What to do when your teen breaks all your rules

The teen years pose some of the most difficult challenges for families. Teenagers sometimes say that no one can understand their feelings, especially parents. Consequently, the teen may feel angry, alone, and confused while facing issues about identity, peers, and sexuality. Parents may be frustrated and angry that the teen seems to no longer respond to parental authority. Methods of discipline that worked well in earlier years may no longer have an effect. Parents may feel frightened and helpless about the choices their teen is making and how to best help them.

What can I do?

  • RESPECT your teen and let them know you expect responsible behavior.
  • CARE about things that are important to your teen.
  • Continue to see and PRAISE the good things your teen does, even if they seem small.
  • Set REALISTIC rules and enforce with reasonable consequences. Make sure the punishment fits the action.
  • You may find that WORKING with your teen to set rules and consequences improves his/her following them and understanding them.
  • ATTEND local parent support groups.
  • Parents may need assistance in managing their teen’s behavior in the home and at school. It is important in these situations to TALK with a professional.
  • ASK FOR HELP. Contact your local Children and Family in Need of Services (CINS/FINS) agency for free counseling, support and shelter services. Make an appointment for yourself even if your teen refuses to go with you.


Contact your local helpline or United Way to obtain local agency information for support. Call local State Attorney’s Office or Department of Juvenile Justice with questions of legal rights.

  • 24 Hour Toll Free Numbers:
    1-800-RUNAWAY (1-800-786-2929)