Adolescence is a challenging time for many. To handle it, some kids act out in ways that may seem rebellious or boundary-testing. Because of the age of the offenders, the justice system considers many of these misbehaviors as crimes. To prevent adolescents from becoming wards of the court, there are certain signs and intervention techniques that parents and teachers can take advantage of.

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, there are common status offenses that are illegal only because the perpetrator is younger than 18 years of age. These include:

  • Running away
  • Missing an excessive number of school days
  • Drinking
  • Violating curfew
  • Defying orders from parents or teachers

There are a variety of factors that contribute to juvenile misbehaviors. For some kids, disobedience is a normal part of development, and the behaviors go away as they reach their twenties. For others, however, there are underlying reasons a kid is misbehaving and, if actions are not taken, this can lead to more serious and destructive behaviors.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, experts recommend assessing risk factors and intervening early when there are problems, as opposed to disciplining. Risk factors that increase the chances of delinquent behavior include peer, family, individual, community and school. The key to minimizing delinquency is to intervene as soon as signs of misbehavior appear.

Depending on the age of the child, intervention tactics may focus on the child’s home life or the adolescent’s peer group. Some effective strategies include early literacy development, community-based programs, family functional therapy, mentoring, technical education and after-school opportunities. Along with preventing interference by the justice system, prevention programs help minimize drop out rates, reduce public spending and reduce future abuse.