What to do when your 12-18 years old teenager is out of control? 5 useful strategies for parents


The teenage years are a challenge for the whole family. Categorized by hormones, wildly changing emotions, and high drama, it’s common for a parent-child relationship to start to diminish quickly with conflict rising easily. Even for a child who had an otherwise happy and normal childhood, they can become out-of-control teenagers in the blink of an eye. Preserve your relationship with your 12-18 years old teen while saving your sanity with these strategies for bringing your wayward teenager back under your control.

1. Show trust first

As a parent, you want your teenager to trust you. However, in order to start rebuilding a trusting relationship, you as the parent have to take the first step towards trust. There’s nothing a teenager hates more than their privacy being intruded upon, nor anything that makes them feel more disrespected. Show them respect by allowing them their privacy and space. Don’t just make it for a show, either – spying on your kids in secret or sneakily digging through their phones will only just backfire on you when you get caught and destroy all the trust you’ve built.

If you have some serious reasons to distrust your teen, like a history of chronic lying or sneaking, your trusting relationship might look different. Talk with your child about how you’d like to start building trust, and gradually work your way up. However, a certain measure of privacy is always necessary for a teenager, even one with a troubling past pattern of behavior. Extreme punishments like removing your teen’s bedroom door take away their most basic privacy and dignity, and will only serve to form a less trusting relationship.

Once you show that you have trust in your teenager, they’ll start returning the favor by trusting you in their space. Establishing a trusting relationship will make it much easier for the two of your to communicate in good faith, rather than feeling an undercurrent of animosity in all of your interactions.

2. Be a safe place

If your teen was to be facing serious out-of-control problems in their life, you’d want them to come to you and talk to you about it. However, in order for that to happen, your child has to be willing to come to you with their worries and feel comfortable being emotionally vulnerable. In order to build that kind of relationship, you need to be a safe place for your teenager to come to.

Being a safe place for your child involves quite a few factors. Firstly, your teen has to trust that you won’t react with anger if they come to you with something surprising or upsetting. To gain their trust and be in a safe space, your first reaction should always lead with compassion and care. There are always times to lecture and talk about consequences later, but your first reaction is going to guide you a lot about how your child confides.

It’s also important that you not show judgment to your teen. If they share something vulnerable with you and you respond with guilt or blame, they are going to feel betrayed and refuse to share such information with you in the future. You might not agree with the decisions that your child makes, but it’s important to respect them as their own person who has different opinions than you.

Lastly, continue to show your teenager’s trust by believing them when they come to you with sensitive information. Act with good faith that your teenager has come to you with something difficult because they are sincerely upset. Even if there is a remote chance they are lying, it’s better to err on the side of caution and react with compassion for the circumstances as they’ve been presented to you. If needed, you can always take steps to verify their story later.

3. Set up goals

12-18 years old teenagers who are out of control and struggling academically and behaviorally can benefit quite a bit from having clear goals. As they are preparing for adulthood, it’s important to structure their lives around their goals for their adult life and career. Start by sitting down with your teenager and talking through their goals and interests. These can be as specific or as general as they feel is appropriate. Combine a bit of both long-term and short-term goals. Goals might include simple things like wanting to learn to play the guitar, while long-term goals might involve your teen’s college plans and career ambitions.

From there, start working on a plan to shape your teen’s daily life around those goals. If their goals include getting into a great college, you can communicate with your child to help them with their academics or work on their college applications. All goals, from becoming a professional athlete to learning how to cook, can be implemented into a daily routine.

Having this kind of goal is a great way to motivate your teen to follow the structure of their day. Where beforehand you might have an argument about getting your child out of bed each morning to get ready for school, now you can remind them of their goals to motivate them to go to school, practice, or other activities. It’s also a great way to teach your teen intrinsic motivation and work ethic to prepare them for their adult lives.

4. Model good behavior

Despite how much they might try to seem to rebel against your choices, the truth is that you are your teen’s role model, both consciously and subconsciously. Whatever kinds of behavior and attitude you display to your child, they’ll repeat and amplify tenfold. As such, expecting behavior out of them that you aren’t modeling for them is going to be much harder.

A massively important behavior to model is kindness and manners. Reminding your teen to say “please” and “thank you” ten times a day will never be as impactful as consistently using it when you speak to people in front of your child. Using kind words and refraining from name-calling is a lot easier for a teenager to model when that’s the default way by which they see their parent speak to others, including their own family.

This is also important when modeling an adult’s work ethic. When a teen sees a parent who is committed to working hard in their family life, career, or hobbies, they learn to model that kind of attitude. Even having a simple commitment to maintaining the lawn or learning to knit can teach a child valuable lessons about work and commitment.

5. Show grace

With how grown teenagers can sometimes seem, it’s important to remember that they’re still children. They are imperfect, and they are going to make mistakes. They are still learning how to be adults, and they can’t be expected to have the same level of responsibility as one without making a few fumbles along the way.

When your teen inevitably makes mistakes, show compassion rather than anger. While consequences may be necessary, hostility isn’t necessary at all. Talk through their mistake calmly, and about what they can do to improve in the future. Offer comfort, and express your disappointment as well as your love.

Simple mistakes may be quickly forgotten in both your mind and your child’s, but the grace shown when your out-of-control teen won’t be forgotten. Knowing that they will be shown compassion when they make mistakes in the future will make them more likely to respect you as a parent and come to you with concerns they have in the future.

Last Updated on October 5, 2021