• Dealing With Teenagers’ Risky Behavior | Jon Mattleman | Episode 126

  • Dealing with teenagers' risky behaviorTeens do many things that baffle parents. We shake our heads and wonder why they do the things they do. But when they engage in risky behavior it scares us. When parents are scared we can over react or take a stance that makes things worse. Find out why our teenagers engage in risky behavior. Learn methods of dealing with those situations as well as the anxiety that is plaguing teens today. Mighty Parenting podcast host Sandy Fowler goes behind the scenes with therapist and speaker Jon Mattleman. They discuss teen behavior and emotions, parents’ feelings, and parenting strategies for handling risky behavior.



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    A Favorite Quote from the Show: 

    “Everything our teens do they do for a reason, a reason that seems good to them.”

    High Points of Our Conversation About Dealing with Teenagers’ Risky Behavior:

    Why teenagers engage in risky behaviorThe person taking a risk doesn’t feel the risk as intensely as the observer.

    Everything a child does, they do for a good reason—a good reason to them.

    When Jon’s son came home drunk Jon said, “I know you got drunk for a good reason. My job as a parent is to be thoughtful so I’d like you to write down your reasons”. While his son wasn’t happy, he thought it through and wrote down his reasons. This helped Jon understand his son and take appropriate action rather than just punishing him which may have escalated the behavior.

    There are many kinds of risky behavior our kids engage in; stealing, self-harm, drinking, drugging, suicide and more. 

    Parents often act out of anger when their teenager engages in risky behavior. That anger is usually masking fear.

    The adolescent brain is very smart but doesn’t have a lot of experience to call on nor does it have a braking system.

    Anxious kids don’t make good decisions because the anxiety is driving things. They engage in risky behaviors to make the discomfort and pain of the anxiety go away.

    Anxiety is real and we need to acknowledge it. Some of the worst things we can say to an anxious teenager are: “Don’t worry” or “It’s all in your head”. These comments diminish our kids and what they feel.

    So often when our kids are suffering mentally and emotionally they don’t reach out for help. Some of the reasons are:

      1. There’s a stigma associated with mental and emotional health issues.
      2. They don’t want to disappoint their parents.
      3. They think they have to be at rock bottom to reach out for help.
      4. Kids believe they aren’t worthy of help.

    Shame causes harmful behaviors to skyrocket and is a big part of the suicide equation.

    No one wants to be a burden.

    Society says not to talk about it. This is especially true for boys who are told to man up and be stoic.

    Conversations work better in the car because we aren’t eye-to-eye, kids can’t see our faces and read subtle reactions, and we’re side-by-side which is less intense.

    Magic words for parents:

      • Do you want me to talk or just listen?
      • After your teen opens up to you say thank you.

    Parents don’t like it when their kids are angry but it’s good and it’s healthy. Our kids need to let their anger flow outward and release it because anger turned inward is depression.

    Sometimes our teens need someone to talk to other than a parent.

    The number 1 thing parents can control is ourselves—what we say and how we say it.

    Suggested Resources:

    We share resources mentioned on the shows and things we have found helpful in our own lives. When you purchase an item shared on Mighty Parenting we may receive a small commission which we appreciate as it helps us be here for you.

    Warning Signs: A Parenting Guide For Discovering If Your Teen Is At Risk For Depression, Addiction, or Suicide

    What Parents Need to Know About Teenage Emotions and Suicidal Thoughts | Dr. Lia Gaggino | episode 123  (click here for show notes and to listen)

    When Your Teenager Is Pushing Your Buttons | Hunter Clarke-Fields | Episode 121  (click here for show notes and to listen)

    Our Guest Jon Mattleman:

    Jon Mattleman on teens risky behaviorJon has been a therapist for over 35 years and presents to parents & professionals on topics such as suicide, anxiety, and depression.  He is best known for his talk “The Secret Lives of Teens and Tweens”.

    To learn more or connect with our guest visit https://www.jonmattleman.com 

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    Photo credit: Nathan Dumlao and Joshua Sukoff