Do your teen’s actions cause you more problems than they do your teen? Has your teen figured out that he can say or do whatever he wants, which causes you and others a lot of grief, while you spend all your time trying to figure out how to solve the riddle of why he behaves the way he does, without a care in the world to the problems his behavior creates?

Whenever I see a teen who is irresponsible and happy to be so, he probably has parents who are probably very responsible and also quite miserable. The more his parents do to limit bad behavior, rotten friends, or poor choices, the worse their teen’s behavior becomes.

It’s a vicious energy that I call “the spin cycle,” a downward spiral in teen behavior that often results in a life spinning totally out of control or ending in dire consequences.

The good news is that there is a way out of the spin cycle. Life doesn’t have to revolve around chasing your troubled teen’s problems and fixing them. Parents step out of the “spin zone” by finding ways to hand the problems their teen creates back to them when they decide to stop taking responsibility for their behavior. Instead, they give their teen clear responsibility for both their choices and the outcomes of their choices.

Until your is no longer blinded by the lack of responsibility for the problems they cause, they won’t stop causing problems. It’s not a mystery. Your child behaves irresponsibly because he is irresponsible. He will not magically become more responsible or mature, or wise. It’s learned behavior that comes from being forced to face the consequences of his deeds, which need to be effective and a logical response to his misbehavior.

It would be impossible to change everything in your teen’s behavior all at once, so let me offer one simple example: Say your 16-year-old’s teacher reports that your son is failing in math for the second time, and you have gone through this struggle before, and you know your son is fully capable of passing his math class. Your first reaction is to begin a process of systematically limiting how your child spends his time, helping him complete lists of homework and study assignments, checking daily to see his homework is finished, asking for weekly progress reports, and speaking with the teacher every other week to make sure your child is on track, with passing grades. Suddenly, your son’s problem with failing math has become your problem, and you take over and begin managing his problem for him.

A better approach might be to try something a little more drastic, but tons more effective. Hand the problem back to your teen; make him responsible to solve the problem. First, tell your teen that you welcome any questions about homework, you are willing to help him if he wants to ask you for it (even though you know he won’t) and you appreciate your teacher’s concerns, but that you will have absolutely nothing to say about math or any other schoolwork for the next six weeks. You won’t bother him to make sure he’s keeping up on assignments, see that he has passing grades, or say one word about school for the entire time. Next, tell him that at the end of six weeks you will check with his teachers, and every teacher must report that his grades are passing and he has completed all homework assignments, including math. However, if even one teacher tells you that there is a missing assignment, even just one… you will sell the car, cancel his cell-phone, and limit the amount of time you spend driving him around. He can ride the bus to school, and since this is the only car you ever plan to buy him, he may look for a job to pay for another car, but not until his grades return to normal.

Then, follow through.

If you don’t follow through, it’s an empty threat that will teach your teen two things: 1. You really don’t mean what you say and 2. He is not responsible to manage the problems he creates. When he sees you don’t mean what you say, his behavior will probably not improve, and you will become an even more miserable parent.

Once your teen realizes you mean what you say, and that sooner or later you intend to hand him responsibility for every part of his life, then your life will improve. Your teen will know that you keep your promises, and a simple reminder about the “math” incident might be all it takes to help your teen remember that he is responsible to solve the problems his behavior creates. Don’t step in and do it for him. Help him realizes that choices always have consequences, and they may even drastically change his life. It is totally up to him if the results are good or bad.

Author's Bio: 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mark Gregston is an author, speaker, radio host, and the founder and director of Heartlight, a residential program for struggling adolescents located in East Texas. Learn more at or call 903-668-2173. Mark’s blog can be read at or he can be followed on Twitter at His radio programs can be heard at