Why Your Teen Is Rebelling And What You Can Do About It

July 5, 2019  |  

Young african woman sitting arms crossed on sofa at home

Source: Vladimir Vladimirov / Getty

When Sasha Brown’s 17-year-old daughter, Ashley, began to consistently stay out past her curfew, she was perplexed. Since birth, Ashley had always been an obedient child. She was the type to put herself on punishment if she received a bad grade. She’d burst into tears at the mere thought of disappointing her parents. Parenting her had been a breeze – until the summer of her senior year, that is.

“It’s as if someone had flipped a switch,” Sasha recalled. “Seemingly out of the blue, she began to transform into a child that I didn’t recognize.”

Though Ashley wasn’t blatantly disrespecting her mother to her face, she was constantly sneaking around and breaking the rules behind her back.

“Due to the fact that this behavior was so out of character for her, initially, I just tried to talk to Ashley about what was happening, but after a few conversations, I realized that nothing was penetrating,” her mom shared. “She wasn’t merely staying out an hour or two past her curfew, she was coming home at 3 o’clock and 4 o’clock in the morning.”

In addition to keeping extremely late hours, Ashley was hanging out in notoriously dangerous areas with a boy she swore up and down she was in love with, and running in circles Sasha knew would result in nothing but trouble.

As odd as it sounds, Sasha’s story isn’t unique. Most parents will notice some rebellious tendencies and behaviors at some point in their child’s life. In fact, according to Grand Canyon University Professor Dr. Crystal Morris-Newsom, it’s a natural part of their development.

“The word rebel, by definition, means resistance and usually against a higher authority. In the case of teenagers, we as parents are considered an authority figure that is viewed as unfair or dictatorial,” the wife and mom explained. “When children are small, they idolize their parents and are somewhat blind to our deficits. However, as they mature into tweens and teens, our flaws become apparent and they start to question our knowledge and advice.”

Natural as it may be, this rocky transition puts both parents and teens on an emotional roller coaster. From a parental standpoint, it can appear that the adolescent has completely lost her mind and forgotten everything her parents taught her. Thankfully, parents need not fret because, according to Dr. Morris-Newsom, author of How To Get Your Grown Woman On: A Guide Through Preteen and Teenage Adolescence, this isn’t actually the case.

“[This] is such a tough stage for not only parents but the child as well because they are unsure of themselves,” she adds. “They remember the teachings from their childhood, but they are now coming into their own identity which usually makes them want to do the exact opposite of what parents want their teen to do. The unfortunate thing about the whole ‘teenage rebellion’ issue is that although it is a normal part of growing up, in today’s society it is occurring in much earlier ages so their ability to cope with these normal changes is tougher than if they were in their later teen years.”

Of course, some teens exhibit more extreme behaviors than others and when those behaviors are harmful, parents feel that it’s pertinent to take immediate action. However, before parents decide on a course of action, the mother of four recommends taking a deep breath and seeking spiritual guidance. This helps to keep anger in check and keeps parents from fighting fire with fire.

“In responding to a rebellious teen, I definitely advise having daily prayer and meditation time. There is not a parent alive that can respond each time with a kind and loving response to a teenager who has a smart retort with every answer, an attitude, and rolls their eyes when you merely say ‘Good Morning,’ but still try,” the author advises. “It’s okay to have boundaries and standards of what you will and will not accept in your home. Be firm with your standards and definitely try to refrain from anger as it will only add fuel to the fire.”

In addition, it’s recommended to build a bridge with your teen by showing interests in things you know they are interested in. Another major key is demonstrating transparency when it comes to the mistakes you’ve made in your life.

“Don’t shy away from difficult topics, even if they are hard for you. Your teenager might challenge one of your life decisions at this stage because they are using their independent thinking skills,” she adds. “Don’t be afraid or too proud to explain why you made your decision and then hear their opinion. Encourage them to use their own mind and think independently just remind them not to be disrespectful with it if they get a little out of hand.”

Most of all, parents are encouraged to maintain their power by refusing to argue or get on the level of their teens. Whatever your consequences are, implement them and move on.

“Instead of focusing on the attitude or eye rolling, act like you didn’t see it to remove its power. Many of those actions from your teenager are done to elicit a response so they can argue with you. Don’t give them the satisfaction.”

And lastly, don’t grow weary. Things will eventually turn around. Just take Sasha’s story, for example. Ashley’s senior year was a rocky one, but eventually, things calmed down and she returned to her normal self.

“It was rough,” Sasha recalls. “But I refrained from arguing with her. I began taking away privileges and implementing consequences. And when she was ready to talk, I was completely open and nonjudgmental.”

Ashley went on to graduate high school and college. She now has a beautiful family of her own.

“Ultimately, don’t give up and don’t shy away from the task at hand because you can get past this stage successfully,” says Dr. Morris-Newsom. “You are more than a conqueror and know that your teenager really loves and appreciates you deep down inside regardless of their actions. Your teenager’s rebellious behavior has nothing to do with you so don’t take it personally. Help them navigate these tumultuous years as this stage has a tendency to create low self-esteem and identity issues in teens. This is when they will need you the most.”

What is your advice for handling adolescents during those challenging teen years?

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