My sixteen-year-old is becoming violent and I don’t know what to do


I have a sixteen-year-old son that has had trouble in school specifically with grades over the past couple of years. His mother and I were divorced when he was nine but still communicate on a regular basis.

Lately, he has become more physical while with her. He has been punching and kicking things for the past couple of years. He has not yet hurt anyone or done anything to another person but when angry at her house he tends to damage property. She is fed up and is asking for my help. We have tried grounding, taking privileges and it seems all other alternatives with the exception of spanking. Just the other day he punched her car four times in a fit of rage over being told he could not go to a friend's house to hang out because he has missing work in school. We contemplated calling the authorities but do not want to ruin his future. We tried to spank him but he refused and had to be held down to get the job done which I was not very comfortable with but felt like it had to be done as nothing else is working.

I am not sure what the right answer is here but I know how I feel today after it is over and I am struggling with feelings of guilt over the whole situation. I am not sure where to turn. I love my son dearly and want the best for him and will do what I believe is necessary to help him learn to respect others and himself. I just am not sure that how we as parents handled this was right. Do you have any suggestions as to alternatives that may have a more positive impact or am I just over-analyzing this situation? What do you do with a teen who destroys property when he gets angry after you have tried all of the other methods such as fixing or repairing the damage, paying for the repair of the damage, replacing the damaged item, grounding, reducing privileges, writing sentences and time-outs. Any help would be appreciated.


It appears that your difficulty comes from a lack of consistency in your son's life. Teenagers, especially boys, do better when they know what is expected of them in advance and knowing what the consequences will be when they don't meet those expectations.

Since you and your wife are no longer together, try as you may, you won't be able to provide complete consistency in what you expect of your son or the way he should be disciplined when he misbehaves. I can see from the wide variety of ways you've chosen to discipline your son that you don't meet misbehavior in a consistent fashion from incident to incident. What ends up happening is that you develop a gambler's attitude in your son. He can "risk" an outburst because it is possible that it will have no consequences this time, or a consequence that he deems "worth" the misbehavior.

I strongly recommend that you and your ex-wife sit down and pick out the two or three worse behaviors in your son. Write out how you expect him to behave and what consequences will be given if he misbehaves. Try to make the consequences match the misbehavior and that they are not unreasonable. Then sit down with him at a calm moment and go over the expectations with him.

I suspect that your son blew up because he was told at the last minute that he could not go to his friends. He would perceive the denial as being arbitrarily imposed. Instead, if he was told that he can't go to friends' homes until he shows that his work for the day is done, then it places the management of his life in his hands. You just established the rules by which he must live. If he has a habit of lying about what work is due, then you can say he can go to a friend's house when he shows his grades are at least a C.

You need to establish a set of consequences of differing severity. For violent behavior, you should give the worse consequence. I generally recommend that violent behavior be punished by spanking followed by repairing the damage he has done. If he is given a consequence, such as a grounding for some misbehavior, and he violates the punishment, then that should also be met with a harsher punishment, such as a spanking. If he refuses outright to follow the rules and ignores the consequences, tell him in advance that you will have no choice but to find another place for him to live. I suspect that few would be willing to take him in and you might have to contact your state's social services. However, your son needs to know that he cannot live at home and completely do as he pleases.

Whatever you establish as the consequences, you must be prepared to carry them out each and every time he misbehaves. If he misbehaves three times a day, he receives the same consequence three times on the same day.

Generally, children will do as they are allowed to behave. If violence is tolerated, or you allow yourself to be intimidated by his violence, then it will continue. Understand this, if his behavior continues he will end up in jail or dead -- violent people tend to meet violent ends. By straightening out his behavior now, you will be saving him from a bad life later.

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