Teenage rebellion is considered a common hallmark of growing up. As teenagers are developing a personal identity, they may feel the need to assert their independence. Acting out for teenage boys may manifest as physical altercations and can indicate issues with emotional processing, compared to teenage girls who tend to act out by using negative emotional tactics against others. Handling your son's behavior may require significant effort, but there are efficient methods of dealing with his acting out.
Assess the Situation
It is natural for teenage boys to rebel and assert their identities -- while it is frustrating, be patient with your son, and allow him to develop his sense of self. At the same time, you need to consider that there may be underlying issues that you need to address. For example, depression may manifest in males as irritability, rather than the common expressions of sadness. Try to be aware of any signs of self-destructive behavior, such as a sudden change in friends, extreme weight loss or gain, poor school performance, behavior issues in class, excessive secrecy and withdrawal. Teen boys are also susceptible to conduct disorder, which is a behavioral disorder marked by aggression towards others, property destruction and deceitfulness. If you believe your son poses a threat to himself or others, take him to a licensed therapist for consultation and treatment.
Talking with your teenager allows you to show your love, support and respect for him. Listening to what he has to say gives him the opportunity to tell his story and be open and honest about his issues. Try to avoid confronting him, and encourage him to be honest by listening without judgement. Keep communication positive -- hold your son accountable for his behavior, but also highlight and encourage any appropriate behavior. By not focusing on his mistakes, he will feel much less defensive toward you.
Seeing a therapist is an option when you feel you alone cannot handle your teenage son's acting out. Therapists have experience in dealing with emotional and behavioral issues and provide a different perspective when working with your teenager. A therapist can work with your son to find alternatives to physical aggression and to hone emotional skills. Being a part of your teen's therapy is also an option. A therapist can serve as a mediator and help you and your teen resolve issues. Counseling will be important for teens who exhibit diagnosable behavior issues, such as conduct disorder.
Setting Appropriate Boundaries
Although you ultimately determine the rules, work in conjunction with your son to establish boundaries and expectations, showing him that you're willing to listen to his concerns. Explain to him your reasons for your rules, such as concern for his safety or the safety of others. Create clear and consistent consequences for his inappropriate behavior, making sure that the consequences are in line with the offense and that you follow through with your decisions.
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- Better Health Channel: Parenting -- Communicating with Teenagers
- Kid's Health: A Parent's Guide to Surviving the Teen Years
- Psych Central: Conduct Disorder Symptoms
- American Psychological Association: Developing Adolescents: A Reference for Professionals
- Parent Further: Teens and Boundaries
- The Ohio State University Extension: Communicating with Your Teen
S. Grey has a Master of Science in counseling psychology from the University of Central Arkansas. He is also pursuing a PhD and has a love for psychology, comic books and social justice. He has been published in a text on social psychology and regularly presents research at regional psychology conferences.
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