How to Guide Your Troubled Teen Towards Better Choices

How to Guide Your Troubled Teen Towards Better Choices


Parenting can be an exciting journey, watching our babies turn into toddlers then children, and eventually, into teenagers right before your eyes. It seems like a blink of an eye, and we often hear parents exclaim “They grow up so fast!”

However, each stage of growth also comes with its challenges. For teenagers, with all the growing up, the parts of teenagers’ brains that control their decision-making haven’t fully grown, and sometimes, this leads to poor, rash and impulsive decision making.

These poor decisions can derail your teen, making homes battlefields. Many parents feel like hostages in their homes and walk on eggshells, and are at a complete loss for ways to connect to their once sweet and obedient children. 

Parents often try to redeem their children’s bad decisions, but the truth remains that you can’t control your child’s life choices or their outcomes. As a parent, all you can do is guide them towards the right path, but you cannot walk it for them.

However, all is not lost. Your power to influence them by guiding them is crucial

Signs of a troubled teen

As a parent, it’s vital to understand the signs that may mean that your teen is troubled. 

Normal behaviors for adolescents include;

  • Bouts of rebellion
  • Withdrawal from family
  • Changing behaviors
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Spending more time with friends
  • Mood swings

However, troubled teens may exhibit these behaviors, plus others, in a repetitive, aggressive, excessive and sudden manner.  For example, they may have;

  • Excessive mood swings
  • Violent behaviors
  • Sudden changes in their personality
  • Constant feelings of despair and sadness
  • Escalation of arguments and excessive anger
  • Threat and violent behavior towards people, animals and even property
  • Disrespect to higher authority, family members, teachers and other people
  • Sudden academic performance decline
  • Excessive weight loss or gain
  • Skipping and truancy in school
  • Open rebellion
  • Illegal activities like drug taking or shoplifting
  • Suicidal thoughts and self-harm
  • Signs of depression, like oversleeping or isolation

Some of the above behaviors may lead to breaking the law, so it is vital to have a reputable lawyer who understands the young person’s justice system landscape. 

That said, as a parent, when your teen becomes troubled, you can intervene; they still need your attention, help and love and here is how to guide your troubled teen towards better choices.

1. Acknowledge, recognize and keep calm

As a parent of a troubled teen, start by acknowledging and recognizing your feelings of despair, panic, frustration, powerlessness and disappointment with your child. Don’t overreact by judging your child or yourself; it can lead to further spiraling.

Avoid hovering, yelling, distancing, overcontrolling, blaming, or any emotion or actions that you may be tempted to try and correct the situation.Learn to control your anxiety regardless of how difficult things are.

Remember, letting your emotions take over can damage your relationship with your teenager, making it hard to lead them to better choices. 

Additionally, it will make the teen wrestle with you and other people instead of wrestling with the bad choices they have made. Likewise, you will wrestle with them instead of guiding them to better choices.

2. Understand the root of the wrong choices

After you recognize your teen has made a wrong choice, it’s important to understand why. It’s common for teenagers to struggle with issues like attention deficit, depression, trauma, hyperactivity, bullying, or learning disorders silently.

Most teenagers struggle in silence since they are unsure and afraid of asking for help without being judged. The silence can sometimes spiral into disorder and defiance as they try to reconnect with their emotions.

Try to connect with your teenager to understand the root cause of their troubles. What triggers their destructive behaviors?

Learn to have candid and open conversations without being afraid to hear the truth, which will enable you to get more insight into their problems. For example, if your teen has gone deep into drugs, discuss ways to go to rehab and the dangers of drug abuse without sugarcoating.

If open conversation doesn’t work, reframe your perspective. Shifting your perspective may give you deep insight into what triggers your teenager’s troubles.

Additionally, look out for signs of mental disorders; for example, changes in sleeping patterns, poor school performance, anxiety, and withdrawal from people may be signs of depression.

3. Take charge, not control

Taking control of your troubled teen is counterproductive, instead take charge by being tough on them without fear of their reactions. However, remember you can’t control or influence their decisions. 

For example, if your teen decides to go partying the whole night, you can’t lock them out of the house every night. Instead, give an ultimatum: if you continue coming home late, you won’t have the car again, or I will take away your cell phone.

In other words, let your teen feel and experience the direct consequences of their choices.

Additionally, if they continue breaking your rules and engaging in destructive behaviors, confront them and don’t bend the rules. Maintain clear, firm boundaries in a connective and loving manner. Become the adult your teen wants and needs in their life.

Keep in mind that if your teen has crossed the line by bullying others, being destructive, being abusive, it’s time to seek strong intervention, even if it means involving law enforcement. However, the chances of ruining your relationship with your teen are high.

4. Love them unconditionally

Teenagers will test your calm, patience, and love, often beyond your imagination.

However, most parents take a break from their troubled teens, and that’s not okay. Troubled kids need extra love and unconditional love. Showing them that you still love them regardless of their bad choices, will increase their self-worth and eventually steer them towards making better choices.

5. Avoid becoming an enabler

Most times, parents become an enabler for their kids’ bad choices in order to relieve their hurt and pain. It’s a natural parent instinct but a wrong move. 

The problem with enabling is that it shields your teen from the consequences of their actions, and therefore, they don’t learn. 

For example, if you continue giving them huge allowances, it may fuel their addiction further but paying for rehab is acceptable support. So, driving your teen to an AA meeting is okay, but giving them an allowance that allows them to buy alcohol is not okay.

Final thoughts on guiding your troubled teen towards better choices

Parenting troubled teenagers is not walk in the park; the stress, fear, and uncertainties can lead to emotional and physical burnout for any parent.

However, regardless of the turbulence or pain it may cause your kid, it’s advisable to guide them from the wrong choices to the right path.

Don’t fear the harsh action you may take, including professional treatment or law enforcement involvement. After all, when the situation is challenging, it requires tough guidance to improve the life of your loved one and others close to your teen.

Ultimately, guiding your teen into better choices will make them well-balanced, joyful young adults.




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