“…it was like some alien looked at a calendar and saw it was time to take over my children.”

A Parent Looking Back at Her Children’s Teen Time, Parenting Stack Exchange

Do these misbehaviors sound familiar? Screams profanity. Constantly lies. Is uber manipulative. Stirs up trouble with siblings to fight with them. Sneaks out at night. Refuses to do as told or to follow rules. Super rude and disrespectful. Steals things. Argues about everything. Throws things. Slams doors. Will not do consequences. Breaks other people’s items. Always makes demands. And stays up all night.

Then your young teenage son might just be “out-of-control.” Or in his eyes, “in complete control.” There’s a lot more you can control. How about these things, for instance? You still control the money in your son’s life, including the food, his clothes, the electronics, his traveling, and who he brings into the house. You can also choose to leave the room when your son is screaming at you or is being disrespectful. The bottom line is that he gets no rewards for abusing you.1

If your teen son is doing more than one of the above misbehaviors, you might already be looking at needing to find a good therapist or shopping for a boarding school or an eye-opening wilderness experience.

“I used to break things, cuss out my parents…It all started in junior high…I started to hate myself…and took my anger out on my parents…and my parents trying to control me…I hated them even more…I started thinking about running away…now I am in my late twenties, and I have a great relationship with my parents now.”

An Adult Looking Backat His Own Teen Time, Parenting Stack Exchange

The Science Behind Changing Your Teen Boy’s Out-of-Control Behavior

Changing your teen boy’s misbehavior is not just for the professionals. You can take a shot at it too. There are just a few principles you need to know. If you follow the following guidelines, chances are pretty high your now out-of-control teen will soon be behaving in acceptably desirable ways.2

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement is a reward system for positive behavior. Experts consider this behavior modification strategy to be the most effective method for shaping behavior. Try to use this approach first and most often, especially since it is the most pleasant of the four basic strategies.

Here is an example of this strategy in basic action: Your teen takes out the garbage as asked, and you compliment him for doing so. If your teen takes out the garbage without being asked, and more than once, you can up the reward with permission to do something simple he’d like to do…maybe purchase a new app on his cell phone. Another example would be if your teen comes home from being out with friends at curfew. You could reward him by extending the curfew a bit the next time he’s out.2

Negative Reinforcement

Negative Reinforcement involves taking something already unpleasant away to reinforce good behavior. Although you are not doing anything negative with this strategy, you are working to remove something your teen does not want in place of something you do want. For example, your teen does his chores after school without you having to remind him, which he considers nagging. Your reinforcement is not saying anything about him needing to do his chores when he gets home. A second example is when your teen continues to misbehave at school, and you come and shadow him at school for a day.2

Positive Punishment

Positive Punishment is when you present a negative consequence (positive punishment) in response to a negative behavior. This is where “natural consequences” come into play. An example would be when your teen comes home late and does not call to let you know. The consequence would be a long lecture on being responsible. Another example is letting your teen suffer the consequences of doing or not doing something they should…like losing a cell phone, and does not get a replacement right away.2

Negative Punishment

Negative Punishment involves taking something desirable away in response to negative behavior. Taking away electronics if homework is not completed before bed is a simple example. You can also ignore your child, removing yourself from the premises when they are having a tantrum or a fit.2

1 “12 Year Old is Totally Out of Control,” Parenting Stack Exchange, 2017.
2 “4 Proven Behavior Modification Techniques with Examples,” Icebreaker Ideas, 2018.
3 “Behavior Modification Techniques in the Classroom,” Susan Ward, LiveStrong, 2017.
4 “Behavior Modification Techniques for Children,” PsychoGenie, 2018.

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