drug addiction

Out-of-control teen? Is your teen pushing your buttons?

Does this describe your out-of-control teen?
  • Not attending school.
  • Being rude or disrespectful to you or anyone in the household.
  • Being careless with personal appearance or cleanliness.
  • Being abusive or violent with people or animals.
  • Using alcohol or drugs.
  • Smoking.
  • Not contributing to the home in any way (chores).
  • Staying away from home for hours/days without letting you know where they are.
  • Bringing unwanted visitors into the home.
  • Trashing the house.
  • Not taking care of their own stuff i.e. room/clothing/vehicle etc.
  • Stealing or taking belongings without permission.

All of these things indicate an out-of-control teen. Ok so lets take another deep breath and see where the problem began. Has this started recently? Has your teen always been like this or has this got worse? If so, when did things get worse? Can you pinpoint a time or event such as a divorce, a house move, job loss etc?
If this is a problem that started overnight and especially in response to some kind of family change or trauma, the best course of action would most likely be to get the help of a counselor to try and get your teen back on track. Check and see what is available through the school district or ask them for help or suggestions. But act NOW before things get any worse.

Teenagers do not have to be allowed to cop an attitude just because their hormones are upset. In the real world we all have to deal with things like a bad day, a stomach ache, loss of a friend, or a romance going sour.
However, I am guessing that this may have been going on for some time but getting worse to the point where you are now unable to cope. These things can creep up on us, until one day you realise just how bad things are. Other family members as well as yourself are feeling the stress: maybe other younger children are getting abused/yelled at, or they are starting to copy the out-of-control teen's behavior. Possibly you are thinking things will get better and this is just teen hormones or the teen attitude that everyone talks about. Well in my book that is BALONEY! Teenagers do not have to be allowed to cop an attitude just because their hormones are upset. In the real world we all have to deal with things like a bad day, a stomach ache, loss of a friend, or a romance going sour. If we want to keep our friends and our jobs we have to learn to put personal stuff aside.

So, if your out-of-control teen is really causing all kinds of mayhem, please consider the following:

  • Have you allowed them to get away with stuff?
  • Have they been allowed to back-answer?
  • Have they been allowed to annoy/tease their siblings or the family pets?
  • Have they been allowed to stay out late with no restrictions?
  • Have they been allowed to take/use things which are not theirs?
  • Do you know what goes on in your home in your absence?

Sorry to say but there is almost always some component of enabling here.

OK so you have an out-of-control teen but you are ready to deal with it/them. First of all you need to know that it ain't gonna be easy!! They didn't get this way in five minutes or even five weeks so it is going to take determination on your part. The very first thing to do is to get your self some support. Whether it is family or a friend or your Church or the local police or school, you will need all the support you can get.

If your out-of-control teen really falls into the categories I listed above, it is going to take a lot of work to get them back to acting like a human being. They will up the ante and try and try to wear you down. That's why you need support ! On the really tough days you will need someone to turn to for an extra boost of determination.
Alright let's get to business. First of all, go over all the things which your out-of-control teen is doing to make life hell. It works best of both parents are on the same page with this. Unfortunately many homes now are one parent or even worse, one parent is absent - in support if not in body. I would really prefer to do it alone than have to drag an unwilling spouse or partner along. So, assess your support and your family dynamics.
Then, make some plans according to what behavior is the worst in your opinion. If drugs are really involved, then this is going to be the very first thing to deal with. Most drugs change the brain patterns, making dealing with the users on a normal basis almost impossible. Reasoning with an out-of-control teen who is a drug user, no matter what the drug or how much is used, is a losing battle.

After assessing the drug situation...

