When we think about teenagers, we expect a certain type of antisocial behavior. They are rebels in nature and they rarely follow the rules of the society as these don’t fit perfectly into their system of values. This is something normal and all of them change their behavior at some point and learn how to control their emotions and how to direct them towards a positive goal. However, there are cases when teenagers need help to change their behavior, and that is when it is hurting their life or the ones around them.
When the antisocial behavior is exaggerated, it is considered a clinical disorder and it requires intervention not only from the family but also from a therapist.
What are the symptoms that you have to look out for? At first, they might seem common to all teenagers, but it depends for how long they last and how intense they are. Adolescents with antisocial behavior very often have troubles with authority and they show little to no respect to anyone who tries to tell them how to behave or what to do. This is what makes them have troubles at school even if they are smart enough to get high marks. At the same time, they have severe arguments with their family every time they are being told they have to do something they don’t like.
Other alarming symptoms are lying, violence, stealing or using foul language on a daily basis. In this case, their behavior will not only affect them and their position in the society but it can also be dangerous for their friends and family. The refusal to try new things or the attraction for prohibited ones (alcohol, smoking, drugs) is also common.
The causes of the antisocial behavior in teenagers are not always simple. There are teenagers who have a very supportive and loving family who display these symptoms from an early age. However, most of the teenagers who are in this situation have had to deal with family issues all their lives, live in a single parent family or live with one or both parents that abuse alcohol or drugs. If they were exposed to violence, directly or as witness, they are at risk of developing the same behavior as young adults. Therefore, it is not enough to try to remove the symptoms if the causes are still present and not solved.
One of the things that makes it so difficult to help antisocial teenagers is that they seem to have no feelings or consideration towards others whatsoever. If they are being accused or approached they will treat the ones around them with a complete lack of interest, making the others feel like they are worth nothing to them. This can be very frustrating especially if the person trying to help the teenager is personally involved in the issue. However, the family and friends need to know that most of the time this is only a way of displaying the control that they want to have, and the teenager is actually responsive to their wishes and feelings. They might even suffer because they are hurting others, but they refuse to show or discuss it.
The first step in helping a teenager with antisocial behavior is helping them raise their self esteem. They appear to be very secure and self centered, but in reality they have a bad opinion about themselves and they feel that they are incapable of doing certain things. Instead of being argued with because they failed to do something, they should be rewarded for doing small things. A very simple example is the comparison between homework and housework. Most teenagers refuse to do both, and parents focus on the things that they don’t do instead of the ones they do. If the teenager agrees to help the parent in housework even though he does not want to do his homework, he should be rewarded for this with good words that will give him a feeling of appreciation. Applying this in every situation will lead to a development of their self-esteem and it will bring them one step closer to normal behavior.
Another aspect that the parents should consider is finding someone else to deal with the behavior of the teenager. As difficult as this might be for them, very often teenagers are full of resentment towards their parents, and it will be easier for them to open up to a person who is not directly involved in the situation. If they refuse to see a therapist they should be put in contact with a family friend who shows acceptance towards their rebellion. For example, if the parents refuse to allow the teenager to go out after a certain time and the teenagers insist on this, going outside with a trusted family friend might make them feel trusted and it can create a connection between the two.
Regarding the diet of the teenager, it is well known that they usually tend to eat unhealthy foods and they have a preference for soft drinks. For teenagers with antisocial behaviour, things are even more complicated because they will refuse to eat anything that they don’t like, or they will react aggressively when they are denied their favorite foods. If they can be convinced to take nutritional supplements, these can keep their body and mind healthy while the therapist is working on their spirit.
Vitamins are very important for teenagers, since they are still growing and their bones and organs are not yet fully developed. The best vitamins are the ones that they can get directly from fruits and vegetables, but when this is not possible a combination of all the essential vitamins and minerals should be taken in supplement form.
At the same time, most of the teenagers have high requirements but a low intake of zinc, calcium and iron so these should come from supplements where the amounts are higher. The more soft drinks they consume during the day, the more calcium they need because soft drinks contain phosphorus which destroys the calcium in the body.
Healthy fats, Omega 3 and Omega 6 have been proven to reduce aggressive behavior and to ensure the proper functioning of the body. They can come from supplements or from avocados, fish, nuts or peanuts.
Try to convince the teenager to take small snacks throughout the day consisting of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Discussing and keeping in touch with the teenager at all times is very important. They should feel that they are loved even though they don’t always offer the response that their family is hoping for. With support from all sides they will eventually change their behavior and become healthy and loving young adults.
It is very frustrating to deal with a teenager who undermines your authority at all times, but all this can be solved. It takes a village to grow a child and this case is no exception. Get everyone involved in this and explain to them that the teenager is passing through a rough time, but they are ready to get back as soon as they can. Soon enough you won’t even remember these bad times!