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Facing the Summer with a Troubled Teen

defiant-teenAre you facing a summer full of storms from a teenager whose behavior has become rebellious and out of control? Does it seem like he has suddenly become someone you don’t even recognize?

Teenagers go through normal turmoil in their emotions as they mature. Most handle adolescence without behavioral problems, but for others this time of life can be very stressful and confusing to them.  And their desire to be accepted by their peers can get them into all sorts of trouble.

Every day I hear from dozens of parents around the country who share how their once normal and happy child is now dangerously spinning out of control — abusing drugs or alcohol, lying, stealing, cutting, or engaging in other destructive or disturbing behavior. Their teen’s behavior disrupts their entire family, and causes the parents to wonder about their child’s future and worry about their safety.

Based on our experience with thousands of struggling teenagers over the years, we’ve developed the Troubled Teen Assessment Tool.  As a first step, this helpful evaluation can help the parent determine if their teenager needs help. If you feel that your teen is on an unhealthy downward spiral, take a few moments to complete this assessment.

Just rank the symptoms you are experiencing, on a scale from 0 to 5 depending on their severity.  Circle the appropriate number on the scale. And ask other family members to do the same, then compare notes. You’ll either find that your teen is exhibiting somewhat normal adolescent behavior, or that he or she needs immediate help.

THE TROUBLED TEENAGER ASSESSMENT TOOL

1.  Our Family is Under Stress from Our Teen’s Behavior

Your teen refuses to abide by anything you say or request, leading to a constant high level of stress and conflict in the home as a direct result. Your stress meter goes up whenever he or she comes home or walks into the room.

 0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

 2.  We’ve Seen Changes in Our Teen’s Motivation

Your child is displaying markedly different motivation from what has been normal. For instance: sleeping far too little or far too long, extreme forgetfulness, over aggression and explosiveness, depression, an uncaring attitude, anxiety or sadness, grades slipping, hating what they once loved or loving what they once hated, or spending too much time alone.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

 3.  Our Teenager is Increasingly Disrespectful and Uncaring

Your child has become increasingly disrespectful, dishonest, or disobedient, openly displaying rebellion, no longer hiding his or her feelings or caring about the consequences, living only for the moment and not caring about the future.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

 4.  We See Significant Rebellion or Defiance from Our Teenager

The teen has developed a blatant ignorance or profound rebellion toward your boundaries and rules of the home. This may appear in passive aggressiveness or open defiance that is unusually excessive for your child.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

 5.  Our Teenager is Threatening and Acting Out Troubling Behaviors

Your teen is making veiled or outright threats of suicide or engaging in self-mutilation, eating disorders, cutting or other self-destructive activities. Or, he or she participates in excessive risk-taking, dangerous drug use, or blatant sexual promiscuity.  The teen’s once healthy conscience or moral compass is seemingly lost.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

6.  We Also See Him/Her Mistreat Others

Your teen treats people, pets, or belongings in a threatening or out of control manner. You have to hide or disconnect the internet, telephone, television in order to stop your teen from blatantly and repeatedly using them inappropriately. Things of value are broken or lost by the teen with an uncaring attitude about it. You’ve had occasion to consider hiding your wallet, your keys, and anything having to do with money or valuables out of fear your teen may take them.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

7.  He/She Has Unusually Selfish or Self-Centered Thinking

Your teen thinks he or she is the center of your family (or the universe), shows blatant disregard for other family members’ time, feelings, schedule, or possessions. Manipulation or threats is used as a tool to get what he or she wants.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

8.  Our Teen Refuses to Participate with the Family

Your teen refuses to participate with or have anything to do with the family, or displays a growing hatred for the family. There is constant conflict between the teen and one family member or another.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

9.  We’re Seeing Extreme Peer-Dependence and Peer Attitudes

Peers have become the center of your child’s life and it is seemingly impossible to keep your child away from them.  You see your child adopting their attitudes and taking on their appearance, their talk, and their activities. Your teen stays up most of the night taking phone calls from friends, instant messaging them, or sneaking out to be with them.

0—-1—-2—-3—-4—-5

Never….Often….Always

TOTAL SCORE: ____________ (0-45)

Assessment Scoring:   If your assessment score totals 30 or more, counseling is recommended.  Please act swiftly to find a good local counselor specializing in teen behavioral issues, or meet with your pastor or youth pastor to lay out a game plan.  If your teenager ever shows signs of drug or alcohol abuse, eating behaviors, cutting, or has threatened suicide, take immediate action, for they will not get better on their own and every day that goes by will make it harder for them to get past such behaviors.

Our passion at Heartlight is to provide parents with counseling and resources to help them deal with a defiant teenager and otherwise get through the often difficult teen years. Outside of our residential therapeutic program for teens, one of the resources we’ve developed is the Home Edition of our Dealing with Today’s Teens video training series.  It is designed for the parents of rebellious teens. Learn more about it online at www.markgregston.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, national radio host, and the founder of Heartlight, a residential counseling opportunity for struggling adolescents, which houses 50 high schoolers. Learn more at http://www.heartlightministries.org or call 903-668-2173.

Tough Guys and Drama QueensFree online course: Tough Guys and Drama Queens

This free two-week online course will help you to parent your teen in a counter-cultural way. You will  walk through topics like appearance, performance, authority and respect, setting boundaries, and many more.

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