It’s no shock anymore when we see teens engaging in reckless behavior. It almost seems like that’s just what teenagers are supposed to do — drive fast, try drugs and alcohol, and generally live impetuously.
But why do the teen years so often coincide with dangerous or reckless behavior?
There’s a long-standing debate about whether reckless adolescent behavior stems from nature or nurture, and it seems that it’s likely a combination of the two.
Parenting teens who display reckless behavior can be tough! When you’re certain that your teen should know better than to do the crazy things that they’re doing, there’s no simple answer in how to respond. Many parents find themselves turning to military schools or boot camps to try to knock some sense into their teens, but those schools don’t usually have the best long-term effects. They might get the teen to straighten up and think through the consequences of their actions while at school, but that doesn’t help much once they’re back in the real world.
Teens who engage in extremely reckless behavior often see greater long-term success from the therapeutic approach used by trained counselors. Learning to think through their actions and take on more responsibility is hard for many teens. The counselors at Sundance Canyon Academy work with each student to create a therapy plan designed to target their behavior.
Why do teens engage in reckless behavior?
Before talking to your teen about their reckless behavior, it’s essential to understand why they’re acting the way they are. Numerous studies have shown that adolescence (the period between hitting puberty and reaching adulthood) is fraught with more reckless behavior than the child or adult years.
Is it simply hormones, or is it something more?
The short answer is: it’s something more.
Though hormones are indeed raging and adolescents experience all sorts of mental and physical changes throughout their teen years, their behavior is influenced by more than just hormones.
As kids hit puberty, their focus in life starts to shift away from family and towards independence. This shift is excellent in that it begins to prepare them for adulthood away from their parents, but it’s a weird transition time. Social acceptance starts to matter way more than it did, and teens want to make more decisions independently. The combination of wanting to be accepted by their peers and wanting to make choices can lead teens to reckless behavior.
Teens tend to go into potentially dangerous activities without listening to any warnings because they would rather have the independence to make choices independently. They are less likely to believe adult advice or even seek advice on their own before trying the activity. The adolescent years lead to a lot of experimentation to see what works and what doesn’t, even in the face of evidence that the activities have known negative outcomes.
How to discuss reckless behavior with your teen
If your teen has started engaging in reckless behavior, there are a few strategies that you can try to get through to them. Keep in mind that your teen is less likely to care about your opinion now compared to when they were younger. As painful as it can be to hear, teens who engage in reckless behavior often care more about other teens’ opinions than they do about their own parents’ opinions.
That being said, remember that their friends influence behaviors in positive ways and negative ways. They want to be socially accepted. If the “cool” people in their group are positive influences, that’s great! Social groups like sports teams, volunteer groups, and after-school clubs often provide positive peer groups for teens. When possible, encourage your teen to spend their time with groups that will promote positive behavior.
To discuss reckless behavior with your teen:
- Have the conversation in a non-threatening environment. For teen boys, difficult conversations are best had during car rides and other moments that don’t require much direct eye contact. They likely know that you’re upset with their behavior, and they are more likely to get defensive if they feel threatened by the conversation.
- Let them know why you are concerned. Tell your teen which of their behaviors is concerning you. Explain why you are concerned, and make sure that they know you’re only worried because you love them.
- Listen non-judgmentally. This step could be challenging if their behavior has been upsetting you. However, you must give your teen the space to explain why they are doing the things they’re doing. Their answers might surprise you and might shed light on some more significant issues at hand. By listening without judgment, you provide the space for them to be honest with you.
- Set clear expectations. If your teen’s reckless behavior is getting out of hand, set clear expectations around what is and is not accepted in your home. Set clear consequences for meeting or not meeting those expectations so that your teen knows exactly what to expect from you.
If your teen son’s reckless behavior is out of hand, consider seeking outside help. Many teens learn to think through their actions and develop responsibility by attending a therapeutic boarding school. By removing them from their peers’ negative influence and surrounding them with trained therapists, they are more likely to adopt a more positive lifestyle. Contact us today to find out if Sundance Canyon Academy could help your son.