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Managing difficult behaviour for young people and teenagers

  • 5-11 Years
  • 11-19 Years
  • SEND
  • Behaviour, emotions and mental health
Teenage boy sitting on bed with headphones round their neck, looking on their phone.

As your child grows, they will face new experiences. This can bring about a mix of emotions. The way teenagers' brains develop means that they may feel emotions very strongly. They also might not have fully developed the tools to handle them yet. These intense feelings can sometimes mean they become argumentative or disrespectful.

There are lots of things that you can do to help manage these challenging behaviours in a supportive way. 


Build resilience and coping skills

Building strong relationships and spending quality time together, will help build resilience. Support your teenager to develop their coping skills. This will help them to overcome challenges in the future.

Top tips

  • Encourage a balanced diet, regular exercise, and a good sleep routine. This can improve their general well-being.
  • Listen to their concerns. Allow them to express themselves without interrupting.
  • Work together to find solutions. Ask if they would like to hear your opinion or advice before offering it.
  • Encourage open conversations about emotions or problems they may be facing.
  • Check in with them regularly to make sure nothing specific is causing them to stress or worry.
  • Spend one-on-one time with them and engage in family activities. Show genuine interest in their life.
  • Celebrate their achievements together.
  • Encourage face-to-face interactions with peers, reducing screen time.

Set boundaries and rules

As your child gets older, it’s normal for them to seek independence. Try to respect their need for freedom and personal space. Teenagers like to push boundaries, so it's important to set clear rules.

Top tips

  • Establish clear and fair rules. Allow them to have a say and understand what you expect from them. This helps them understand the consequences if they choose to break the rules. Remember, this process is about guiding them to develop into responsible individuals.
  • All adults in the family need to be consistent when it comes to consequences. Consistency will help your teenager understand that their actions have predictable outcomes.

Avoid and diffuse arguments

Arguing with your teenager rarely leads to positive results. Getting angry usually just makes things worse and doesn't end well.

  • Avoid starting arguments or nagging. Your teenager may stop listening and this will only cause more frustration for you both.
  • Focus on defusing heated arguments. Allow them to speak without interrupting and actively listen to their opinion. Try to stay clam and find a solution.

If an argument starts to become heated, it's ok to take a break. Walk away and give yourself time to cool down. When you both feel calmer, you can continue in a more positive way. Remember, teenagers are likely to respond better to a calm and respectful conversation.

Avoid harmful discipline

Using physical, verbal, or emotional discipline can be harmful to your child. This includes things such as hitting, kicking, shouting, name calling, or constantly criticising them. These forms of discipline can have long-term effects such as:

  • having low self-esteem
  • thinking that violence is okay
  • experiencing mental health problems
  • behaving in antisocial ways
  • increased aggression

Seek support if you notice your child's behaviour at school is causing concern. Speak to your child's form tutor or someone from the student support team at school. By working together, you can ensure your child receives the best possible help.  

Who else can help


Need more specific support for your child?

If your child needs more help or has additional needs, you can visit our specific section for extra support.

Behaviour, emotions and mental health for additional needs

Last reviewed: 1 November, 2023

Who can help


Who can help

If you have any questions or concerns about your young person or teenager's behaviour, a health professional in our team will be able to offer advice and support.

You can Call Us on 0300 029 50 50 or Text Us on 07520 649887 to start a conversation.

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (excluding bank holidays).

Other places you can seek support from

  • Sometimes, ongoing challenging behaviour can indicate other health issues.  If you are concerned about your child, please contact your GP.
  • You can seek support from a health/education professional or independent counsellor if:
    • heated arguments happen regularly
    • your child finds it difficult to control their frustration or anger

They can offer an independent and unbiased view and recommend new ways to deal with their anger.

  • Children aged 11 to 19 can text ChatHealth for confidential advice. To speak to a school nurse they can text 07480 635 443.

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