You may want to print out and give them a copy of my Letter for a Teenager.

make some plans to deal with that first. Learn all you can about the drug if you know what it is. ( See my drug symptoms list ) The more you know about what they are doing the better able you will be to deal with stuff. Then sit down to make a plan to talk with your teen. The first part of the talk should address the drug use. If you have already talked with your teen about drugs, then the conversation should not come as any great surprise and your subsequent actions will depend on how that conversation went.
If you have not talked to them about your views on drug use, then a frank discussion about drugs is the very first thing. Plan to let them know that you will not tolerate drug use. Explain that there is a huge potential for harm, both physical and emotional, from using drugs. Explain that you love them enough to stop them using drugs and harming themselves. Try and make the conversation non-confrontational, and also never make idle threats.
Remember to listen and to ask why they feel the need to use drugs. Ask in a way that sounds like you are really interested and not in a confrontational way. You tone of voice will go a long way to making this a good conversation.
Then explain that if they continue to use drugs or show any signs of the behaviors I have listed above, that there will be consequences. Consequences are not threats. They are well thought out and necessary steps which you are prepared to take to make sure they comply with your requests. Be sure to fully explain that there are going to be enforceable consequences for non compliance with your requests.

Examples of things which are enforceable:

  • Take away the car keys if they drive any vehicle that you own or pay for in any way.
  • Lock up their bike.
  • Remove any cell phone or beeper if you pay for it.
  • Remove TV and Internet privileges.
  • Remove phone privileges, both incoming and outgoing calls.
  • Remove any privilege for which you pay. i.e. a weekly allowance is a privilege. This is different from any work they do which is extra to their normal expected chores and for which you might pay them, for example washing your car, or working in a family business.

Find out if there are any curfews in your area. Many cities now have a teen curfew, especially on school nights. If there is one, be sure your teen abides by it.

Examples of something which is not enforceable:

Making them stay in the house or in their room. If your teen son is 5'10" and weighs 180# and you are 5'2", you are not going to be able to force him to stay in his room, nor should you. No type of 'hands on' is going to work and it can be construed as assault. Physical restraint of any kind should never be used. BUT, you can make sure that he does not take your car or your bike. If he leaves the house it must be on his own two feet. If he takes your car, it is theft and you call the police. Yes, I mean that. You call the police. If you say that he cannot use your car and he takes it anyway and you do nothing, you are enabling his bad behavior.

Out-of-control teens can be pretty good at pushing our buttons but one of the biggest secrets to success is to remain calm. When dealing with my house mate when she would go on a screaming tirade directed at me, I found that whatever I said just produced another bunch of screaming. She would use every illogical thing she could think of to make me react. I found that by remaining calm and answering her with a very basic and non-threatening comment such as " I'm sorry you are so upset" helped to diffuse the situation. At the very least she knew that she was not going to engage me in pointless discussion.

You may need to consider buying and using a home drug test. These can be bought via the Internet and can cover individual drugs or several drugs at one time. You will still have to get your out-of-control teen to agree to use the test (with your supervision). If they refuse, then you are in a situation where you need to get professional help.

Whatever the outcome of the conversation, you will need to be firm in sticking to whatever enforceable consequence you decide upon. They will doubtless try and talk you round or play off one parent against another. The most important thing is to remain calm but firm - even on the days when you feel like giving up or giving in.

If your out-of-control teen has become heavily involved in drugs, of whatever kind, you may have to consider some kind of teenage drug rehab. If this is an option, do your homework and get the best you can afford. Get recommendations if possible. Drug rehabs are not going to solve the whole problem though. Even after your out-of-control teen returns home it will require work - a lot of work - on their part, your part and everyone in the household to support the ' clean teen', and to make sure they do not fall back into their drug way of life. If they pick up with old friends and hang out at the same places, they will be back into the drug scene.

A final word of warning about abuse or violence. If your out-of-control teen is already being abusive and violent with you or anyone else in the household, be very careful. This is not something you can deal with alone.
You need to consult a professional who is used to dealing with violent teens. Do not just hope it will stop because it never does. It will only get worse. For you own sake and the sake of other children and pets in the home, you need to take immediate action, learn about domestic violence, contact the school counselor, call your local abuse hot line or the police. I do understand you may be reluctant to involve the police, but if your out-of-control teen is already displaying violence in your home, then it is only a matter of time before they get into some kind of violent confrontation outside the home. Please do not wait until either they or someone else gets seriously hurt or killed.

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This page updated 2013