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My teenage son is getting into trouble and won’t listen to us. What can we do?

November 5, 2015

By YOU Program Facilitator

My teenage son is going through some changes and seems to be straying off of the right path. I have been told we need to talk to him as parents but he won’t listen to me, and my husband refuses to talk to him. What can I do? | A boy puts his hand up, blocking his mother from speaking to him.

Question: My teenage son is going through some changes and seems to be straying off of the right path. I have been told we need to talk to him as parents but he won’t listen to me, and my husband refuses to talk to him. What can I do?

Answer: This is a difficult situation, because you want to help your son but don’t know how. And deep down, your husband wants to help his son, too, but is likely having trouble knowing how to talk to him.

You and your husband might be surprised by how much your son still needs you and benefits from your time and attention, even as a teenager. Despite becoming more independent and making decisions you don’t agree with, he still needs love and support from both of you.

Think about your relationships with your son before he became a teenager. Then think about what your relationships were like when you and your husband noticed your son straying from that path. How have those relationships changed?

Often as children become teens and more independent, parents give them space. There are many reasons for it: embracing them becoming an adult, respecting their increased need for privacy, and sometimes even because it’s easier now that you don’t have to worry about them in the same ways you did when they were toddlers.

But that change in attention could be affecting your son. While it’s important to respect his new boundaries and step back a bit, it’s also important to spend quality time together and get to know him as he becomes an adult.

  • Give your son affection, even if he doesn’t like it. A few hugs a day never hurt anyone.
  • Make time for him, and ensure it’s face-to-face and not via phone or texting.
  • Resume family traditions, like game night or family dinner. Even if these traditions happen less frequently, it’s important to keep them scheduled.
  • Talk to him, even if he won’t reciprocate. Tell him about your day, ask for advice, even talk about the weather. Eventually, he’ll respond in some way, which can lead to more conversation and help him get back on the right path.

Even if he dismisses your advice or affection, it’s still important to try. At least that way, he’ll know he is loved and still a priority in your lives.


You can learn more about supporting and engaging your teenager throughout high school in the third book of the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher series.

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