Son Who is Acting Out

angry son

Hi my friend,

A mother came to me a few weeks back about her rebellious son who is lying, refusing to spend time with the family, and retreating to his bedroom. She wanted to know what she and her husband should do. Of course, I started by listening. I wanted to show empathy and respect as well as deepen my understanding of what was going on.

After talking for several minutes, she asked for my counsel. I need to say that a relationship challenge like this is not a “quick fix.”  It’s a process for this mother to learn to think differently and alter her responses towards her son.

We explored a few things she could do to build more trust and goodwill in their relationship. I encouraged her to notice and praise him for his strengths and the good things he’s already doing. I suggested she carve out a little mother-son time when they could do something of his choosing. I recommended that she become curious and show lots of interest in things that matter to him—like cars and sports and friendships.

And then I talked about the importance of seeing beneath his behavior. Kids act out not because they’re “bad” but because they’re hurting. They have emotional pain—fear, anxiety, depression, hurt, inadequacy, resentment—that drive their acting out behavior.

Connection more than Correction

I shared that what her son needs, more than anything, is not correction but connection. He needs a safe relationship in which he can begin to identify and talk about his deeper feelings and perceptions. She won’t get that through more limits and consequences, though they may be necessary, but through deep listening.

Of course, this isn’t a quick fix. I don’t know how willing this son will be to talk about his deeper feelings and needs. Some kids talk more openly than others. His mother can’t force that. But if she can alter her primary objective from trying to change her son to being interested and building her relationship with him, he’ll feel it. He’ll become more open to her influence and support. He’ll begin to feel less defensive and it will even become easier, less contentious, for her to talk about her concerns, his lying and non-cooperation in the home.

Start with listening

I share this with you because I believe that the ability to listen well is the heart and essence of every healthy relationship. The best and most trusted leaders, bosses, co-workers, spouses/partners, parents, helping professionals, friends, customer service reps, grocery clerks, etc. know how to listen.  There are few more valuable gifts you can give the people in your life than that of a willingness and ability to listen deeply. This is the best place to begin improving a relationship, ninety-nine percent of the time, even with a rebellious son.

I want to let you know that I’ve just launched my new online video program entitled, “The Power of Deep Listening.”

As a thank you to my email subscribers, I’m offering the course to you for a limited time for just $9.99 (full price $74.99). Click here to enroll.

The course features

  • Four hours of on-demand video
  • Free audio files of all the lectures
  • 9 Downloadable handouts
  • 8 exercises to help you practice
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile device or tv
  • 30-day money back guarantee
  • Certificate of completion at end of course

The discounted price will only last until March 17 at 11:00 a.m. MST, so enroll now by clicking here.

And please feel free to share this promotional discount with other family members or friends who you think would benefit from the strategies and skills taught within the course.

Roger Allen



  1. Hector from Argentina

    Hello Dr Allen, let me start by highlighting the great service you provide to us, through this site, making us think and grow.

    If you allow me I’ll tell you about my doubts. Don’t you believe it may be counterproductive to show a spoiled kid that he can get away with his attitude? to implicitly suggest by folding that everyone will adapt to his/her will/whims?
    I’m having a similar problem to the one you talk about, and sometimes I think these little ones have too much and can’t ever get enough… not to mention they are totally ungrateful.. again, immensely thankful for your kind work.

    • Roger Allen

      Hi Hector. I appreciate your comment. I do agree with you that many kids are entitled today. I’m certainly not suggesting that we give into their whims and self-centered behavior. The key to dealing with this behavior is to clarify our own boundaries and expectations and then communicate these to our kids. Then we have to be willing to follow through with actions when they violate those expectations. This does not mean getting mad and upset. It does mean being fair and firm and following through with actions, not words.

      So often parents feel sorry for their kids or they don’t want their kids to be unhappy or upset with them and so back off their expectations to keep the peace. If you do that too much kids learn they can get what they want. If they don’t get what they want they create drama until we give in to keep the peace. Again, we have to be clear and firm (including able to say “no”) and then let them live with consequences.

      All of this being said, I still think it’s important that we build a relationship with them by good listening, affirming, positive interactions, etc. Generally these behaviors are not in the middle of a crisis, when a child needs firm and fair limits but at other times. I hope this is making sense.

      • Hector from Argentina

        it makes sense to me Dr Allen.
        Thanks again for your kind advice.


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