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Parenting Troubled Teens

Troubled teen behaviors do not always start at home but they effect the home. In this article we will review how to start at home to resolve some of these teen issues by analyzing teen behavior and give you tips to use on troubled teen behavior, and parenting troubled teens.


Parenting is never easy. Parenting a troubled teenager can be overwhelming for you and your family. You may worry because your teen is defiant, angry, violent, or withdrawn. You may feel worried, angry, and overwhelmed. Your home may seem filled with chaos and tension. You know that something has to change. The following tools for parents will help you as you seek to minimize conflict and increase communication within your home.

Troubled teens come in all shapes and sizes. Whether they are having problems do to ADD/ADHD, depression, regular teenage angst or drug and alcohol abuse, troubled teens can upset the family order and the peace of a home. There are some steps that can be taken to start dealing with troubled teen behavior at home, usually in the form of behavior modification techniques. However, it is important to remember that if troubled teen behavior appears to be the result of something beyond "normal" troubles, professional help may be needed. And even when you are getting professional help for your troubled teen, it is important to remember to create a supportive home, as well as one where rules are obeyed.

Analyzing teen behavior

The first step toward understanding a troubled teen is to carefully analyze behavior. What happens right before the behavior, what happens during the behavior and the consequences of the behavior. When you understand the observable process of specific troubled teen behaviors, you can begin targeting the unwanted behaviors. This means that you need to carefully analyze an encounter after it is over. What happened just before the troubled teen behavior began manifesting itself? What is the behavior? How did you react, and what happened after the behavior? In many cases, rules are not enforced, or the teen ends up with what he or she ultimately wants. This is why the troubled teen behavior continues. When you understand the specifics behind a behavior, you can begin targeting that behavior with specific techniques. It is especially important to note that when you begin targeting a troubled teen behavior, it is vital that you use behavior modification to replace the negative behavior with a desired behavior.

Techniques for use on troubled teen behavior

One of the best things you can do is to be a supportive parent, "there" for your troubled teen and willing to listen or talk. Make sure that your teen knows that you have love for him or her, even if you do not approve of his or her behavior. Be available for talks. This can be especially crucial if your troubled teen is involved in alcohol or drugs, risky behaviors or is becoming depressed or suicidal. Other things to try for behavior modification in the home: 

  • Reinforce positive behaviors with praise or by thanking the teen for helping out around the house. Even if he or she grumbles about doing a chore, refrain from the "here's what we do for you" lecture and thank him or her for taking the trash out or vacuuming the front room. 
  • Consistently enforce rules. When you set curfew, make sure that there is a consequence for breaking it, whether it is staying home the next night or having restricted access to the computer. When you set a rule, also set a consequence for breaking that rule. And then carry it out. 
  • Reward responsible behavior. If your teenager regularly meets curfew and acts otherwise responsible, consider making the curfew an hour later on the weekends. If he or she shows that a car can be handled responsibly, let him or her take it for an extra night during the week, or let him or her drive it to school, rather than having you drop him or her off. 
  • Stand firm in your decision. Many troubled teens find that if they argue long enough, you will become tired and give in. If you need the car for the evening, and your teen argues that you are mean, their friends get to use the car, etc., try to avoid becoming angry and arguing back. Simply state that you need the car, and since his or her friends can use their cars, he or she can call for a ride. Giving in to arguments or "reasoning" only encourages more arguments.

It is important to note that behavior modification does not work for all teens, and teens with especially difficult problems may need professional help.

Start At Home Main source material:

  • "Behavior Modification," National Youth Network. [Online.]

Related Article: When to Seek Teen Help >>

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