Hijacked by Your Troubled Teen? Stop Power Struggles Now

Take Back Control from Your Troubled Teen and Become an Effective Parent

teen boy arguing with mother
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Do you feel manipulated or intimidated by your troubled teen? Do you react out of fear in order not to upset them? Has your teen managed to seize control of your family?

Troubled teens often act out in ways that make living with them difficult but when the power shifts so dramatically that the teen is the one in charge, it's critical to take action.

How a Troubled Teen Can Hijack Your Whole Family

A troubled teen who successfully hijacks their family manages to disrupt the balance of power to such an extent that the parents are no longer in charge.

Some troubled teens gain this power by exhibiting increasingly manipulative or mean behavior that creates fear in family members. Other troubled teens do their hijacking more subtly; they are considered so fragile that their problems become a primary focus and concessions are made in an effort not to upset the teen because they might self-harm, run away or use drugs. Your troubled teen isn't actually holding a gun to your head but they might as well be, there is no one flying this plane. The family is in turmoil and your teens' problems continue to get worse.

Hijacking Behavior in Troubled Teens

A troubled teen usually doesn't plan out their hijacking efforts. More often this situation develops over time as parents and siblings react to troubling changes in a teen's behavior. As accommodations are made in an attempt to deal with aggressive, inappropriate, or scary behavior the teen gains power in the family, without anyone realizing the potentially dangerous situation that's developing.

While your troubled teen may seem like they want to be the one flying the plane, their out-of-control behavior shows how confused and lost they feel inside. Someone in a great deal of pain has hijacked you and now their problems have put everyone in jeopardy. It's time for a takeover.

How to Regain Control Over Your Troubled Teen

When your teen is the one in control, it's time to stop reacting to their behavior, and planning your own flight path when things go off the route you set.

Here's five tips for how:

  1. Be strategic. Don't try to wrestle away all controls from your teen at once. By looking at the most disruptive things first, and tackling each area you want to change, you can create a plan of attack that will be not only strategic, but effective. Take your time and make sure you are prepared for their response by creating appropriate consequences and practice reactions to certain power struggles so you can stick to your guns.
  2. Assess your weaknesses. Think about how your troubled teen snuck up on you at first. Was it your lack of routine upon getting home, your dislike of certain friends, or times when you are consumed by other things that your teen starts acting out? Most likely you acquiesced as a reaction to scary behavior, not recognizing the teen was the one pulling the trigger. While you didn't want to hurt their feelings, they may be purposefully hurting yours to get what they want.
  3. Call for help. When real hijackers take over a plane, professionals are called in to defuse the situation; you need to do the same. The entire family needs assistance dealing with the inappropriate shift in power and getting things back on track, consider getting help in family therapy. Not only does your troubled teen need help with their problems, it's time to look at your family dynamics and ways to get the parents back in charge. Family counseling can show you how.
  1. Take care of yourself. Get support and understanding for yourself in de-briefing from what you're going through. Dealing with a troubled teen is difficult, even for the most exceptional parent. Find at least one other person to confide in, a spouse, partner, relative or friend - or consider joining a parent support group.
  2. Track progress. It's easy to focus on the negative, but as you implement your plan, you must catch your troubled teen doing well and reward good behavior. After your troubled teen sees that you are just as attentive when they are doing well, as when they are not, they may change for good. When parents stop blaming themselves or their troubled teen, problems get solved. Look at the big picture, you were young once, your teen doesn't have hindsight to know what's best for himself. Write down the good and the bad, so your teen can look back and have a sense of accomplishment as things improve. Journaling will help your connection, too.

Disarming a troubled teen who has turned into a hijacker can be a long, scary journey - but it's also often the impetus parents need to learn to fly again without interference from their troubled teen who can now shift his attention to just being a teenager.

Quick Links: Troubled Teens | Quiz: Is Your Teen At-Risk?

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