What to do with troubled teenagers? “Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.” – Proverbs 22:6
What do you do if your child becomes a rebellious troubled teenager? Fewer nightmares are scarier to many parents than rebellion. In times like these, it’s important to remind yourself that rebellion has a reason. Behind the unruly behavior of a teen lies the core reason that’s driving him to do it in the first place. Your teen is a complex, wonderfully made individual just like you are. What’s different is that his communication and critical thinking skills aren’t quite developed like an adult’s yet. But yours is. Use them to understand why your teen is rebelling. Every child has a unique situation, yet they often trace back to a number of common threads. These common root causes often include:
- Lack of confidence and a negative image of himself
- Peer pressure that drives him to drugs, alcohol, and even criminal acts in order to ‘fit in’ with his friends
- Feelings of rejection or loneliness
- Pressure of growing up and achieving expectations to ‘be a man’
- Memories of a difficult childhood or past
- Adoption or a history of homelessness or foster homes
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- ADD, ADHD, Depression, Bipolar, and other mental disorders
What to Do with Troubled Teenagers?
Identifying why your troubled teen is struggling is only the beginning. You may feel powerless over the destructive path your child is going, but be encouraged! It is not too late. There are many things you can do as a parent to help your son through this difficult time.
- Pray! Never underestimate the power of prayer. It’s tempting to wring your hands and worry about your child because it feels like you have to do something about it. But when you pray instead, you actually are doing something! Prayer changes things. The key is that when you pray for your child, base it from the Bible, and expect that what you pray for will happen.
- Be Relentless. Don’t give up! No matter how exhausted, afraid, or angry you are, resolve to be the best parent you can be. Don’t stop focusing on the good things that you do. If you stick it through to the end and never surrender, you will win. And that winning is defined by your family coming back together. Consistency is the key to breaking through.
- Use Strategies to Deal with the Anger. Things aren’t going to get better if you lash out at your teen and say dumb things, too. Learn to develop a thick skin and a sensitive heart. Remind yourself that your child is God’s work in progress and be patient. If you experience feelings of anger or frustration, figure out smarter ways to deal with that energy. Exercising, writing a journal, listening to music, or simply talking to God about it can be a huge help with taking care of those feelings in the heat of the moment.
- Your Teen Still Needs Love. It hurts when your teen screams “I hate you!” to your face and storms off slamming the door. But based on the fact that your teen’s reasoning ability is developing, does he truly mean it? Of course not. Even if your teen declares a thousand times he never wants to see you again, he will always have a void that needs to be filled with love. From the time he was born until today, your job as a parent is still the same – to love him and be there for him when he needs it. Take it slow; let him come to you. And when he does, be ready for him with arms open wide.
- Learn to Let Go. If you’ve got a vice grip on what you want your teen to be when he grows up, get rid of it now. Your teen is an individual with his own dreams and choices, and he doesn’t want others forcing theirs on him. Give your son over to God and trust Him. Forgiveness is just as important as prayer.
- Take Care of Yourself, Too. It can be easy to get sucked into your teen’s problems and let them consume your day. But it’s equally important to take care of yourself. Stress can take it’s toll especially in emotionally difficult situations, so be sure to set aside time for yourself to unwind and forget about things for awhile. Go on a date with just you and your spouse, or spend one-on-one time with your other children. It’s a good idea to seek out help from friends, other parents, your pastor, or a family counselor. Talk with your teen’s doctor, coach, teachers, or counselor too to cross-pollinate ideas that will help you in dealing with your teen’s situation.
- It’s Only for a Season. Ecclesiastes is right that “to everything there is a season.” No matter how terrible your teen feels, assure him (and yourself) that it won’t last forever. With your love and support, things can and will get better for the both of you. Focus on the good in that outcome and keep the big picture in mind.
What to Do with Troubled Teenagers: Gateway Academy
In many cases, troubled teens who experience a ‘prodigal stage’ grow out of them and don’t like their unruly lifestyle anymore. They often return to good relationships with their parents and siblings. This is exactly what Proverbs 22:6 talks about. But if you find that discipline at home isn’t a good choice or is no longer an option, Gateway Academy could be the answer for you. Gateway Academy is a Christian boarding school for boys that has helped hundreds of parents with the “what to do with troubled teenagers” question across the United States. Unlike other boarding schools, Gateway is an environment that champions hard work, encouragement, and the love of Christ for every young student residing there. Visit our sister website at Gateway Academy to learn more about how this option may work for your son. You can also contact us at Rebellious Boys to learn more information.