By Chaplain (Col) Stephen W. Leonard, USA, Ret.

Parenting is a journey brimming with joy, milestones, and hurdles. This is especially true as we guide our children through their teenage years. As kids grow, we encounter unexpected twists, leading us to wonder how best to support them during this transformative phase. 

If you’re navigating the challenges of parenting a 17-year-old with out-of-control behavior, know you’re not alone. Read on as we explore the intricacies of this phase, shed light on the evolving teenage brain, and provide compassionate strategies to nurture a healthy parent-child bond.

Understanding the Adolescent Brain

The teenage brain is an awe-inspiring work in progress. The prefrontal cortex, a neurological powerhouse responsible for decision-making and impulse control, is at the helm of this intricate development. As this region matures, teenagers embark on a remarkable journey from impulsive beings to thoughtful individuals, gradually mastering the art of considering consequences.

However, it is imperative to acknowledge that this transformation isn’t always smooth. Hormonal shifts introduce unpredictable currents, and the winds of peer influences can stir turbulence, resulting in behaviors that might leave you puzzled and concerned. 

Navigating these complex waters requires patience, understanding and a willingness to chart a course through both calm seas and stormy waters. At this point, a teenager’s brain is still being shaped, and that process sometimes needs assistance.

How to Help Your Out-of-Control Teenage Son


Deep within every parent lies the simple wish: for their children to grow up in an environment of safety, love, and nurturing care. However, this can prove difficult for a son who is out of control. With hormones flooding the system and your son starting to piece together who they want to be as an adult, it’s understandable that you might need some guidance.

Use the following information to help you and your son through these troublesome times so that you grow closer together by overcoming the issues you’re facing as a team.

Recognize Common Signs of Out-of-Control Behavior

Recognizing potential signs of out-of-control behavior in your teenager is vital for navigating these challenging waters. Adolescence often ushers in rebellion against established family norms, with defiance and disagreements becoming frequent companions. You might even find your teenager displaying moments of aggression, causing concern and anxiety.

Beyond these behaviors, you might notice other indicators, such as slipping academic performance or disengagement from family activities. Substance abuse could cast a shadow over their well-being, amplifying the worries you harbor as a parent. However, while these signs may raise alarm, remember that not every storm signifies an imminent shipwreck.

Understanding that teenagers are exploring their identities, pushing boundaries, and testing the waters is part of this developmental phase. Distinguishing between these typical behaviors and genuinely troublesome actions that warrant intervention demands sensitivity and discernment. 

By maintaining an open line of communication and keeping a watchful yet understanding eye, you can more accurately interpret these signals and offer the support your teenager needs. Remember, the goal isn’t merely to weather the storm but to guide your child toward calmer shores, armed with newfound insights and strengths.

Explore the Root Causes of Out-of-Control Behavior

Understanding your teenager entails delving beyond the surface. Family conflicts, academic pressures, societal expectations and mental health issues like anxiety and depression shape their behavior. External influences — such as online content and peer dynamics — carry considerable weight too. Addressing these underlying causes with empathy and patience is a positive step toward finding effective solutions.

While unruly behavior needs to be addressed, if the underlying causes are not dealt with, the behavior will likely continue. Think of it this way: your teenager probably doesn’t know how to handle certain situations — he is still just a child, after all! With proper guidance and support, he can develop the tools needed to address the root causes appropriately to remain in control, safe and happy.

Effective Communication Strategies

Communication is the beacon guiding us through parenting’s tumultuous seas. Active listening, creating a non-judgmental environment and posing open-ended questions are potent tools for connection. Encouraging your child to express their feelings while respecting their perspective bridges generational gaps, helping both of you navigate challenges.

Establish Boundaries and Expectations

Like a properly helmed ship requires boundaries for safe passage, teenagers thrive with clear limits and expectations. Rules offer security and help them understand their boundaries. When setting expectations, ensure they are age-appropriate and realistic. Consequences for rule violations should be openly discussed and agreed upon to foster mutual understanding.

Seek Expert Assistance

Navigating choppy waters isn’t a solo venture. If your teenager’s behavior deeply concerns you, involving professionals is a prudent decision. Therapists, counselors, and support groups offer insights and tools for effective navigation. Drastic behavioral changes or signs of mental health struggles also warrant immediate professional intervention. 

While we always want to provide everything for our children, we are not doctors. Sometimes what is best is to offer them a connection to the professionals that comes without bias or judgment. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness after all — it’s a sign of strength!

Foster a Support Network

On this journey, you are not the sole captain of the ship. Reach out to friends and family who have weathered similar waters. Forming a support network of empathetic individuals who can share experiences and advice offers immense solace. Recognizing that others have navigated similar storms can be a ray of hope during tough times.

Prioritize Self-Care for Parents

Just as a ship requires regular maintenance for smooth sailing, parents need self-care to stay resilient. Taking breaks, pursuing hobbies and seeking personal therapy aren’t selfish acts. A well-supported parent is better equipped to provide the care their child needs. Practicing self-care underscores your commitment to both you and your child.

Final Words

Parenting a teenager confronting out-of-control behavior may appear daunting, but you can navigate these turbulent waters with knowledge, empathy, and practical strategies. With the right tools and support, you have the power to guide your teenager toward calmer seas and brighter horizons.

If you’re grappling with your teenager’s behavior and seeking guidance and support, remember you’re not alone. Paul Anderson Youth Home has overcome these challenges with confidence and compassion for more than 60 years. Reach out to our professionals for the helping hand you and your child need for a successful journey through life.

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