Is your teen out of control?

Larry Borins discusses what to do when your teen is out of control postdivorce.

By Larry Borins
April 03, 2008
ON FAQs/Emotional Issues

Learn the tools to turn your families' lives around for good.

Your teenager is out of control if he or she is between the ages of twelve and eighteen and has exhibited at least one of the following behaviors in the last six months and three or more in the last twelve months.

  • Persistent and serious lying
  • Physical cruelty to people or animals
  • Running away repeatedly
  • Destruction of property
  • Threats of suicide
  • Using or possessing weapons
  • Ditching school repeatedly
  • Stealing
  • Bullying or threatening others
  • Setting fires
  • Defying adult requests/rules
  • Sexual misconduct like rape

Other characteristics commonly found in out-of-control teenagers include:

  • Blaming others for their mistakes and refusing to take responsibility for any wrongdoing.
  • Quickly losing their tempers and acting impulsively
  • Poor academic grades and problems in the classroom on a consistent basis
  • Alcohol or drug abuse that goes beyond simple experimentation and other illegal activities, such as joyriding, damaging property, or shoplifting.
  • Difficulty maintaining a job and getting along with coworkers.
  • Projecting an image of "toughness" when deep down they feel insecure.
  • A high risk of developing what is called antisocial personality disorder as they move into adulthood at the age of eighteen. This means that the teenagers will show little remorse or guilt for causing pain or harm to others. They become cold, unfeeling and have difficulty maintaining any long-term relationships.

Within the mental health system, these teenagers are often given the diagnosis of conduct disorder or oppositional defiant disorder, according to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). I will purposely avoid using these labels in our work together. These labels imply that your out of control teen is mentally ill and therefore not responsible for his or her misbehavior.

There may be times when it is appropriate to label your teen and some teens may experience a true mental illness like schizophrenia or depression. Labeling for instance is necessary to receive special education services in school. However, throughout our work, I will demonstrate how labeling can interfere with your ability to parent and hold your teen accountable for their misbehaviors.

Reestablish Authority and Reclaim Love

Every teenager rebels against authority at some point ­ talks back, breaks curfew, or disobeys. But literally millions of teens take their rebellion to a point where it disrupts their families and endangers their own futures or even their lives. If one of these teens is yours, you've probably lived through years of conflicting advice and solutions that don't last. Let me show you the steps you need to take in order to achieve positive, permanent change for you and your teenager.

  • Learn the real reason for teen misbehavior
  • Make a contract to stop that behavior
  • Troubleshoot future problems
  • End button-pushing
  • Stop disrespectful behavior and threats of violence
  • Mobilize outside help
  • Reclaim lost love within the family

Learn the tools to turn your families' lives around for good.


Larry Borins, MSW, RSW is a social worker providing counseling and group leadership services to couples, families and individuals in a variety of counseling and therapeutic environments. 


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April 03, 2008
Categories:  FAQs

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