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My 13-year-old son is out of control

Teenage son finds bad friends

Question:

My 13-year-old son is out of control. He is violent, destructive and evil when he doesn't get his way or someone upsets him. I don't know what to do anymore, and I don't want to send him away.

Answer:

Parenting is a tough job, and we continually have to try new strategies to mold and shape our children for success. First, it is important to stay calm when your son is out of control. Do not engage with him when he is having one of his tantrums — that only gives him the power over the situation, and it is not effective parenting when you lose control over your emotions. You can always leave the room if you need to, which also gives you the space and control you may need.

It sounds like you have tried counseling but that is not working for your son. Has your son been evaluated by a psychiatrist? We realize he is only 13 years old, so he might not have. If not, it might be a good idea to have an evaluation done to give you the most up-to-date diagnoses, especially since he is going through developmental stages as he gets older. It also might be a good idea to take him to a behavioral therapist, if you haven't tried this before, to address those behaviors that are in his control and help him develop healthier coping skills, which he will need throughout his life. Every behavior has a function, and once that is figured out, then progress toward change can be made.

Another thing that needs to be done consistently is giving him effective consequences, which must be meaningful to your son, take effect immediately, be related to the misbehavior, be contingent on the behavior, and be appropriate to the misbehavior. We recommend that you use the smallest consequence that is effective. If you use big consequences right away, then you have nothing left when the behaviors continue.

It may be a good idea at this point to go back to the basics with your son. Take time to write down your expectations. Be sure this list includes chores, social skills and academic performance. Then write down his privileges. This should include use of electronics, TV, phone, time spent with friends, etc.

When you get all of this written down, present your expectations to your child. Let him know that when he meets them, he will be able to use the privileges listed. If he does not meet the expectations, then he will lose one or some of the privileges. Keep in mind that his bad behaviors may escalate before they get better, so you have to be patient and firm.

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