01/20/2012 08:35 EST | Updated 03/21/2012 05:12 EDT

Top 10 Signs Your Teen Is Becoming "That" Teen

Flickr: studiostoer

Ken Rabow on Our Kids

Did'ja hear about the Petersons? Their son Skeeter was kicked out of school and caught smoking something illegal. Now he just stays up 'til all hours of the night in his bedroom day-in and day-out in his snuggie!

So, how did the Petersons know they were the ones with "that kid." When did their kid become "that kid" and what could the Petersons have done differently?

So many young people today have too many temptations at their fingertips. Does that put them in danger? No. Can it be a sign of becoming a Skeeter Peterson? Not necessarily.

No one sign is a cause for alarm, but put a few of them together and you are heading into Skeeter territory. This article is designed to show you the danger signs and help you steer clear off a total meltdown, ending up in school failures and much worse.

I have been working with teens and young adults since the turn of the millennium. Most of my early work was helping kids who were straying to get back on track. However, in the past several years a lot of my work has been with young people who have turned on, tuned out and dropped out of pretty much everything. Living 24/7 in their bedrooms, playing video games and being chauffeured around when required. There are variations to this scenario, but the outcome is the same.

One thing most of these people have in common is that they are challenged by some unnamed fears that hinder their success. Be it fear of failure, of large groups of people, of germs, whatever it is, these people have decided that by choosing to fail and sabotaging the various kinds of help given to them, they can "win." We can all feel Martin Sheen's pain about this kind of "winning."

I have also noticed that to a person, each one of these people have a unique talent that is exceptional but undeveloped or dismissed, very often because it seemed impractical.

Yet, this is the starting point of their salvation.

The 10 Warning Signs

1. Staying up uncharacteristically late on a regular basis.

2. Not handing in assignments in time.

3. Failing tests and/or assignments.

4. Avoiding all family meals.

5. Chronic sleeping in and missing the start of school.

6. Sudden changes in attitude in a confrontational manner.

7. Self-destructive behaviours.

8. Obsession with a hobby. (Video games, magic cards, etc.)

9. Constantly arguing about the worth/point of school.

10. Anti-social behaviour or self-delusion.

How to Respond to the 10 Warning Signs

Seeing one to three signs is worth noticing. Four signs is worth saying something about it. Five signs requires some action. More than five signs and you may be thinking about signing them up to star in Two and a Half Men.

Three Quick Changes to Success

The goal is not to drive them out but empower them and help them rise above their fears.

1. Talk to them. You would think that dinner would be the best time for discussions, but that probably feels to them like unsafe territory. Find a place that gives them power, that lets them feel safe and ask to meet with them there. Try active listening; listen, say back what you believe you heard in your own words and empathize. You'd be amazed at the changes people go through when they hear back their own words without worrying about being judged.

2. Find a mentor. If their particular talent requires a teacher, coach or trainer, you are all set. Choose that person not for their successes in their field, but for their life-enriching skills. If your child's talents do not lie in these fields, find a life coach specializing in young adults and teens.

3. Ask them. If you take the time to write down your fears and concerns (free of blaming and accusations) and share it with them in an environment the empowers your child, the best first action may be to let them think about what they can do to change their lives around.

So many of the world's greatest people started with many failures in their teen years. What was important was not what they did, but how they changed things for the better. It is never too late.

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