Acting Out

Featured in Pre-Teens & Teens

Acting Out

What constitutes as acting out varies quite a bit from teen to teen. For some teens, it could mean petty criminal behavior; for others it may mean missing curfew or not doing as well in school. There are many different reasons why teens and pre-teens may choose to act out. Common reasons include: peer pressure, risk taking, lack of attention, being overly emotional and lack of concentration.

Methods of Discipline

Regardless of the reason why your teen or pre-teen is choosing to act out, the unwanted behavior needs to stop. Typically, people will stay on the course of the lives that were set in motion during childhood and adolescence unless something dramatic happens. Acting out needs to be taking very seriously, as an adolescent generally won’t change something that is working for him or her, especially if he or she is getting away with the behavior.

1. Avoid unnecessary confrontations with your teen. As a parent, you don’t need to attend every fight that you are invited to. In other words – don’t get sucked into arguments with your child. If your teen slams the bedroom door loudly, just say “Hey, don’t slam your door” and then walk away. You are giving your teen a verbal reprimand but then are leaving.

2. Do your best not to overreact. It can be very easy to overreact to a teenager acting out, as it can be really annoying, especially considering teens don’t pay attention to other people’s feeling much at all. Even so, there needs to be some objectivity on the part of the parents. Remember that your job is to teach your child responsibility and accountability through appropriate consequences.


3. Hold your teen or pre-teen accountable for his or her actions and behavior. For example, if your teen fails a test in school, ask him or her what he or she plans to do differently so that he or she doesn’t fail the next test. That is holding your child accountable but is not directly placing blame on the child. It also is a conversation that solves a problem – much more useful than a conversation that lays useless blame on the child.

4. Enforce the consequences you have set for behaviors. First, set out the consequences for a behavior and communicate it to your child. It is important that your teen understands what the consequence will be if she or he does act out – such as missing curfew, stealing and so on. When faced in the situation, the teen should be able to say “Well if I do that then this will happen.”

5.  Keep the lines of communication open with your teen or pre-teen as much as you can. It’s a difficult phase in your child’s life and by knowing you are there to listen to them and will support them will make a difference.

Helping Your Child Cope

Teens - acting out - result

Even though it is very difficult, don’t personalize the acting out that your teen does. When your teenage son stomps off to his room and you get angry, you are personalizing his behavior. By personalizing your teen’s behavior, you are giving him power over you. It is quite easy to let happen. Your child started out spending time with you, was fairly compliant and then all of the sudden he or she started acting out. It’s easy to then take your teen’s behavior as a personal attack upon your values and yourself. This is overreacting on your part. Instead, recognize that this is a stage your teen is going through and is not striking out at you as a parent. In this developmental stage, teens will lash out at most people around them and it is important to recognize that. However, in saying that, do not allow your teen to physically or verbally abuse you. That behavior is never acceptable and should be stopped immediately.

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