Keep your cool instead of fighting with your teen.

How to Deal With an Out of Control Teen

by S.R. Becker

It's normal for teens and their parents to disagree sometimes, and for teens to feel as though their parents don't understand them. According to psychologist Marie Hartwell-Walker, writing at, parental anger might exacerbate out-of-control teen behavior. If you fight with your teen or tell her how disappointed you are in her, she's likely to feel pressured and manipulated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that some troubled-teen behaviors, such as unprotected sex and the use of alcohol and drugs, are among the leading causes of death and disability for adolescents, so parental intervention is crucial.

Keep your cool, no matter how hard it is. Fighting with your teen only shows him that he can control your emotions with his bad behavior. Even if you have to walk out of the room to keep from screaming, do so. Explain to your teen that you'll be willing to talk when both of you calm down.

Draw up a contract stating which behaviors are unacceptable to you and what the consequences of those behaviors will be. For example, if your teen breaks curfew, you might take away Internet access for a week. After you and your teen sign the contract, post it in a prominent place, such as on the refrigerator. If your teen's out-of-control behavior continues, enforce the consequences without wavering.

Listen to your teen's complaints and feelings. Don't interrupt when she's talking -- let her get it all out. Recognize that out-of-control behavior can be the result of anger, and ask your teen what she's angry about. If she's angry with you and her reasons are valid, do what you can to make the circumstances right.

Give your teen an opportunity to apologize for his behavior without lecturing or scolding. Maintain your sense of humor and turn an apology into a learning experience. Ask your teen what he learned from the experience and be willing to share what you learned. Apologize if you need to apologize, then drop the subject. If possible, go do something together that you both enjoy.

Take your child to a psychologist if you see signs of depression, self-harm or eating disorders, or if your teen abuses drugs or other people. According to an article for the Empowering Parents website, these behaviors are not normal individuation. Your teen might have a lot to talk about or work through -- just not with you. If drugs, alcohol, sex or abuse are issues for her, she might feel more comfortable discussing them with a neutral third party than with her parents.


  • If your teen displays violent behavior toward himself or others, seek help immediately, even if it means calling the police. Suicidal behavior, recurrent physical fights or breaking the law are more than you should have to deal with on your own.

About the Author

S.R. Becker is a certified yoga teacher based in Queens, N.Y. She has a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has worked as a writer and editor for more than 15 years. Becker often writes for "Yoga in Astoria," a newsletter about studios throughout New York City.

Photo Credits

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