A teenager who seems uncontrollable might be suffering from mental illness.

How to Deal With Uncontrollable Teens

by S.R. Becker

A teenager who is uncontrollable might be suffering from more than normal teen angst. According to Judge Glenda Hatchett, in an interview with the Today Parenting website, moodiness in teens is normal, but wild mood swings are not. If your teen seems to be at the mercy of her emotions, is unable to calm himself when he's upset or refrain from violence when he's angry, act quickly to help him get his behavior under control.

Draw up a behavioral contract in which you state the behavior you expect, the rewards for following through and the consequences for not following through. For example, your teen might want a later curfew, which you agree to give her on weekends if she comes home on time on weeknights. The consequences of coming home late on a weeknight might be staying in on weekends. Read the contract together after you write it. Sign it, have your teen sign it and uphold your end of the bargain. Enforce consequences immediately and give rewards promptly.

Model appropriate behavior in front of your teen. If he screams and yells at you, walk away. Tell him often how much you love him, and reward him with praise when he does something well. By refusing to respond to out-of-control behavior but responding positively when your teen shows self-control, you teach him how to get your attention appropriately.

Listen to your teen whenever she needs to talk. She's going through tremendous changes physically, emotionally and socially, and she needs someone to whom she can talk without judgment. If she tells you something shocking, such as that she's sexually active or has tried alcohol, do your best to respond calmly and rationally. Keeping the lines of communication open is crucial if you want to help her learn to control her behavior.

Help your teen make the necessary changes in his life. He might be acting uncontrollable because he's bored or being bullied at school. Give him outlets for both his interests and his excess energy. For example, a kid who hates football and loves dance might be teased at school and stop dancing. Find dance classes where he can express himself creatively and burn off anger and frustration. Always praise him when he puts a lot of effort in for the activity he chooses.

Seek professional help, both for your child and for yourself, if the tactics you've tried haven't worked. You and your child might need family therapy, individual therapy or both. If your child is self-injuring or shows signs of depression, anxiety or eating disorders, find a qualified child psychologist immediately. Sometimes inpatient or intensive outpatient psychiatric care is necessary to get behavior under control.


  • Don't neglect your own mental health when dealing with an uncontrollable teen -- you can't be the parent he needs if you're not taking care of yourself. Take a day off when you need it, even if you have to get someone else to stay home with your child.

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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