Advice for Parents of Troubled Teens
It's normal for teenagers to want to feel independent. But it's not typical for them to act out in dangerous extremes. If your teenager is creating self-destructive situations, you can't afford not to intervene. Should you wait until your teenager is in a perilous situation before you do something about it? The answer is not "no," it's "Hell no!" Dr. Phil explains:
Identify the Cause
Teenagers are known to explore new things, but they don't make severe switches in personality just out of the blue. If they're making drastic behavioral changes, there's a reason. It's a cause-and-effect situation. As a parent, it's your responsibility to identify what's behind the change. It may be a recent event, or it may be something deep-rooted.
Negative events that happened at ages 2, 3 or 4 help to shape children's personalities. By the time these toddlers become teenagers, they've been living with the resulting pain for most of their lives. Young children may feel pain and anger, but they lack the ability to act on those emotions. Teenagers, however, are able to act on these feelings with more lasting — and harmful — consequences.
Listen and Talk
Teenagers today have more opportunities to make bad decisions than they did in years past. This is all the more reason that you must be a positive, reliable person in your child's life. Listen to him or her and resist the urge to judge or advise; sometimes just being heard helps. Even though they're often reluctant to admit it, they seek approval, love, and a "soft place to fall" in their parents. If they don't feel valued, loved and understood at home, they'll turn elsewhere to get the acceptance they so deeply need.
Act Like a Parent
...especially if your teenager is already going down the wrong path. A warm relationship is ideal, but sometimes you must do things your child won't understand. Remember: you're a parent, not a pal. Your responsibility is to ensure the well-being and safety of your child. Intervening in a dangerous situation (like ones involving drugs, abuse or truancy) might make your child dislike you, but it will also save his or her life. Don't "go along just to get along;" do what's best for your child.