Rebel Without a Cause: What to Do When Your Teen Revolts

Dealing with unruly teenagers can push some parents to a breaking point.

Kelly never had a problem with her parents’ rules before, but for some reason, things seemed to go haywire. Suddenly, she thought her curfew was unfair, limits on what she could wear were labeled outrageous and questions about where she went were considered an invasion of privacy.

What in the world happened? When did that sweet girl turn into a walking, talking cyclone of rebellion?

Turns out Kelly is going through the typical teen process of learning self-identity. She's pushing for greater independence as she tries to discover her own identity and what she wants her world to look like. This often results in a rebellious attitude toward previously accepted rules.

Chaos and Confusion

Tim was caught shoplifting at the grocery store. Three days later, he got caught vandalizing the bathroom at school. The next week, the gym teacher found drugs in Tim’s locker. His parents just don’t understand - their son isn’t a “trouble maker.” Where did this rebellious streak come from?

What’s going on with Tim is a direct result of his parents’ new work schedules. Over the past year, they have been spending more and more time at the office, meaning they spend less and less time with Tim. Starving for affection, he discovers that at least bad behavior gets his parents’ attention.

When Jeff got home from his friends’ birthday party, he was clearly drunk. Two weeks later, after the homecoming dance, his parents suspected he was high. Jeff’s hanging out with a new group of friends these days and his parents worry they aren’t a very good influence.

Jeff’s parents are right. Their son is entering the stage of life when peers are valued more highly than other relationships. With intense peer pressure to be accepted and liked, teens like Jeff often get involved in negative behaviors, like drug and alcohol use.

Rebecca’s parents don’t know what to expect from their daughter each day. On Monday, Rebecca’s all smiles and rainbows. By Tuesday, she’s a tornado of anger. By the time Wednesday rolls around, she won’t even get out of bed. When her mom and dad ask her questions, Rebecca’s responses are often disrespectful and concerning.

Rebecca's moods swings are typical among teens. As their bodies undergo many physical and hormonal changes, their reactions can become wild and severe. This can come across as being rebellious.

Ready to Move Forward?

Now that you have a better grasp of what’s going on with your teenager, you can move forward and take action. A great place to start is by addressing her R.E.B.E.L.L.I.O.N.

  • (R)espect your teen’s accomplishments, individuality and self-reliance.
  • (E)stablish clear rules and consequences and stick to them.
  • (B)e understanding and loving about their struggles.
  • (E)ducate your teen about the dangers of substance abuse.
  • (L)earn the art of remaining calm.
  • (L)isten to them.
  • (I)dentify and acknowledge positive, compliant behaviors.
  • (O)pen communication is key.
  • (N)ever compare your teen with yourself or another child.

 

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