14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

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Casual scribe

14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

My 14 year olds behaviour is escalating, it started with smoking, then drinking, then pot. It’s continued now with skipping school, failing classes, sneaking out - over the past 3 weeks it’s exploded to bad choices and bad behaviour every couple of days. The amount of lies we are sifting through is so difficult and it’s amazing how offended he is with us when we catch him in a lie. He is a very intelligent kid and very athletic, he has such a bright future and the potential a lot of kids would only dream of. I’m now lost on how to guide him - I’ve tried being strict, being supportive and understanding. I’ve believed him when he has asked me to, I have grounded him when the truth comes out but this is no deterant - and when we find out he has done something wrong or lied he gets angry at us for interfering with his life. I have given him choices and consequences - it’s been 6 months of escalating behaviour .... I want to take him to see a counsellor to talk to I have been suggesting he look at websites or talk to someone for a couple of weeks now but he said he will refuse to go if I try to make an appointment. He sees my reaction as the problem not his behaviour. I need the support to help him guide his way out of this behaviour. Any suggestions ?
Prolific scribe

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

Hey there @Calamity14 and welcome to ReachOut.


I'm sorry to hear how things are going with your son. It sounds like things have become a lot more difficult recently, is that right? 


Getting some support to help your son is a great step to take. Is there anyone around you, such as a trusted friend or relative, who could help you with your son? 

There are also places online or over the phone, such as Parentline or ReachOut's Parents Coaching service that you can access for further support. Do you think these would be helpful for you? 


I'm also going to tag in some other members for their suggestions: 


Parent Community Champion

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

Hi @Calamity14 


Sounds like it a really tough time for you.  I imagine your son is not in a very good place at the moment either.

It sounds like your son has gone a long way down a certain path and it will take a lot of little steps to bring him back.    The good news is there is time for him to take those steps, but frustratingly, he will need to choose to take them, you can't make him.


There is a lot in your comment and let's see if I unpack a few and offer something of my thoughts and hopefully that might help.   


"when we find out he has done something wrong or lied he gets angry at us for interfering with his life"

Sounds very familiar.  The point of parenting is to interfere with his life and try to guide and help him make the right choices.  If you are not interfering you are not parenting .. your observing. 

Take this as a badge of pride! Don't apologize for caring and loving your son.


" I want to take him to see a counsellor to talk"

I think you are on the right track with encourage you to continue to concu Would he be open to support from somewhere independant like Headspace etc.  They are child focused and the sessions are private (exclude parents).  Staff there can arrange phycologists to assist your son deal with any issues he might be acting out.   If you bring this up with him focus on how it is private and not involving joint session with his parents.



"I have given him choices and consequences" 

This is one of the things good parenting involves.  Smoking weed, skipping school and achol are all very serious so make sure the consequences match the choices and are not under or over reactions. 


"He sees my reaction as the problem not his behaviour" 
Sounds familiar too.  At that age they don't have the understanding of the danger they can put themselves in nor the impact of their actions.  So naturally when you put restraints around his behaviour he see that as unreasonable.


My suggestion here is to try and make the discussion about the behaviour and why you see it as unacceptable and it has to be relevant to him.  His safety, his development, his well being.  Avoid abatary things like "I said so", "when I was your age", "other kids your age aren't..." or "it the rules of the house".  They mean nothing to him

I am sure you are already working on this but be sure to LISTEN to what he has to say.  Just don't talk at him.


My final thought it all you can do is love, support and try to parent them through this tough time.

In the end he will make his choices and even if they aren't the one you agree with all you can do is love him


Parent Community Champion

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

Holy smokes @Calamity14  this is a big issue and I can only imagine your concern and stress. @PapaBill has a great response and I am not sure that I can offer much insight. Fortunately, my kids value their privacy and internet enough that the loss of these work as a good deterrent.


Early adolescence is an important period to target risk behaviour because it is during this time when many risk behaviours are first initiated or begin to escalate. It also means you are not alone in this.  Adolescents must cope with

  • new developmental challenges
  • stressors associated with puberty
  • increased influence of peers and concerns about peer acceptance
  • Increased family conflict and renegotiation of parent-child relationship
  • greater need for monitoring
  • initiation of substance use and sexual activity

Teens take more risks than any other age groups. Research shows teens know that the behaviours are risky, but they still do it. During adolescence there is an increased interest in peer relationships and peer influence increases. Teens, especially mid-teens like your son, are more sensitive to the rewards of peer relationships which motivates them to focus on their friends in decision-making situations that involve risky behaviour and they are more likely to participate in risky behaviour while their friends are watching. So, this might be why your son is experimenting or developing a substance abuse issue.


As parents we can

  • provide safe risk taking activities for our kids. Sport can be one and this is one reason my kids do scouting.
  • Supervise interactions with peers and provide rules for friends interactions. We, as parents tend to think it is a time to ease off this area but if anything, it is more important than ever. We can help them to be better adjusted by getting to know as many of their friends as possible. This can also help us foster positive relationships with their friends. It doesn’t have to be sleepovers either.
  • consult teens about their friends. This keeps them aware of your interest and can build on their ability to self-regulate and encourage them to identify and develop strategies for handling situations where risky activity is likely.

