How to act in front of troubled teenagers: guidelines for parents

How to act in front of troubled teenagers: guidelines for parents

Adolescence is a time of crisis, but it is also the time for the development of independence and the creation of a solid identity and self-esteem of every person.


  • 1 Change control to the guide
  • 2 When adolescent behavior is risky
  • 3 Be willing to work to achieve change
  • 4 Five important facts about teenagers
  • 5 What is your goal?
  • 6 Give the teenager the responsibility of his own life
  • 7 Why it is so difficult to give children responsibilities
  • 8 Your response to the provocation of your teenager
  • 9 Your List

Change control by guide

Because teenagers are much more independent and mobile than they were young, they are often outside the direct physical control of adults. Under these circumstances, teenagers' behavior is determined solely by their own moral code. Parents begin to lead instead of directly controlling their children's actions and, no doubt, this is a great step for everyone.

Teenagers who feel the warmth and support of their parents, who convey clear expectations, in addition to fair and consistent limits, are less likely to carry out risky behaviors at this stage of their life.

When adolescent behavior is risky

Some parents of teenage children face almost all kinds of problems and conflicts. In these situations, the root of the problem is really control. Teenagers want to feel they have control of their life, and parents want teenagers to know that they are the ones who still set the rules..

Teenagers whose behavior is belligerent, dangerous or unacceptable despite their parents' efforts to avoid it, may need professional intervention.

When teenagers do such worrisome things as: go with bad company, disrespect, lie, not go to class, steal, escape from home, etc. Parents often reach a level of despair such that they feel unable to carry out an effective solution.

Be willing to work to achieve change

Like everything, The first step is to recognize the problem and be willing to work to change things.

If you are a parent of a teenage son and you are in a similar situation, consider the following:

Nobody, look closely, No one, no person or institution, can do for your child more than you, if you really want things to change, you must be willing to work to make this change possible.

It is tremendously painful to feel worried, humiliated, helpless, guilty ... That is why it is in this pain and in the way of overcoming it that we can work. We will start from the basis that you are looking for a new form of action that you can carry out alone (if you are the only one who takes care of the adolescent's education at home) or with your partner. Naturally it is better that both parents or guardians, by mutual agreement, apply the change of attitude together, so that the results are truly effective and come true.

What we leave here is not a new theory to understand, but a new way of doing what you have to learn and what happens to get a new self confidence.

Five important facts about teenagers

1º Most of the boys who did things like what your teenager does (steal, lie, disrespect, assault, stop going to class ...) have finished very well by getting older. That is to say, they have made their way in life and, at the same time, they maintain cordial relationships with other people.

You're not alone. Thousands of parents are going through the same thing as you. Most families go through a period during the adolescence of their children in which they find it very difficult to live together. And most teenagers, including those with challenging behaviors, usually between 18 and 25 change and become friends with their parents.

3rd Do not feel guilty for all those things that you stopped doing or did more in the past and do not be afraid of having influenced your child's current behavior. Young people have a tremendous force that pushes them to fill their lives and it is that force that determines the outcome of their lives.

4th If you feel trapped, resentful and think that your child can with you, it is very likely that you have more power than you suspect, including the power to make things change for the better.

You have the same need and the same right to the consideration, freedom, happiness and love that your son.

What is your goal?

Have you ever wondered what your goal is in your child's education? Parents tend to pursue several goals at once, but at different levels:

  • At the most immediate level, the goal is to change a certain behavior: stop lying, missing class, insulting ...
  • If parents are asked why they want these changes, they respond with other more general objectives: to go to the University, to be an honest person ...
  • But if asked what they intend in the long term, parents respond to other things that can be summed up in: "I want my child to be a responsible person, capable of making good decisions for himself."

That is why the first thing you have to do is leave, for the moment, the most immediate concerns and ask yourself: “What can I do in this situation that contributes to my son being more responsible and more capable of making his own decisions?”.

Give the teenager the responsibility of his own life

Here we are going to introduce some ideas that may surprise you or seem out of place. Do not panic. Although it is difficult to accept this new change of attitude and think on your part, you should know that they have served for many years parents and mothers of teenage sons and daughters.

If you have problems with your child it is more than likely that you are doing one of two things, or both:

  1. No doubt you forget a very important need for yourself: lead a happy life.
  2. Most likely you are dealing with something that corresponds to your child and not you: to direct the life of your child.

The ultimate goal is not for your child to study or work this or that thing, remember, is that Become a responsible person, mature and capable of making decisions for yourself in the future.


Take paper and pencil and make a list, as complete as possible, with everything your teenager does that bothers you.

Here are some examples to help you:

  • He says he goes to one place and then goes to another
  • Leave your stuff all over the house
  • He leaves home and does not respect the arrival time
  • Does not go to class
  • Do not wash
  • The day is hanging on the mobile
  • Does not help at home
  • Insults me
  • He treats me as if I had done something wrong
  • He has a belligerent and aggressive attitude
  • He demands money from me
  • Steals from me or others from family / friends
  • He mounts tantrums and threatens us when he doesn't get his way
  • Etc.


