffer penalties.

10. When your teenager has been arrested, be sure that she receives fair treatment throughout the legal process – no matter what she has been arrested for. A juvenile offender has rights too!

Brief Summary of the Juvenile Justice System—
  • A juvenile case gets started when a prosecutor or probation officer files a civil petition, charging the teen with violating a criminal statute and asking that the court determine that the teen is delinquent. If the charges are proved and a delinquency determination is made, the adolescent offender comes under the court’s broad powers. At that point, the juvenile court has the authority to do what it considers to be in the best interest of the teen.
  • Each state has special courts called juvenile courts to deal with teens who have been accused of violating a criminal statute. The proceedings are civil as opposed to criminal. So, instead of being formally charged with a crime, teenage offenders are accused of committing a delinquent act.
  • Juvenile courts have a broad range of sentencing options called "disposition orders" if they find that a teenager is delinquent. Courts can reprimand the young person in a variety of ways (e.g., incarceration in a traditional juvenile detention facility, house arrest, community service, etc.). More importantly, juvenile courts can order a whole range of consequences that do not involve confinement (e.g., counseling, curfews, probation, etc.). 
  • Juvenile delinquency cases involve teens who have committed crimes (i.e., if the crime had been committed by an adult, the matter would be tried in regular criminal court). But the procedures in juvenile court differ significantly from those in adult criminal court. Many juvenile cases involve “status offenses.” A status offense is a “violation” (rather than a “crime”) that only applies to minors (e.g., truancy, curfew violations, running away, underage drinking). 
  • Law enforcement agencies refer approximately two-thirds of all arrested teens to a court with juvenile jurisdiction for further processing. The court may decide to divert some teens away from the formal justice system to other agencies for service. Prosecutors may file some juvenile cases directly in criminal court. 
  • Most states consider kids under the age of 7 to be incapable of determining the difference between right and wrong. So, young people under the age of 7 are usually excused from responsibility for acts they commit. Instead, moms and dads may have to pay compensation to anyone victimized by the acts of their youngster. 
  • Most states regard young people 14 and older as capable of forming criminal intent, so the majority of cases involving teens from 14 to 18 years of age are adjudicated in juvenile court. In certain circumstances, a juvenile can be tried in adult criminal court. 
  • Roughly 50% of all juvenile arrests are made for theft, simple assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and curfew violations.
  • Some juvenile cases are transferred to adult court in a procedure called a "waiver." Typically, juvenile cases that are subject to waiver involve serious offenses (e.g., rape, murder) or teens who have been in trouble before. Juvenile offenders have a right to a hearing to determine if their case should be transferred to adult court. 
  • To be eligible for juvenile court, a teen must be a considered a "juvenile" under state law. In most states, the maximum age for using juvenile court is 18. In a few states, the age is 16 or 17 (in Wyoming, the maximum age is set at 19).
  • When a teen is suspected of violating a criminal statute, the procedures are much different from those used in adult criminal court. Police, prosecutors, intake officials and judges all have broad discretion to take more informal steps in handling the case. As a result, many teenage offenders never reach the point of a formal adjudicatory hearing. Similarly, the constitutional rights of teens are different from those of grown-ups who have been accused of committing a crime (e.g., although teenage offenders have the right to an attorney at an adjudicatory hearing, in most states they do not have the right to have their case heard by a jury).

No mother or father wants to think about the day that phone call may come – the one telling parents that their adolescent has been arrested. The days and weeks that follow can be complicated and worrisome as you and your adolescent have to face the consequences. Finding ways to cope with this difficult situation is critical to your child’s long-term, law-abiding behavior.


==> My Out-of-Control Teen: Help for Parents

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