Why Are More Teenagers Out of Control?

An increasing number of teenagers are beyond the control of their parents and causing all sorts of problems.  Apparently the number of these rampaging teens is growing.

Figures from a government helpline in my home state, New South Wales, reported a 38% increase in 2009 from parents seeking help with their out of control teenagers. This avalanche of aggravating adolescent behaviour could be attributed to many factors, including the increased awareness and use of parenting help-lines.

Some experts attribute the rising parental angst to an increasingly proactive pattern of new parents seeking training and education for parenting younger children, but remaining ill equipped to handle the challenges of raising teenagers. This however is only a partial explanation because we know that the better kids are parented as young children the less risk they are of encountering serious problems during adolescence.

However I am well aware of that for many parents the thought of trying to nurture and parent teenagers can seem quite overwhelming (that’s why we started offering services to help).  While one post cannot provide all the answers, here are some reasons why increasing numbers of teenagers may be acting out.

They Are Teenagers

Sounds obvious I know, but it is important to remember that teenagers are wired in such a way that makes acting out far more likely.  Developmental processes affecting their brains, their hormones, and their sense of self, result in adolescents engaging high degrees of risk taking behaviour.  While these factors are constants and don’t by themselves account for wholesale increases in bad behaviour, they are important to acknowledge.  Adolescence can be volatile time of life, if allowances and intentional parenting practices are not considered, this volatility can easily cause problems.

Lack of Boundaries

Experts suggest that parents are focusing more on obtaining their child’s approval than setting clear and enforceable boundaries.  It is part of adolescence to push limits as they develop an increased sense of independence.  If parents provide nothing in the way of firm boundaries to push back on teens will keep going until something causes them to stop – often this can be a painful process.  Teenagers need clear direction and appropriate limits, respectfully and warmly enforced.

Easier Planning

Mobile technology is great for many things, including organising mischief.  The ability to instantly contact virtually anyone, anywhere, anytime enables teens to get together at the touch of a button.  While once upon a time the inability to organise rapidly restricted group participation in spontaneous acts, these days the technology can facilitate teenagers impulsive thought processes and opportunistic risk taking.

More Ideas

Another side effect of the digital revolution – teens are exposed to unlimited ideas of how to behave badly. Online video sites like Youtube have literally hours of footage capturing pranks and stunts.  The facility to easily distribute and share these ideas means that young teenagers are exposed to a far greater range of ideas than ever before. This increased exposure leads to increased demonstrations of the age-old maxim – monkey see, monkey do.

Cultural Influences

Unfortunately bad behaviour can breed bad behaviour. In Australia the culture of binge drinking, glamorised risk taking or pranking, increased access to sexually explicit media, and rising levels of gang activity, have desensitised adolescents to what bad behaviour actually is.  When behaving badly and taking risks becomes a rite of passage or a ticket to acceptance, teens need strong and clear alternatives that provide meaning and sense of value.

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Showing 4 comments
  • Helen

    The suggestions on this site are all wel and good when “we” talk about the average teenager.
    My daughter comes from a home with rules, boundaries, love and guidance and this has not done anything to shape her as a person. She is defiant and lies ALL the time, she steals from us & from stores, and friends. She is agressive towards her little sister. She damages property and has NO remores for anything she does. I have tried all that I know and seeked professional help from a number of counselling services and NOTHING is helping. She will do and say almost anything to manipulate people in order to get her way. For all those parents out there that read what’s to offer on this site – don’t be discouraged, it’s likely it’s not you and that you have a child that sufferes from a defiance disorder. The sad thing is, there’s really no effective help out there! Today I will attempt to have my daughter admited to a phyciatric ward as once again she threatening to kill herself. My heart is broken and she doesn’t care. But I will keep on going and I will do what I can and hope that she will come out the other side a sane, stable and happy person.

    • Chris

      Helen it sounds like you are going through are terrible time. My deepest sympathies.

      I agree this post is advice for parents who have as you say ‘average’ teenagers. Of course there are many, many teenagers who have emotional and/or physiological issues that can make life very very hard for those around them. In such cases seeking support from professionals is exactly the right thing to do, but I know that can also be incredibly difficult and frustrating sometimes.

      I have come across this site http://www.conductdisorders.com/ which is a site that offers support to parents who have difficult teens. Looking after yourself is really important also, and sites like this may help you find support ad wisdom from others who are going through a similar thing to you.

    • corissa

      I am in the same situation as you Helen, i also have tried all avenue’s that i have been able to reach, my daughter is into cutting/self harm and noone, nor me can understand why she does it, she has friends that do it also…is it just the “in thing” now? I wish there was help out there, as i fear that i will come to a point of turning my back on her and letting her go, just to save my other two children and myself.

  • Tim

    Helen, I understand where your coming from. The real problem is there is no program to fix a broken child. We have children services if we mistreat a child, but if a child is out of control where is a parenting service or some kind of assistance. the real truth it doesn’t exist. Filing unruly charges on her is a huge mistake. We don’t even have a juvenile system in this country worth a crap. California wants to punish kids for not going to school and if the are in gangs. My thought on this topic is kids need to learn responsibility and this sure isn’t going to fix that problem. If the courts get involved they wouldn’t have a clue. We might put her in foster care. Like this is going to fix the problem and did I mention the reason this country is 14 trillion dollars in debt is because the law makers and politicians don’t have a clue about nothing. One more thing , the people that say kids act up because of bad parents, guess what ? We in society believe that a 14 year old can have a child. Is this really going to be a good parent and secondly kids are influenced by society, so before you say its a parenting issue this might be true, but evaluate the situation. kids have there own persona and develop in to the person they are, because they choose the life they want to live.

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