How to Deal With a Rebellious Teenager

Being a parent is one of the most incredible experiences a person can have in their lifetime. But as they say, with great power comes great responsibility. Being a parent is not always easy. Once the endless crying and sleepless nights are over, as well as the trials of teething, learning to walk and talk, and starting school, comes a new challenge: the teenage years.

Intense emotions, sudden change of appearance, new personality traits, new hobbies, once-occasional arguments that soon become a daily routine for you and your teenage daughter, or less affection from your teenage son? You name it! All this is normal and necessary for a teen to develop into an adult.

But, of course, excessive rebellion can harm teens and their families. That is why it is important to understand teenage rebellion and to learn how to deal with a rebellious teenager.

Parenting is already hard, but it becomes harder when your teen starts to rebel and you're not sure how to deal with it. This article will provide tips on dealing with a rebellious teenager, exploring the causes and, where necessary, possible treatment options.

Causes and Types of Rebellious Behavior

Remember, even the most dedicated parents can't manage all of their teen's emotions and behaviors. But learning what to expect and truly understanding why your teen is acting the way they do are big steps to managing the teenage years.

Teenagers rebel for many different reasons, but they include:

Neurological Development

The most intense period of growth and development occurs during the teenage years. The brainstem, occipital lobe, parietal lobe, and cerebellum, all areas of the brain responsible for language processing, speech formation, and memory capacity, undergo substantial changes.

During this period, the prefrontal cortex of the brain is also developing. This is linked to personality development, planning, logical reasoning, and the structure of speech. Developments in logical reasoning, and a greater capacity for complex reasoning and speech, mean your teen has more ability to argue effectively.

Hormonal Changes

During puberty, teens experience a massive flood of new hormones from the hypothalamus, including sex hormones. Aside from changes to their bodies, during puberty, the teenage brain are reacting to new chemicals in real-life.

This causes your teen to experience increased emotions, which sometimes lead to mood swings and higher levels of aggression and spontaneity. In addition, these hormones can make your teen have low self-esteem and develop self-image issues.

Identity Definition

Added to the developing brain and hormonal changes, it's very common and perfectly normal during teenage years, as teens are growing and start having the ability to make their own choices, to seek an identity definition.

Teenagers feel the need to assert their individuality and break free from their childhood identity. This means teens may seek to engage in new experiences to explore their personality while trying to discover their life place and who they are.

Relationship to Authority Figures

Young children are under the constant authority of their parents, family members, or legal guardians. Likewise, they can be disciplined for not going to bed on time, throwing tantrums, not eating their dinner, or drawing on the walls.

However, during their teen years, as teenagers increase their ability to reason, argue, and effectively ask "why?", a conflict between them and their parents can happen as they seek more independence. There is less fear of authority from parents as they begin to recognize the parents or guardians as normal imperfect people.

During this time, many parents see their children acting on their resentment towards being controlled by performing common teen choices such as rule-breaking and experimenting with things that were forbidden before.

The Prevalence of Social Media

As you almost certainly already know, the internet and social media are an inextricable part of teenagers' lives.

The internet has enabled us to connect with family members and friends who are far from us, collect knowledge and information, and engage in discussions on our favorite topics. All this in one single click. From billions of websites, platforms, and apps for phones, children and teenagers have easy and instant access to whatever they wish.

Of course, there is a downside to this, as they can access subjects that can have negative consequences at their age, such as sexual and violent content, being victims of or engaging in cyberbullying, or even imitating other people on the internet.

Researchers have studied the correlation between social media use and mental health issues for years now. According to a recent report released by Common Sense Media, about 1,500 teenagers feel that social media is very important to them to feel less alone and supported when experiencing negative feelings and emotions.

However, this report concluded that one-third of those constantly using social media had mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. Moreover, the research suggested that many young people with depression are purposely using social media to promote their well-being.

Of course, there is a downside to this, as they can access subjects that can harm their age, such as sexual and violent content, being victims of or engaging in cyberbullying, or even imitating other people on the internet that influence bad behaviors.

