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Is My Teen Acting Out?

teenage girl

Is Your Teen Acting Out?

Although it’s not a pleasant time, it’s perfectly normal for a teenager to act out to a certain extent. It’s part of establishing their identity and separating themselves from you as an individual. For example, it’s likely that your teenager will:

  • Get moody and spend more time in their room.
  • Choose to spend time with friends over their family.
  • Be quick to anger or tears.
  • Test a few boundaries such as being late for curfew or trying alcohol.
  • Stop sharing every aspect of their life with you
  • Say hurtful things like, ‘I hate you!’ or ‘You don’t understand me.’

However, there is a point when they have crossed the line, and you need to act to correct their inappropriate behaviors.

When Has Acting Out Gone Too Far?

There is some behavior which should not be ignored or tolerated such as:

  • Criminal activity such as stealing or dangerous driving.
  • Being physically or verbally abusive.
  • Damaging property.
  • Going missing for entire nights or even longer periods.
  • Coming home under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

How to Handle a Teen Who is Acting Out

Understand What’s Happening in Their Life

Your teenager may be acting aggressively and obnoxiously, but the reason behind their behavior may not be obvious. It’s possible that there are more serious problems in their life which you are unaware of such as bullying, depression or substance abuse issues.  Watch out for signs of depression or other mental health issues such as persistent low mood, sudden loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy, extreme weight loss or gain, social isolation or a decline in school performance.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Talk and listen to your teenager as often as you can so they know they can share their feelings and worries with you. Be positive; show them love, that you respect them as an individual and encourage positive behavior. Avoid confrontation and judgment as this may discourage them from communicating and create distance between you.

Consider Professional Support

You may feel that you, your teen and possibly even the rest of the family will benefit from professional support from a center like which specializes in teen mental health and substance abuse disorders. Therapists are trained to manage difficult behavioral and emotional issues and, as they are not emotionally involved with the family, can provide some objective insight. Your teen may also feel more able to open up to someone outside of the family and friends about what is causing them to misbehave.

Establish Boundaries

You should work with your teen to set out the boundaries, i.e., what is acceptable behavior and what is not. This should be mutually agreed as should the penalties for crossing those boundaries. These rules will be most effective if your child understands the reasoning behind them and you need to ensure you always follow through with the penalties you’ve agreed upon. Get some great tips on setting boundaries with teenagers here.

Will Your Teen Grow Out of It?

While a lot of your teen’s negative behavior can be attributed changes they’re going through now, to simply dismiss them as a phase or something they will grow out of on their own is dangerous. If they are using aggressive or manipulative behavior to exert their independence and gain control, failing to challenge them will show them that what they’re doing is both successful and acceptable. Once they have a little bit of leeway, they will push the boundaries a bit more, and a bit more after that.

Eventually, your child will become an adult who acts out to get what they want and to solve problems. For the sake of their future relationships, employment, and mental health, your teen needs to learn how to compromise and adapt to new situations and to accept when things don’t go their way.