“It’s normal for teenagers to want to feel independent. But it’s not typical for them to act out in dangerous extremes.”

Dr. Phil

If your teenager is dangerous, you must intervene, says Dr. Phil. But should you wait until he or she is in a perilous situation before you do something about it? “Hell no!” Dr. Phil exclaims.

First, find the cause. Teens don’t change their personality out of the blue. If they are making drastic changes, explains Dr. Phil, there’s a reason. Figure it out. There must be a recent incident, or maybe it is even more deep-rooted than that.

Negative incidents that happened at ages as early as 2 can be the culprit. At a certain point, by the time your son or daughter becomes a teenager, the negative incidents, like a hidden sharp portion of an iceberg, can build up and emerge unexpectedly and tear a big hole in the fragile young teen psyche. What looks like having successfully survived the pain of an unfortunate trauma or several painful events, can quickly turn and reveal that all they did was bury it in their memory for the time being.1

Listen and talk to your troubled teen. Act like a parent. Be the positive, reliable adult your teen so needs. Get them to talk about what’s bothering them, and then just listen, and DO NOT JUDGE them. Sometimes just being heard can help. Do not underestimate your teen’s need to just be heard. If they don’t feel this way, they will turn for it elsewhere.1

“Even though they’re often reluctant to admit it, [teens still seek parent approval], love, and a “soft place to fall.”

Dr. Phil

If your teenager is already going down the wrong path, Dr. Phil warns, a warm and fuzzy relationship is still a good thing to have, but sometimes you have to make hard choices your teen may not understand. In the end, you have to be your teen’s parent, not their pal. Intervening in a time of danger is much more important than your teen not liking you. It could well be the difference between your troubled teen’s life or death.

Over 1 million U.S. teens each year end up in the juvenile justice system. Sadly, many of their parents didn’t know what to do or how to get help when the signs their teen was in troubled should have been most evident. As-early-as-possible intervention in the key. And getting professional help sooner than later can make all the difference.2

What are the Signs Parents Should Most Pay Attention To

“Perhaps some of us see the warning signs, but we choose to ignore them…”

Melissa Chapman, Kars4Kids Smarter Parenting

The phrase “troubled teen” is relatively subjective, but there are some very specific behavioral and/or emotional problems parents must most pay attention to. The warning signs of a troubled teen include the following basic:

  • engaging in risky behaviors
  • truancy from school
  • failing grades
  • drug and alcohol use
  • stealing or theft

“…teens may begin hanging out with the wrong crowd, which may cause turmoil with parents.”

Amy Morin, LCSW

It’s also common for most teens to insist they don’t need help. The bottom line is they don’t want it. But just because your teen refuses to get help, does not mean you shouldn’t contact your family doctor, the school counselor, or therapists in your local vicinity. Trained medical and health professionals can advise you on what to do.

Does it Make Any Difference if Your Troubled Teen is a Boy?

It is common to think that all troubled teens are the same, and thereby treated the same, says Tyler Jacobson, parent of a troubled teen. The truth is troubled boys are very different than troubled girls. They share the same problems (social media, peer pressure, risky behavior and temptations with substance use), but they navigate these dangerous waters in different ways. Teenage girls tend to be much more sensitive to personal conflict and internalize their unresolved feelings and are thereby much more prone to depression than boys. Teenage boys are more inclined to aggressive behavior when it comes to conflict, and are more likely to turn to violence as a way of resolving those unresolved feelings. And then, when either gender reaches the “troubled” stage, their natural tendencies become all that much for difficult to deal with.3

“The depth of their issues will dictate the type of help they need. That help can range from counseling to therapeutic boarding school.”

Tyler Jacobson, parent of a troubled teen

What’s a Therapeutic Boarding School (TBS)?

A therapeutic boarding school is a program that combines an educational environment with therapeutic treatment. They are treatment centers that offer inpatient-style care with emotional and behavioral difficulties in an education setting. Therapeutic boarding schools integrate academic support and treatment plans for each student. The typical mental health focus of such programs is on depression, anxiety, substance abuse and defiance.4

The Benefits of Getting Help at a TBS

A TBS is a unique experience in that they are characteristically nurturing in nature and conducted in an environment familiar to teens…school. They are most often family focused, meaning the entire family gets involved in the healing process. Students can continue their education in a TBS because they are traditionally accredited to offer academics. Besides education, students are provided with individualized care in a TBS that addresses person-specific needs. Lastly, TBS programs are characteristically in sync with patterns of normal childhood development as they organize services pertinent to specific age groups.

Consider Therapeutic Boarding Schools and Programs…Even at Free and Reduced Cost

If you have a troubled teen boy you may want to consider therapeutic boarding schools and programs for him. And if cost is an issue, consider the following such schools, updated May 2018:



1 “Advice for Parents of Troubled Teens,” Dr. Phil, 2016.
2 “Answers to Parents’ Top Questions About Parenting Troubled Teens,” Amy Moring, 2017.
3 “Effectively Helping Your Troubled Teens–Boys vs. Girls,” Tyler Jacobson, 2015.
4 “Therapeutic Boarding Schools Defined,” Ashcreek Ranch Academy, 2018.

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