Seeking Acceptance

Another major reason for social media obsession can be the desire for acceptance through likes, comments, or messages on the internet. In the teen's life, being socially accepted by friends, classmates, or followers from social media becomes very important for them.

At this point, acceptance from family is often no longer enough, and your teen may show fluidity in their behavior patterns and even their moral compass. Sometimes, the teen's behavior might change to fit in the group, leading them to do something wrong or unacceptable.

Seeking Attention

Teen rebellion can be a form of attention-seeking behavior.

Generally, all individuals seek some type of attention from people. But this need is more intense during the teenage years. Teens need people to notice their personalities and accomplishments.

This is especially felt by teenagers who perhaps don't feel enough validation from their parents and family. Reasons for that could be having younger siblings, parents not being present due to their work schedule, or parents suffering from some type of health issue that makes it harder to interact with their kids.

Consequently, adolescents will sometimes seek validation and attention from their peers or others outside of their environment. They may succumb to peer pressure from other rebellious teenagers. This attention-seeking behavior can lead to dangerous behaviors.

Other Signs of Teenage Rebellion

Teenage rebellion often appears in the form of defiant behavior. But there are other indicators of teenage rebellion to be aware of as well. These are some signs a parent should pay attention to that indicate they are dealing with a rebellious teen:

  • Your child is a good student whose grades have suddenly lowered their grades and who finds it hard to focus in classes
  • Until this point, you considered the relationship with your teenager to be healthy, but suddenly it's hard to maintain a conversation without arguing
  • You notice your teenager keeps pushing the boundaries and breaking rules
  • Your teen forms friendships with a group of children that don't seem the type of friends they would usually hang with
  • Your teen decides they don't like the hobbies they had until this point and consider them childish
  • Your teen gets in trouble at school and engages in physical fights with their peers

How to Deal with Teen Rebellion

Fortunately, the good news is that there are ways to help both you and your child deal with teenage rebellion and have a better relationship during these challenging teen years.

Using these tips will help make your teenager feel supported and encouraged while helping you stay calm while going through this phase. This is beneficial for both of you!

Keep It in Perspective

Rebellious teens lack self-awareness of what they are doing or about the full scope of the consequences. There are too many variables to consider in the life experience and mind of a teen, so the first step is for parents to consider how confusing these years are for their child.

The best way to deal with a rebellious teen is to stay calm and remind yourself this is just a phase that won't last forever.

Have Healthy Conversations With Your Teen

Parents should always discuss this with a rebellious teenager. But it is important to do it properly without using an angry or condescending tone or using insulting words. Remember, you can always postpone the conversation if you or your teen becomes angry.

Conversations should be held while you are in control and staying calm. Otherwise, the conversation will lead to a fight that, instead of fixing the issues, will create even more problems.

In the same manner, it's also important to give your teen space. This means listening without judgment and being respectful of your teen's choices. But also avoiding giving advice without being asked.

Be Clear About Which Behaviors Are Unacceptable

In a familiar environment with clear ground rules, teenagers rebel less. Of course, you should create rules that are fair and age-appropriate with reachable expectations. Don't expect your teen to not follow their peers and friends in experimenting with things, as it is normal and necessary for their development. Remember, your child is not perfect, so don't expect him or her to always follow what you consider the best route of action.

Again, you should not let it get out of control, so the easiest way to make sure your child doesn't put themselves in harmful situations is to start early while they are growing up by implementing household chores. As they get older, start having serious conversations about what is considered unacceptable for them to know.

Providing age-appropriate rules and having healthy regular conversations about their behaviors and limits is the best way to ensure your teen doesn't go above what is considered normal at their age.

Decide on Appropriate Consequences for Breaking Rules

You should not worry about your teen's feelings when putting some rules in place. After all, you are the adult in charge of the household.

Rules should always be accompanied by plausible consequences. Discussing the consequences of their actions will make your child fully aware of the outcomes of his or her choices.

