As teens transition through middle and high school, many parents witness their child exhibiting problematic behaviors as students try to assert more freedom and independence. Behaviors such as lying, stealing, not performing well in school, skipping class, or exhibiting general disruptive actions are fairly common among teens.
Despite these issues, however, the vast majority of students struggling with troubling behaviors can improve and advance within one year if they receive early intervention. Early intervention strategies may be the key to solving issues and problems that are exhibited in teens’ behaviors. To achieve this early intervention, public schools have developed plans of action to improve teen behavior. Paired with this, parents can implement specific strategies to help their teens work through some of the common issues and struggles during the middle and high school years.
Teens and Troubling Behavior
The Common Behavioral Issues
While many teens, in both middle and high school, fall prey to the temptations of peer pressure, fitting in, and the lures of popularity, oftentimes these pressures can pull teens towards disruptive and negative behaviors that are evident both in and outside of school.
According to Parenting Teens, “Struggling teens (and even those not struggling) tend to project their own personal smoke-screens for various reasons. You may see them behaving with studied indifference to virtually everything. They may prefer not to be seen with the family. They may be withdrawn, petulant, difficult, and downright unpleasant to be around.”
Oftentimes these attitudes are simply a developmental “phase” that teens exhibit as they move through puberty; however, schools and parents must still ensure that the appropriate guidelines for behavior are being taught and reinforced to help teens foster appropriate skills and attitudes.
Common Causes of Behavioral Problems in Teens
The teenage years become a formative part of each individual’s life. The constant transformation teens endure often provokes behavioral issues such as negativity, poor attitude, lack of effort, and so forth. Paired with this, many teens exhibit behavioral issues due to problems with anxiety or low self esteem. To disguise the uncomfortable period of change and transition, teenagers create facades, which can further distress themselves internally.
In addition to issues with personal self confidence, many teens struggle to build positive coping skills. As Parenting Teens further explores, “the coping skills of a teenager are certainly not fully developed […] They simply can't see far ahead to factor in possible consequences of their actions, no matter how rash they may seem. So they tend to trip over many more obstacles than may seem reasonable because they just don’t have the skills to avoid them.”
When teens exhibit problematic behavior, both parents and public school leaders may question teens’ motives; oftentimes, the motivation for poor behavior is quite simply a misunderstanding of clear boundaries, expectations, and consequences. As such, teens must be both reinforced and guided towards forming stronger critical thinking and decision making skills.
How to Help a Struggling Teen
What Public Schools Can Do
For teens who are exhibiting seriously detrimental behaviors, either the school or the parent may initiate a meeting to discuss putting the teen in a specialized behavioral program. The middle and high school behavior programs are designed to improve both learning opportunities for the teen, in addition to improving their overall attitude and behavior. These high school programs combine a focus on academics with behavior adjustment, creating a structured environment that will help the student perform better and work towards graduation.
For teens whose behaviors are less severe, each public school system has its own unique model for discipline. Oftentimes schools may reprimand troubling teens with consequences such as detention, suspension, or community service. To foster successful results, parents should support school leaders’ decisions and consequences, while striving to communicate with their son/daughter a discussion about choices and accountability.
What Parents Can Do
For parents seeking avenues to help their struggling teen, you can use different means to build a healthier relationship. By communicating with your child honestly and directly, you can help him or her understand the consequences of their actions. Let them know that they have the freedom of certain decisions – but that they must be responsible for the consequences.
One of the ways in which parents can communicate these essentials is by insisting on specific parent-teen conference times. These can be opportunities for parents and their teen to discuss rules, goals, responsibilities, and consequences. A family contract can also be very helpful. Work together to create an agreement that highlights which behaviors are unacceptable – and outline the reprimands that will happen if those behaviors should occur. Equally important are rewards; include the benefits in the family contract that will reward the teen should he or she avoid the poor behaviors.
In successfully working with one’s teen on adopting new rules and consequences, parents can open the conversation by inviting their child to add some of his or own suggestions for rules. This is an opportunity for calm and open collaboration.
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