Write down separately those things your child does that, although they may be consequences for his life, do not directly affect your life. We will call this new list: THE LIST OF THE BOY

If one thing you don't know if it's from the boy's list or not, think about whether you HAVE DIRECT POWER over it. If you don't have it, it's from the boy's list.

There may be things that affect him and you. For example: do not wash, who will be unpresentable and will receive rejection from the people around them will be him, but it will affect you as long as you cannot resist the bad smell or your appearance disgusts you.


  1. Start getting the idea that you have to abandon responsibility in these matters.
  2. Learn to trust your child He can make, and will make, the right decisions for him, and let him know that you trust him.

Most likely, it is extremely difficult for you to continue with these guidelines, and that right now you feel totally scandalized. You may wonder: how can I trust him for something he has shown so irresponsible? But now you start offering him a new image, this new attitude of yours confirms that you do not have a poor or negative image of him, that you know he is able to learn from his own mistakes.

Example: situation in which the boy has left school, for not going to class or for not studying or doing homework:

  • "Javier, I've been very worried lately because you don't study and school grades are terrible and I've tried to make you study."
  • “I have thought about this and I have realized that it is nonsense. I can't force you to do anything, and it's also your life that is at stake and it's your business. ”
  • "I think you are able to make the right decisions about the study."
  • "From now on I will stay out of your decisions about that and, I am sure, that you decide what you decide will be appropriate."
  • "You already know that I love you and I am interested in your things and I will do what I can and be in my hand to help you if you ask me, but basically from now on it is your business."

IMPORTANT GUIDELINES for our dialogue from now on with our teenage son:

  • Always speak in 1st person (what you feel and you want), never from what he could or should
  • Speak the least, brevity is the key (and say things only ONCE)
  • Do not ask questions
  • Do not judge
  • Don't give advice that he hasn't asked for

Start today to change:

  • Give up your habit of making decisions instead of him
  • Change some thoughts and opinions about him

And remember: if you convey your frustration or anger to the boy, you will only do give negative attention to which he is accustomed and you will reinforce his irresponsible behavior.

He thinks that the teenager wants to be given that freedom but, on the other hand, this freedom often scares him, and most do everything he can to regain control.

Do not give advice, do not judge and do not fail

It's not about who is right, or who will win or lose

You are neither his master nor his slave

You are a model of life

Why is it so difficult to give children responsibilities

It is very difficult to allow someone for whom you feel responsible to make their own mistakes. But, if you don't give the teenager the responsibility of his own life, what message are you giving him? You are implying that he is incapable of governing his own life and making wise decisions. You are telling him that he needs another person to think for him.

This attitude confirms the boy a negative and poor image of himself.

It is true that you will not always get immediate positive responses and that, of course, you will make mistakes ... but think that you are now in the posture of someone watching a caterpillar emerge from its cocoon. The caterpillar must strive and fight to get out, and suffer in the process ... but these efforts will allow it to move forward, spread its wings and fly like a butterfly.

That is why from now on try:

  • Give up your habit of making decisions instead.
  • Learn to enjoy your ability to make decisions.
  • Change some thoughts and opinions about him.

Surely the most difficult thing is going to be learning to change your opinion about him, because if you clearly see that he is making the wrong decisions, how will that change your opinion?

Think about things this way: the teenager has to learn a very important thing: He has to learn to consider all the consequences of his decisions by himself, without you being scolding or warning him., because he won't want to listen to you.

If you prevent him from making his decisions, the conflict with you will be really important, and this will prevent him from clearly recognizing the consequences of his actions.

The only protection that the boy has in front of the dangers is his common sense and the know that it is up to him to detect these dangers and make the right decisions about it.

The parents will not always be behind him and if, out of fear, we have not given him the possibility of taking responsibility for his life, we will have done him a disservice. We will have laid the groundwork for it to be a weak and dependent adult who will blame others for all their evils.

We will have taught him that those responsible for his life are others, not him.

Your response to the provocation of your teenager

If after passing the responsibility of your own decisions to your child, he behaves worse than before transferring control, surely you will experience disappointment, anger, frustration ... In this case before responding consider the following:

  1. If you transmit your frustration or anger, you will only give your negative attention, to which you are accustomed, and unintentionally reinforce your irresponsible behavior.
  2. Remember that the boy is not hurting you, while what he does affects his life.
  3. Remember your adolescence and everything you went through, surely in many things you can feel identified.

Whatever your first impulse when your teenager doesn't behave as you expected, stay firm in your decision not to take control: do not regret, do not move your head in disapproval, do not ask questions, do not give advice

Negative attention is like a drug that causes more irresponsibility.

