Parental Options for an Out of Control Teenager

Published March 14, 2019
Teens spraying graffiti on wall

Are you at your wits end? Do you have an out of control teen? Knowing the difference between out of control behavior and normal behavior can be hard. Learn how to differentiate the behavior of your out of control teen and the options that are available.

Out of Control Behavior vs Normal Teen Behavior

Teenagers come in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes their behavior has even the most experienced of parents wondering, "Is this normal." It's important to know the difference between what is normal and what has gone beyond. Normal teens might be:

  • Moody
  • Secretive
  • Frustrated
  • Short-tempered
  • Discontented
  • Restless

When you should start to worry is if your teen is:

  • Physically abusive/destructive
  • Harming self
  • Verbally abusive
  • Habitually doing drugs/drinking
  • Stealing
  • Not coming home
  • Getting arrested/detained by cops
  • Rapid behavior changes
  • Running away or leaving home

These behaviors are not normal for a teen and could be your first clue that something is wrong. Now that you know what to look for, it is important to work to try to regain control of your household. Sometimes, this is as simple as working with your teen to change your parenting style or rules, but it could also mean seeking professional help.

How to Regain Control of Your Teenager

Most teens will become destructive at some point or try a drink or two. This is a normal part of growing up and test boundaries. Most of the time, if behavior is starting to cross the line, you'll feel it right away. Taking the right steps to get your teen back on track is crucial. Here are some tips that you can try.

Open Lines of Communication

Talking to teens is not an easy task. However, according to Debbie Pincus, MS LMHC, it's important to understand and communicate even if you don't understand. Instead of judging or giving advice, just listen to your teen. They might not answer direct questions but if you listen and talk casually when they are ready, you'll be amazed at what they are willing to share.

parents with teen girl


Separation is the name of the game for teens. They are trying to figure out how to manage the adult world on their own, but their brains and bodies are still developing. Much like a toddler, this comes with frustration and aggression. Coping with that aggression, according to Meri Wallace, LCSW, takes patience and understanding. Acknowledge your teen's emotions and listen to what is causing their frustration. Work together to try to understand their wants or decisions and help them to work toward making the right decision without criticizing or infantilizing teens.

Find Balance

Maybe your teen is bored or maybe they need your help finding their passion. Many teens are worried about the future and lacking structure or purpose in their life. You can help to give them that structure by establishing guidelines about meal times, bedtimes, etc. Rather than issuing commands that teens will rebel against work together to create a structure that will benefit both of you and reduce stress. More than anything else, teens want your love and acceptance as they navigate the turbulent waters of adolescence.

Set Consequences

Teens must understand there are consequences for their actions. However, setting unreasonable expectations or barking orders is just going to get you into a warlike rebellion. Instead, talk to your teen and work together to set rules and expectations that are reasonable. For example, work together to create a curfew that is both reasonable and can be followed. Create consequences for rules that are broken and stick to them. Being consistent is key.

When to Seek Professional Help

Knowing when it's time to seek professional help isn't always a cut and dry line. Most of the time, it's up to the parent's discretion. However, some behaviors you shouldn't let slide. If your teen is addicted to drugs or violent to you or siblings, it's important to seek professional help. It's also important to watch out for signs of depression or other mental health issues that could be causing the behaviors. These include:

  • Overly emotional/irrational
  • Tiredness
  • Appetite changes
  • Social isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Agitation

Options Available for Troubled Youth

If you've done everything you can think of as a parent or guardian and your teen is still winding down that narrow road to destruction, there are still options. It's time to bring in the big guns and get professional help before you have a run away or a juvenile delinquent. Not only are their treatment options for at home, but all-encompassing 24-hour programs as well.


Counseling can be available for just your teen but also for the family as well. Therapy can help you and your teen heal the disconnect in communication and help you find problem areas. A professional can also help to diagnose any mental health issues that your teen might be suffering from. This form of treatment can last as little as a few months but possibly more.

Teen in a counseling session

After-School Programs

Keeping your teen out of trouble might be as easy as getting them involved. There are all different kinds of after-school activities that you can try. Maybe your teen needs to join a group like the YMCA or maybe they could help others through volunteer work or peer tutoring.

Residential Programs

Teens that are having problems with drugs or alcohol or that need to be removed from the family environment might find residential treatment options more beneficial. These can include a group home or therapeutic boarding school. It might also be a summer camp, Christian retreat or wilderness program.

Military School

Another option that parents might try is a military school. The structure and discipline offered through these types of programs can be beneficial to turning around troubled youth. Additionally, these programs are available on the long and short-term.

Solutions for Troubled Youth

As a parent, there are a lot of times when you will feel at your wits end. The teen years are just one of these. Much like the terrible two's, the terrible teen years can leave you stressed and shaking your head. Understanding what to expect and how to handle out-of-control behavior can make sure that your parenting arsenal is always full.

Parental Options for an Out of Control Teenager