Having appropriate consequences for rebellion can also make teens feel like they have a safe space in which they can share what they have done wrong. For instance, in case of taking a bad grade, it will be easier for teens to share it with a parent that doesn't offer consequences and punishments that are too extreme.

Never Set Rules Without Explaining the Logic Behind Them

More important than setting realistic rules at home is to explain the reasoning behind such rules. Remember, the best way to approach teenage rebellion is through proper communication.

Teens who don't understand why such rules are put in place will more likely feel like their parent just wants to control them rather than being genuinely worried and wanting the best for their teen.

Additionally, if teens don't understand the underlying reasons for rules, they won't feel tempted to respect them as much as if they truly comprehended the bad consequences they could face from their actions.

Appreciate Their Good Behavior

When confronted with something bad their child has done, for most parents, it is easy to forget all the times their teenager showed good behavior and, rather, focus on the bad things.

The first thing to remember is that no matter how rebellious your teen may get, they still want to be loved, and one of the best ways to show your love for them is through positive reinforcement.

Being constantly reminded of all the bad things they have done can have a major negative impact on their mental health. This can lead to mental disorders or even engaging in more rebellious behavior, as teens might feel like the good things don't matter.

What Can Happen if a Teen's Rebellion is Not Addressed?

Sometimes, during their rebellion phase, a teen can cross the limits, and their actions become out of control. They can experiment with drugs, engage in risky sex, and illegal activities such as reckless driving or shoplifting even.

If these circumstances last and become regular habits, most likely, your child's academic performance will suffer, and they can develop a substance use disorder, get STDs or pregnant, or face legal charges.

The only way to avoid this is to focus on the way your teen behaves. This can help deter your rebellious teen from doing something that can deeply affect them afterward and to understand if they suffering from oppositional defiant disorder, which needs you to seek professional treatment for your teen.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder

For most teens, the rebellious years can be difficult, but they will eventually get through them relatively unscathed. However, in some cases, behavioral changes are intense enough to need clinical attention, so it is crucial to get professional help for your teen.

For instance, a rebellious teen who keeps misbehaving and breaking the rules for over six months might suffer from an oppositional defiant disorder. This includes a frequent and outgoing pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, and defiance toward parents and other figures in the teen's life.

A teen suffering from oppositional defiant disorder may experience:

  • frequent feelings of anger, easily losing their temper
  • arguing on purpose with people to hurt them
  • blaming others for their own mistakes
  • saying mean and hateful things when upset
  • seeking revenge
  • showing vindictive behavior

The severity of oppositional defiant disorder goes from mild when symptoms occur in one setting to moderate when symptoms occur in at least two settings and severe when symptoms occur in three or more settings.

Professional Support for Oppositional Defiant Disorder in Teens

In order to treat oppositional defiant disorder, a professional healthcare provider may suggest the following treatment options:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy - this will help your teen deal with their thoughts and feeling while providing them key tools to manage triggers. Studies have shown reduced aggression in teens practicing this type of therapy.
  • Parent Management Training - this will help you change response patterns that may enforce unwanted behaviors.
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy - similar to the previous one, this will coach parents on how to behave with their children properly.
  • Collaborative Problem Solving - this will help with communication and compromise. One study showed this to be as effective as parenting coaching.

In addition to this, there might other underlying issues for teen rebellion, so you are advised to speak to a doctor about your concerns. Getting professional help will be beneficial for your rebellious teenager, but also a professional care provider can assist you in dealing with a rebellious teen.

Clearfork Academy

Clearfork Academy is an outdoor adventure program that serves teenagers, both girls and boys, between 13 to 17 years old. We offer substance use treatments and help adolescents who are dealing with mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, and oppositional defiant disorder.

For your teenager, we provide faith-based, inserted-in-a-therapeutic environment programs, including:

  • On-site medical detox
  • Residential treatment
  • Intensive outpatient
  • 24/7 staff and nursing support
  • Experienced team of medical providers
  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Family intensive week
  • Excellent substance abuse treatment

We lead adolescents to a new legacy. If you believe your teen could benefit from our help, contact us today at (817) 259-2597 to know more about our treatment options.

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