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A Parent’s Guide To Dealing With Out Of Control Teens

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

What’s Behind Teen Aggression & Destruction? 

Adolescence can be a difficult time for teens—and, famously, for their parents. Unfortunately, teens tend to react to their difficulties with aggressive behaviors, making violence in teens more common than you’d think.

Teen aggression, manifesting as hitting, breaking, or harming animals, can be perplexing for parents. Often, these behaviors are rooted in fear, making open communication vital for both parents and teens. When parents are afraid of their own child, they must navigate the emotional turmoil and seek support from professionals or support networks. Recognizing the signs and understanding the underlying factors are crucial steps. The guide below aims to equip parents with insights, understanding, and proactive strategies to address their out-of-control teens’ aggression and destruction. 

If your teen’s behavior is becoming more and more worrying, working with a professional can help your child get on the right path. Reach out to Evolve to learn more about how we can help.

Dealing with Out of Control Teens

Types of Teen Aggression 

Teen aggression manifests in various forms, each presenting its own set of challenges.

Hitting Others: Physical aggression towards peers, parents, or authority figures can be a highly distressing behavior. This may indicate underlying issues such as frustration, emotional turmoil, or a struggle with impulse control. Understanding the triggers and promoting healthier outlets for emotional expression can reduce this type of aggression.

Breaking Things: Destructive behavior involving the intentional breaking of objects is another common expression of teen aggression. This can be a visible sign of inner conflict, and parents and caregivers must delve into the root causes. Parents can redirect this behavior by teaching their children alternative coping mechanisms and giving them a safe place for expression.

Hurting Animals: Harming animals reflects a more severe form of aggression. Parents often seek out a diagnosis when they have a child who hurts animals, as this behavior often signals deeper emotional disturbances that necessitate immediate intervention. Addressing cruelty towards animals requires professional help to educate teens about empathy and the consequences of their behaviors.

Factors That Affect Aggressive Teen Behavior 

There are many reasons teens act out in physical aggression. Here are a few of the most common factors:

Biological influences, such as genetic predispositions and hormonal changes during adolescence, play a role. 

Environmental factors, including exposure to violence, family dynamics, and socio-economic conditions, can significantly impact behavior. 

Psychological elements, such as mental health issues, trauma, or poor coping skills, may contribute to aggression. 

Additionally, peer influences and the lack of positive role models can influence out-of-control teens’ behaviors. Identifying and addressing these multifaceted factors is crucial for parents, educators, and mental health professionals to develop effective strategies for mitigating aggressive behaviors in teens. Early intervention, open communication, and creating a supportive environment are key to fostering positive outcomes for adolescents exhibiting aggression.

Anger in Teens

Learn the Warning Signs for Violent Behavior in Teens  

Warning signs for violent behavior in teens may include frequent physical fights, expressions of extreme anger, fascination with weapons, a history of cruelty to animals, and a decline in academic performance. 

Changes in social interactions, withdrawal, or sudden mood swings can also signal potential issues that require prompt attention and intervention. 

How to Overcome Fear of a Violent Teenager 

Feeling fear in the presence of one’s child can be terrifying, frustrating, and heartbreaking. Establishing boundaries, seeking family therapy, and building a support network can empower parents to navigate the challenges while promoting a healthier environment for both themselves and their teenagers. Understanding the root causes of your teen’s behavior, whether linked to mental health issues or external stressors, is essential. If your boundaries aren’t respected, you may want to seek professional guidance to help you better understand and communicate with your child.

5 Ways to Handle Teen Aggression  

Here are 5 steps to handle your teen’s aggressive behavior. These strategies are often used in various settings, including parenting, education, and even in the workplace, to manage and reduce aggressive behavior:

  1. Realistic Expectations: This involves understanding and accepting the limits of a person’s abilities or behavior at different stages of development or in different situations. By setting realistic expectations, it’s easier to avoid situations that might lead to aggressive responses due to frustration or failure.
  2. Consistent Discipline: Consistency in discipline provides a clear and predictable set of rules and consequences. This doesn’t necessarily mean harsh punishment; rather, it’s about being consistent in how rules are enforced. When individuals understand the boundaries and the consequences of crossing them, they are less likely to exhibit aggressive behaviors. Inconsistent discipline can lead to confusion and may inadvertently reinforce aggressive behavior.
  3. Open Communication: Encouraging open and honest communication allows individuals to express their feelings and frustrations in a safe environment. This can prevent these emotions from building up and manifesting as aggressive behavior. It’s important to actively listen and validate their feelings, showing that it’s okay to express emotions in a healthy way.
  4. Positive Reinforcement: This involves rewarding and recognizing positive behavior rather than just focusing on negative behavior. Positive reinforcement can encourage the repetition of good behavior and can be more effective than punishment in reducing aggression. 
  5. Redirection: This is a technique often used with children but can be adapted for adults as well. It involves diverting the individual’s attention from a potentially aggressive or undesirable behavior to a different, more acceptable activity. 

Each of these strategies requires patience and understanding, and they can be more effective when used in combination. They are aimed at creating a supportive environment where aggressive behaviors are less likely to occur.

Prevent Violent Behavior in Teens 

Preventing teen violence requires a proactive approach—and it happens over time. Parents can encourage social and emotional skills development by creating a safe stable home life and rewarding positive behaviors. Families can model healthy communication, emphasize consequences, and seek professional help if needed. 

Caregivers must also stay vigilant and watch for signs of distress. For example, parents should monitor their children’s media use and engage teens in constructive activities like sports. Schools can also help parents by offering courses on conflict resolution, empathy, and anti-bullying efforts. By implementing these strategies, parents can create an environment that mitigates the risk of violent behavior and produces responsible and empathetic teens. 

Common Co-occurring Diagnoses With Teen Violent Behavior 

Out-of-control behavior in teens is often linked to various diagnoses, including:

  1. Conduct Disorder (CD): Characterized by persistent patterns of aggression, rule violations, and disregard for others’ rights. Interventions may involve therapy and behavior management.
  2. Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD): Teens with ODD display defiance, hostility, and disobedience. While not always violent, untreated ODD can escalate to more severe behaviors.
  3. Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED): Marked by sudden, intense episodes of aggression disproportionate to the situation. Treatment may involve therapy and sometimes medications.
  4. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD): While not inherently violent, impulsivity and difficulty regulating emotions in teens with ADHD may contribute to aggressive outbursts.
  5. Substance-Related Disorders: Substance abuse can exacerbate aggressive tendencies. Addressing the underlying substance issues is essential for behavior improvement.
  6. Mood Disorders: Conditions like bipolar disorder or major depression may contribute to violent behavior. Comprehensive mental health assessment is crucial for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
  7. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Teens who have experienced trauma may exhibit violent behavior as a coping mechanism. Trauma-focused therapies are often recommended.

Identification and proper diagnosis by mental health professionals are vital for creating tailored interventions and support systems to address the root causes of teen violent behavior.

Seek Help For Your Aggressive Teen 

Ready to support your teen’s journey to a positive change? Connect with us at Evolve Treatment. Let’s work together to restore harmony in your family. Take the first step towards a brighter future—reach out for the help your teen deserves.

Have more questions about your teen? Evolve’s Parent Guides are designed to help you and your family identify ways you can help your teen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Teen Aggression & Destruction

How can I help my child with violent behavior? 

Open communication and clear boundaries can help parents manage their child’s social and emotional development. If you are struggling to support your child, seek professional guidance and family therapy to address underlying causes effectively.

What are the 4 main types of violence? 

The four types of violence include physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence. Each involves distinct forms of harm or control.

What type of violence is most common in teens? 

Physical aggression, verbal abuse, and bullying are common in teens and often stem from peer conflicts or emotional stressors.

What are five methods for reducing aggression? 

Realistic expectations, consistent discipline, open communication, positive reinforcement, and redirection are all proven ways to mitigate aggressive behavior in teens.  

What is the best therapy for aggressive children? 

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective for addressing negative thought patterns and teaching coping strategies. Family therapy complements individual sessions by involving parents for comprehensive support.

How can I address my fear of a violent teenager at home?

Parents should work to understand the root causes of their child’s behavior and learn how to set behavior expectations and appropriate boundaries. Working with a professional experienced in adolescent psychology can help.

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