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How to Analyze Your Problem Parent

Updated on May 18, 2015

So you are a teenager and are having problems with one of your parents, and you need a way to figure out what the heck is going on? You might have begun to feel as if it’s you that is going crazy, and you may currently even be harassed by your parent. You may have just decided that something is wrong with mom or dad (or grandpa or grandma), or you may have been living with it for years, but have never quite been able to figure out what is wrong.

You may have even had some kinds of services in your family, or your parent has been in counseling, or you have been in counseling, but none of the professional people seem to tell kids any real details of what is going on. It can be pretty confusing. This article has been written to try to help give you a general idea of what might be happening to your parent. Keep in mind that none of the things written here are sure bet, but if any of them seem to ‘fit’, then that is a good place to begin figuring out your parent problem.

Some of the problems common to parents are listed below, and they kind of go from mild to severe. Read through the problems and see if any seem to fit your parent. Be sure to read them all, because one might fit better than the next. And, sometimes parents can have more than one problem at a time.

You Messed Up

Sometimes a parent can become very upset when you mess up. That’s what most parents do. Sometimes you may not think you have done anything all that bad, but your parent blows their top over you breaking a rule (that you may not even know existed). If you don’t quite understand why they are SO upset, calm yourself down and ask them to explain why they are so bent out of shape. Here is the important thing: really listen. Especially if your parent doesn’t usually get this upset, it may be something very important that you are having a hard time understanding just because you are young and inexperienced.

Or, maybe you have not messed up, but are experiencing something like depression or anxiety, and they are ‘on you’ because of the symptoms you are having. If this is the case, you need to get some counseling help as soon as possible.

Approach: If you messed up, apologize. And mean it. Don’t just say it, change your behavior to prove it. If the issue is something serious, like depression or anxiety, ask your parents to help you get some counseling; sometimes it helps to have a neutral adult to help you sort things out.


Everyone gets stressed, even you. And your parents get stressed, too. If you have a stressed parent, it could be because of any number of things from you getting into trouble to them worrying about money and paying bills and other adult stuff. Just like stress can make you grumpy and irritable, it can do the same thing to a parent. The signs of stress are when your parent only gets irritable and angry on rare occasions, or when you are aware of specific stresses in their life (like money troubles, ‘ex’ troubles, or work troubles).

Approach: Give them a break. Pick up some extra chores, or just do the ones you are supposed to do without complaint. Be a good kid.

Relationship/Marriage Troubles

About half of all marriages end with divorce. That may already be the case in your family for your parents. Or, it feels like Dad and Mom are heading that way. When parents are having problems in their relationship, they tend to get cranky and difficult, and may be more demanding and impatient with kids. The signs of relationship difficulties is usually obvious: lots of loud arguments or ‘cold shoulders’…you know: tension so thick you can cut it with a knife.

No, you are not supposed to be let in on the details of the problem. Trust me, you may not really want to know what their problems are. It’s enough that you realize things are not going well for them.

Approach: Avoid taking sides at all costs. If one parent talks badly about the other, respectfully decline to continue the conversation. Sometimes battling parents unconsciously try and get kids ‘on their side’, and sometimes, they will consciously and actively try to do that (see ‘Personality Disorder’ below). You might even try to respectfully suggest to them that they seek out some marriage counseling. If they won’t do that, ask them to set up counseling for YOU.

Physical Illness

There are circumstances when a parent has some pretty serious physical health issues, and even ongoing serious pain. Both of these can make a person very grumpy at the least, and quite difficult when things are really bad. Either chronic illness or life threatening illness can throw a family and family relationships on their ear.

Approach: Be compassionate if your parent is sick, has a chronic illness or pain. Step up and help out more around the house. Forgive the irritability that they may have. Learn about their illness (just find out what it is and Google it). Knowledge can give you some insight and compassion.


The sad truth is that there a lot of addicted people in the world that are not being treated or even trying to get help. Addiction is a disease that can be treated. If your parent is drinking too much, or uses illegal drugs, or seems to use a whole lot of prescribed pain killers (‘pharmaceutical addict’), then substance abuse is the likely cause of the difficulties. Many addicted parents will tell their kids that the reason they drink or do drugs or use doctor prescribed medicines is because the kid is doing something wrong or is not good enough, or because of the other parent. This is just a bunch of crap. The reason they are abusing substances is because they are addicted, and need treatment.

