Having a hard time parenting troubled teenagers? Well, you are not alone because most parents find parenting a troubled teenager an uphill task.
Parenting teenagers who are troubled due to any reason could be an overwhelming experience for you and your family, but you need to know that it’s a passing phase.
Let’s face it – we too were teenagers at some point of time, and some of us could’ve been the typical case study for troubled behavior. But now that we’re on the other side, it’s a totally different story.
With changing times, nowadays teenagers have greater exposure and experiences than we did when we were teens; however, the teen behavior patterns and characteristics remain the same.
As parents of troubled teenagers you may worry because your teen is violent, withdrawn, angry, and defiant. You may feel overwhelmed, angry, and worried at times, and your home may be filled with tension and chaos. Sounds familiar?
“You can tell a child is growing up when he stops asking where he came from and starts refusing to tell where he is going.” ~Author Unknown
Who is a Troubled Teenager?
A ‘troubled teenager’ is a youth who has problems that cause negative behaviors, and if these problems keep affecting the teen, he/she will not grow into a happy and successful adult.
“Telling a teenager the facts of life is like giving a fish a bath.” ~Arnold H. Glasow
What are the Problems of a Troubled Teenager?
Teenagers are rebellious, they are in search of their identity, they want recognition, and they want to be independent. They are no longer children and they are yet to be adults – they are in a confused identity zone.
Not all teenagers are plagued by troubled behavior, but typical teenage problems are related to drug, alcohol abuse, normal teenage angst, and depression. Such troubled teens can upset the peace of your home and the family.
These problems can be the inability to deal with the normal issues teens face or are beyond the normal issues. They can range from anything related to their environment like dealing with poor peer group, abusive relationships, to mental and physical health issues like diabetes or ADD/ADHD and others.
If the behavior of your troubled teen seems to be the result of something that isn’t normal trouble, then you may need professional help. But first you need to look for the warning signs yourself, analyze the teen behavior, and appropriately deal with it.
You also need to remember to have a loving and supportive family and a home where rules are obeyed. This helps prevent troubling teenage tornadoes to happen and helps handling more severe teenage problems.
Look Out for the Warning Signs of Troubled Teenagers!
Most teens can show the below mentioned signs at different times, but when there are more than six of these warning signs that remain for an extended period of time then you would know that you are dealing with a troubled teen.
A typical troubled teenager exhibits these warning signs:
- Has mood swings that go to extreme levels.
- Avoids positive friendship and/or a sudden change in peers.
- Scores low grades or there’s a drop in grades.
- Shows intense sadness and/or impulsive temper.
- Becomes secretive.
- Loses interest in activities.
- Tries purposely not to fit in with peers.
- Begins to experiment with drugs and alcohol.
- Rebels openly.
- Fails to follow limits and rules.
- Finds humor when others are distressed.
- Spends too much time sleeping or being alone.
- Has a more defiant and rude attitude.
- Turns to lying by feeling the need to avoid all consequences for misbehavior.
Now that we understand the problem and know how it appears, we need to develop a strategy to successfully parent troubled teenagers.
“Your children need your presence more than your presents.” ~ Jesse Jackson
Always Analyze Teen Behavior
Whenever you want to understand teenagers, you need to carefully analyze their behavior, which includes all that happens before, during, and after the troubled behavior.
Once you have understood the specific troubled teenage behavior you can begin aiming at the unwanted behavior, which means you need to study an encounter after it’s over.
You may need to use behavior therapy or modification techniques when you begin targeting a troubled teen behavior, so that you can replace the negative behavior with a positive one.
“Stop trying to perfect your child, but keep trying to perfect your relationship with him.” ~ Dr. Henke
Ways to Deal with Troubled Teenagers as Parents
There are various ways for parenting troubled teenagers as mentioned below:
1- Be supportive, talk, and listen to them
The best thing you can do for your teenagers is to be a supportive parent, by being there for them and be willing to talk and listen to them. Create a family bonding time where you can all share things with one another in the family.
Also, always be available for talks, which helps a great deal if your troubled teenagers are involved in risky behaviors, drugs, alcohol, or are becoming depressed or suicidal.
2- Love them unconditionally
Ensure that your teens know that you love and care for them, even if you don’t approve of their behavior. I know it gets tough being parents when your teenage kids don’t listen to you, but this way to deal does help a great deal.
