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Holding Your Teen Hostage and Alternative Reactions to Teenage Behavior Issues

Updated: May 29, 2022

Is your teen missing school, doing drugs, lying, hanging with the wrong crowd, defiant, rude, lacking respect?

If this sounds too familiar, you have a problem on your hands and you have to act fast.

Something needs to change.

If you are like most parents in Northwest Arkansas, discipline and consequences are the go to strategy for teenage misbehavior. It seems so logical that if your teen misses curfew, the immediate response from the parent should be, "give me the keys to your car".

This strategy has worked for so long for many parents, but for some kids, and for a lot of teens, this strategy completely backfires and actually invites the teen into more misbehavior.

Here's why.

When your teen has lost everything, they have nothing else to lose.

Once you take away the car, the phone, video games, and friends, there isn't much else to take away.

You now have a bigger problem.

Your teen has nothing else to lose, they are miserable, resentful, and they probably don't care much about how you, the parents, feel.

And quite honestly, if you suffer your teen will probably take some joy in that.

Misery loves misery.

Your teen feels like a hostage, and they probably want to return that feeling back to you anyway they can.

When they have nothing else to lose, they have the freedom to ramp up your misery to the highest degree.

My teen has lost everything, and things still aren't changing. What should I do?

You know that this strategy of consequences isn't working. Why are you still using it? You have very good reasons for taking things away.

What's the purpose behind it?

Are you trying to motivate your teen? Are you trying to teach them a lesson? Are you trying to protect them? Take a look and assess and acknowledge both the methods you are using, and the outcomes that are occurring.



Change the way you respond to your teen's misbehavior and keep a journal about what you have tried, what is and what isn't working.

Experiments to try:

When a rule is broken, be curious about why it was broken. Listen actively, and empathize with your teen.

Instead of criticizing your teen, describe the problem and invite your teen to be part of the solution.

Instead of making threats/ultimatums, offer a choice.

Despite the idea that your teen feels like a hostage, the truth is your teen cares immensely about how you think about them. Teens want parents to be proud of them. Don't let your teen convince you otherwise, it's Bologna. Your teen desperately needs your empathy, listening ear, and respect.

This is a season where your teen needs to learn how to fail, and to pick themselves back up on their own. They are learning how to be independent, how to use freedom wisely, and how to take care of their own mental health. They will make mistakes, and that is ok because this is also a time your teen is learning how to ask for help.

A parent's reaction to teen's misbehavior can be a powerful tool for positive change, or a stumbling block for your teen's success. Don't get stuck in the hostage problem with your house. Do something different.

If you feel like you are out of options, and totally exhausted, it might be a sign that you may need more help. Schedule a counseling appointment with a Bentonville counselor and see if the standoff in the home can turn into a peace treaty for success.

The best part... your first session is free.



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