Approach: Learn all you can about addiction (again, the internet). If you are brave enough, find a local Alateen group (kids just like you living with an addicted parent), and go to a meeting. Or, check in with a school counselor to get some support and advisement. If you are 14 or over, in most States, you can go get clinical counseling all on your own. Most importantly, never ‘cover’ for an addicted parent, that only helps them to keep using, and eventually, their use will get very bad, so bad that they could die

Mental Illness

Sometimes parents become mentally ill. There are dozens of mental illnesses, ranging from things like depression and anxiety to schizophrenia and personality disorder (see below). When a parent has a mental health illness, it is particularly hard on the family, especially if it is not treated. Some mental health illnesses cause the person to resist treatment and taking medications that can really help them. Some illnesses, like schizophrenia will cause a person to see or hear things that are not there, or think things that are very strange and not true. Other mental illnesses like bi-polar disorder may cause the person to be sad to the point of self-harm, or so ‘up’ and enthusiastic that they just seem crazy.

Approach: Again, learn as much as you can about the illness your parent has. Know what to do fi they become dangerous to themselves or others (begin by calling 911). If they are supposed to take medicine, gently remind them and encourage them to do so. When things get too stressful for you, go to your school counselor and explain what you are dealing with; they will give you some support.

Do any of these describe your situation?

See results


A spanking or privilege removal is not necessarily child abuse, but if your parent is hitting you, slapping, punching, kicking you on a regular basis, that IS abuse. Or, if your parent is making sexual advances towards you, THAT is definitely abuse. Child abuse tends to travel in families from one generation to the next, so if you have knowledge that a grandparent abused your parent, and they are now doing pretty much the same to you, then that really strengthens the case for abuse. The very important thing to understand is this: you do not ‘deserve’ the abuse. No one deserves to be physically or sexually abused by anyone, ever.

Approach: Though it may seem frightening, you need to tell as many people as much as you can that you are being abused. Some abusive parents will insist that such things remain ‘inside the family, and private’, but don’t do that. Child abuse is a crime that should never be kept ‘private’. Or, they tell kids that if the kid tells, the ‘family will be split up…all because of YOU!’ It’s not you, it’s THEM that is harming the family. You can call child protection services all on your own and report the abuse. If you are too scared to do that, talk to a school counselor, teacher, or coach who will help you report the abuse and get help.

Personality Disorder

Personality Disorder is being mentioned aside from Mental Illness because it is often overlooked as a mental illness and is far more common than most people think. People with one of the nine different kinds of Personality Disorder tend to be extremely emotionally abusive to those around them, and may engage in other forms of abuse like substance abuse and physical and/or sexual abuse as well. Some of the symptoms common to most Personality Disorders are that there is a consistent pattern of emotionally abusive behaviors, like the ‘Jekyl-Hyde-effect’, where you can never predict if the person is going to be kind and charming, or aggressive and abusive. Other common symptoms are that you can never seem to do anything right, and they can never seem to do anything wrong. To a Personality Disorder, other people are just toys to mess with, tools to use to get something, or obstructions to what they really want.

Approach: Learn as much as you can about the particular personality disorder your parent has. If you don’t know which kind they have, just do a bit of research online, and look for Types of Personality Disorders and go from there. Learning about the disorder is the very best first step, and then you can find online directions for coping with these kinds of people. This author has written some articles about one of the most common Personality Disorders, Narcissistic Personality Disorder, right here on Hubpages.

Get Help

If you recognize any of the above possible reasons why your parent is behaving in a way that has you concerned, then it is wise to get some help from an outside source. The first place you could turn is your school counselor. If you go to visit the school counselor, it is important that you give all of the meaningful facts about what is going on with you and your parent. Don’t be random in what you talk about, tell them how it really is, and give some details. If you don’t you will not likely get the help that you need.

Ask the school counselor directly to help you get some clinical counseling. A clinical counselor is someone who is specially trained in mental health issues. You may need help from your other parent or another relative to set up the appointment because of health insurance payments: this usually takes an adult’s help. If you look around your community, you just might find a ‘teen outreach’ or a free clinic that has counseling.

If you cannot seem to get to a clinical counselor, don’t stop talking to the school counselor or another adult you trust and respect. You needs support to deal with a difficult problem who may have a mental health or drug issue.


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