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Is My Teen's Problem Behavior Normal?

When is it OK to step in?

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From Mom.me


Violence or Threats

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"I'm gonna kill George for blowing me off," is normal; "I'm going to buy a gun and kill George and his friends at school next week," is a problem, says Dr. Fran Walfish, a Beverly Hills-based psychotherapist. Any specific threats or minimal amount of violence toward animals, friends, family or themselves such as cutting or pulling out hair and eyelashes is a sign to get help. Lean on the side ofcaution.


Disrespect

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Eye-rolling, occasional yelling and shrugging off your conversations with "whatever" is normal. When it escalates to a higher level via swearing, hatred and hostility, that's crossing a line, says Loren Buckner, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist in Tampa. If your teen slams the door, for example, make sure she knows that it's not tolerated behavior. And check your own behavior, too—you have no clout if you're doing the same thing, Buckner advises.


Drugs and Alcohol

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A minimal amount of experimentation at a party is normal, such as a sip of a beer or a hit off a joint. Make sure your expectations are known—anything beyond your comfort level is off limits, including things like buying and selling drugs or sneaking alcohol into the house, Buckner says.


Computers

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It’s normal for teens to be on social network sites and spend time texting. "When it becomes obsessive and shuts out in-person relationships, that’s a problem," Walfish says.


Privacy

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Sometimes a teen wants to hole up in his room, we get that. But if the isolation is night after night, with minimal family interaction, it’s time to intervene, Walfish says.


Illegal Activity

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Walfish says there is no minimal amount of shoplifting, driving under the influence or buying drugs that is OK, and that parents should seek help immediately for their teen.


Appearance

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It's normal for teens to want to look good and on-trend, but parents have to be crystal clear on their expectations, Walfish says. Define how much makeup and jewelry is too much. If you don't want a short tank showing off a belly-button piercing, your teen needs to know that. Also, you can differentiate what gets worn to school, parties and family functions.

Appearance It's normal for teens to want to look good and on-trend, but parents have to be crystal clear on their expectations, Walfish says. Define how much makeup and jewelry is too much. If you don't want a short tank showing off a belly-button piercing, your teen needs to know that. Also, you can differentiate what gets worn to school, parties and family functions.


Perfectionism

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You might not think this is an issue, and mostly, for a teen trying to do her best, it’s not. But if your teen’s anxiety consistently rises if something’s not perfect or if it doesn’t go the right way, she is having trouble coping with regular life. This is another place to check your own attitude: If you’re a controlling perfectionist, you may be modeling behavior that’s contributing to your child’s emotional issues, Buckner advises.


Lying

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What is your teen lying about? If it’s a coin toss between disappointing his friends or his parents (which would mean a lie), the parents often lose. This can become a teaching moment, Buckner says. “You don’t flip out: You understand the child’s dilemma, but you still hold them to the rule and there’s still a consequence for that action.” Frequent lies, however, are a sign of trouble.

Lying What is your teen lying about? If it’s a coin toss between disappointing his friends or his parents (which would mean a lie), the parents often lose. This can become a teaching moment, Buckner says. “You don’t flip out: You understand the child’s dilemma, but you still hold them to the rule and there’s still a consequence for that action.” Frequent lies, however, are a sign of trouble.


Sibling Rivalry

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It’s normal for brothers and sisters to annoy each other, or compete against each other in a variety of areas. But, says Walfish, "a pattern of repeated rejection and lack of acceptance as an equal family member is a problem."

Sibling Rivalry It’s normal for brothers and sisters to annoy each other, or compete against each other in a variety of areas. But, says Walfish, "a pattern of repeated rejection and lack of acceptance as an equal family member is a problem."

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