Find ways to connect with them and express your love and concern even when it’s not asked for. This gives them a sense of being loved and security that we care and are with them.
3- Praise their smallest of efforts
Being parents of teenagers, you need to remember to thank or praise them for helping around the house. When you reinforce positive behaviors with praise, it’s magical as teens feel they have achieved something and are motivated further.
Sometimes teenagers do grumble about doing a chore assigned, but you need to remain cool and refrain from lecturing them or telling them things that may hurt. Instead, thank them for the work they do and appreciate their efforts.
My teenage girls are just like that – they just won’t do chores around the house anymore! This has happened recently when they stepped into their teens, and that does tend to get me angry.
But I remember my time, just as you would remember your time as a teenager, and I know that this is a passing phase that all of us have undergone, and soon they will grow out of it.
So, it’s best to keep praising them often for the good things they do, just like our parents did with us, and then watch the magic!
4- Set rules and stick to them
When your teenage kids don’t behave the way they are supposed to, you sometimes need to set curfew. Make sure that there are consequences set for breaking the rules, and you need to carry them out consistently.
The consequences could be in the form of banning their computer or Internet, or restricting their usage of cell phones, or asking them to stay at home the next day. Anything works as long as they learn to behave.
However, you need to be careful in selecting the form of the rule breaking consequences – they need to be appropriate, just, and not be too hard on your teenage children.
Stand firm in your decision, as many troubled teenagers feel that if they argue long with you, you may become tired and give in. But yes, hear them out and if they apologize then perhaps give in.
Even though I wasn’t really a troubled teen, but whenever I did trouble my parents, I was grounded for the next day. But I was quick to get around my parents and apologize, and they were quick enough to forgive me too!
I try doing the same with my kids and sometimes things just don’t work and they tend to get stubborn, which is when I have to try other techniques. So, parenting teenagers is all a game of hit and trial, and depends on what works for you and your children.
5- Give them a warm home
Troubled teens need a place where they can discuss their problems, talk out their feelings, and confide in their parents. And a warm home with loving parents is just that kind of place, when everyone can have a family time together.
Being parents, when you show your vulnerabilities to your teenagers it shows you are providing a surrounding where honesty can thrive.
Also, encourage your teens to bring in their friends at home so that you also know them, though stick to your terms and conditions for things like drinking, smoking, or other activities that you don’t approve of.
6- Encourage extracurricular activities
As far as possible, one of the best remedies for your troubled teens is to encourage extracurricular activities like sports, music, or any hobby they are interested in.
These give the teenagers a vent for their energy and their mind doesn’t really go haywire. Also, they are an important area where they can work hard and do well. When they are busy, they are less likely to be bothersome teenagers.
7- Learn to be a better parent
While I discussed mainly about how best you can deal with troubled teenagers, I should mention here that you also need to become better parents and always make yourself available for your teenagers.
I guess it makes a lot of difference if you try putting yourself in their shoes and think the way they do. How would you react or how would you feel? So, handle them with care.
Often times you may get too involved in work and when they come to you with their worries or problems, you tend to shun them or ask them to come later, which may just make them go elsewhere or feel unheard, unloved, and uncared-for.
I have been guilty of doing this and I keep reminding myself to stop all work and just hear them out first, as that’s exactly what my mom used to do, which makes mothers so special – isn’t it?
“I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” ~ Harry S Truman.
Parenting difficult teens is a real challenge, and it’s a full time job that can be stressful at times and can even turn a patient parent into an anxious one. It surely turns me into one with two of them to handle!
Remember, teenagers are resilient and talks with them often lead to arguments or hurtful words said to one another. But when you positively parent your teens you bring in more harmony into the home, and that makes a lot of difference.
With time you learn how to parent your troubled teenager and improve relationship with them. And with your care, concern, love, and guidance, most teenagers get better and grow up to be happy, successful, and healthy adults.
To wind up, there’s wonderful advice for parents of troubled teens by Dr.Phil, so be sure to check it out if you can’t find solutions yourself. Also, here is a wonderful video about how to deal with your teen by parenting expert Suzie Hayman that you are sure to like.
Over to you –
Having been a teenager yourself, how do you feel your parents managed troubled teens? If you are a parent of a teenager, what suggestions would you give to other readers about parenting troubled teenagers? Share in the comments below.
Photo Credit: martinak15
Posted on: May 18th, 2012
Last Updated on: March 17th, 2015