However, they can learn and use strategies at home but that doesn’t necessarily mean they will use them elsewhere. Children have two worlds - their home and outside home. Boys (more than girls) behave quite differently within the various groups they belong to and often learn to compartmentalize their lives.


There is a great article Behaviour management for boys By Ian Lillico, who is a boy whisperer, I reckon. He says;

The behaviour of boys should be modified through praise - never through sanction or punishment. Punishment may contain a boy’s behaviour but not modify it. Punishment can actually be a reward for a boy as this can secure his prestige in the eyes of his peers. We must endeavour to catch them doing the right (nearly right) thing and try to ignore when he does things wrongly. Many parents fall into the trap of continually chastising boys and punishing them when they misbehave. However, in order to have a less stressful family life, and to change his behaviour, we should concentrate on positive reinforcement when he excels at being good.


Boys who misbehave can often become heroes in front of his immediate peers. Boys who are publicly chastised both at home, in the neighbourhood or at school, often have a high peer esteem and their poor behaviour often continues to give them feedback - even if we see it as negative. Boys should never be publicly scolded as this tends to raise their peer esteem and, hence, their poor behaviour continues. Public reprimand also severs relationships between the scolder and scoldee as boys are shame-phobic.


Rather than rewrite what others have said I have linked this great parent resource about substance abuse and some things you can try. Another Dr Carl Prickhardt has some ideas as well.


As I have said in other posts it is important to prepare for what you want to do. Read, talk, observe information that is relevant. Make a plan (with your partner if possible) and pick a date when you think you will find it the easiest to address your concerns and make a plan with your son. This will also give you time to practise what you want to say, maybe write it down and phrase it in a positive manner. Set realistic, short term goals and be prepared to negotiate. Take time to ensure that you are strong enough to deal with whatever comes next and be prepared to 'follow through' on your plan.


I also use the terms Adult parent and Heart parent with my kids. When we chat, I can relate to their feelings with my heart but I explain how my adult brain can see positives and negatives better than them. That’s how I survived to live this long and why I put my foot down on certain things.


When it comes to boys, consistency and kindness are your best weapons. He does love you and that you care he just doesn't know how to show it and be cool with his friends as well. 


Big hugs and good luck.

Casual scribe

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

Thank you all, so much for your help and suggestions - I was feeling lost but from advice from here and from my GP , I can be a lot more confident we are handling this as best as we can - we are looking at headspace as our next step this has been recommended by many.

It’s amazing though how quickly behaviour can slide and escalate - my son does participate in sports 3/4 days nights per week and competes at a high level, his sporting friends are fantastic but he has some other friends whom are decent kids but seem to permitted to do a lot - these kids also don’t have any other commitments unlike my son. It’s strange to acknowledge that my son although is doing all these things but when at sporting training he helps and mentors and encourages younger members - showing them sporting techniques and hints to help them. He laughs and jokes and encourages them he has many of them looking up to him . But when with these other peers his behaviours falls apart. I have asked him is he wishes to more coaching and development but as it is coming from me it is not taken onboard - my GP reminded me to always be aware when I speak with him that his parents are the villains in his story at the moment so we have to stay strong with our grounding and restrictions.

Thank you again
Parent Community Champion

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

So true @Calamity14 

Parent Community Champion

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

Hi again

Sound like you have am opportunity to interfere (parent here)

I recall from my own childhood having some friends that would lead me into trouble.
All of them ended up in serious trouble pester in life

My patents forbade spending time with them and I stopped getting into so much trouble

Peers are such a big influence on a young boy 👦

Try to encourage the good peer relationship

Learn their names, ask about them, find out how their team is going
If you are not interested in his sport - get intrsested for his sake

I also agree that praise works best.
They still need boundaries and consequences but try to offer genuine praise when appropriate.

Let's us know how it goes
Parent Community Champion

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating


Being a parent of a teenage is continually hard and unrewarding work.

Unfortunately there are kids who have mothers and fathers who are to busy or unable to parent their children 🚸 despite their best intentions

I like to think All kids are precious and I wish the best for them all but it is a imperfect world 🌍

Parent Community Champion

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

From my ‘stirrer’ personna, I forgot to add that hubby and I like to clown a bit so he uses embarrassment as his “threat”. He jokes that he’s had years to plan all the ways he can embarrass the kids in front of their friends and school. Think any teen movie ever. Once again it’s scary how our kids believe him. Sad reflection? They also know he’d make some great stuff up. 


Fear of embarrassment is a great motivator for teens I’d nothing else works. Maybe this is how you get him to a counsellor and then he can complain about you 😬

Casual scribe

Re: 14 year old boy poor choices and bad behaviour escalating

I have no suggestions but I’m going through the same thing with my 13 year old 😞