As much as it costs you, show yourself friendly, attentive and with an attitude of relaxation and acceptance. Remember, this is a problem of yours (on your list), it is not hurting you.

When they tell you something about your teenager's inappropriate behavior, don't play the detectives. Tell him clearly with him, tell him that you are not going to assume a responsibility that is his.

Speak with first-person phrases in which you say what you think, feel and will do.

Remember, the focus of the conversation should be you, from respect, and not him.

Your list

In the previous notes we talked about making a list and separating things from the boy's list. Now we are going to make your particular list.

To achieve this we must start by developing a basic attitude: that of looking for oneself, which means that you respect yourself, take care of yourself and are loyal to your own child.

You have to regain the habit of taking into account your tastes and your needs.

  • Exercise 1: Think of all the people you are in charge of, count them with your fingers. When you have done so, answer this question: have I included myself in the list?
  • Exercise 2: Ask yourself if you have dedicated time, care and attention, and think about how you behave in general with your child, do you spend the day arguing, scolding ...?
  • Exercise 3: Sit down with pencil and paper and write the answer to this question: What do I owe my son? And then: What does my son owe me? What things have to justify your answers ?. You don't really owe your son anything and your son doesn't owe you anything. Each one is a free and independent person to do for the other what he thinks he should do.
  • Exercise 4: Read the following sentences and see how you feel when pronouncing them:
    • I have the right to privacy
    • I have the right to be treated with respect
    • I deserve to be happy
    • I have the right to spend my free time as I want.

It is possible that these ideas cause you as a minimum, awe ... Isn't it selfish to take care of me?

No, we are not asking you to become selfish and think only of yourself or trample on others. What we ask is that you grant your inner self the same rights you grant to other people in your life, because YOU CAN ONLY GIVE TO OTHERS IF YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE.

All the young people need with them authentic people, that is, people who accept the responsibility of achieving their desires and that when they do, it is because they really want to.

Giving because you want is much more authentic than giving because you must.

If your teenager is doing something that affects your list, it may be because he does not consider you a person at the same level, but rather as a shadow, something useful for his needs, an object ... it is as if you were there to be used.


The first thing we will do is think and speak in the first person:

  • I want…
  • I would like…
  • I like…
  • I'm going to do…

Many of these thoughts we translate without wanting to a second or third person, for example:

  • "I'm sleepy" becomes: "Why don't we go to sleep?"
  • "I feel hurt and treated unfairly" becomes: "You are not good."
  • "I want peace of mind at home this summer" becomes: "Son, why don't you look for a job this summer?"

Note that these examples take part of the responsibility in the interlocutor.

If you learn to communicate in the first person, not only with your teenager but also in all other facets of your life, you will communicate your feelings in a clearer and more authentic way.


  • Try to change the debt for him
  • Do not speak negatively. Tell your interlocutor what you want NOT what you don't want. Don't make others guess what you want them to do.
  • Do not ask questions. Instead of saying: “Where were you?”, Say “I was worried about you, I thought you would be home at ten”:
  • Do not use when speaking neither 2nd nor 3rd person.
  • Do, on purpose, some spontaneous things. Let them leave you, without thinking too much, some small ideas, fun, make them ...


Make your list.

Your list includes matters of the boy's list that directly affect your life.

For example:

  • Do not clean anything at home.
  • Leave everything in between.
  • I lack respect.
  • It steals me.
  • Bring friends home and organize parties without permission.
  • It has become a parasite that neither studies nor works.

Some people who have not had these problems may say: “But how do you consent to that? Do not consent. ” However, what really happens is that the parents who are in this situation do not know how to end it.

When you feel hurt because your child does these (or other) things, it is because he seems to be telling you:

  • I do not care about you.
  • You have no value as a person.
  • I don't have to listen to you.

This defines your child as an irresponsible and inconsiderate, and you as a useful object or shadow whose rights do not count.

Ask at this point what your goals are:

  1. Be happier.
  2. May your child be a responsible and honest person.

Unfortunately, people tend to forget what they really want and behave as if their deepest aspirations were:

  • Know who will win
  • Prove I'm right
  • Make sure my son does what I want
  • Worry about what other people will think

So remember:

Your attitude can change things

The way you see the situation between you and your child influences this situation

True and respectful attitudes are also contagious.

  • You and your son have the same rights as human beings
  • Your son is responsible for fulfilling his wishes and achieving his happiness, and I am responsible for my wishes and my happiness
  • The best father is neither a master nor a slave, he is an equal
  • The best I can give you is a model of life that makes you think it is worth living


Define your rights:

  • The right to privacy.
  • The right not to endure violent or aggressive attitudes.
  • The right not to be keeping a drone.
  • The right to be treated with respect and kindness.

But keep in mind that these same rights are what your teenager deserves and claims.

But above all, make sure that you grant your teenager rights equivalent to what you want.