How to Survive Teen Rebellion

Posted by Gena Sayers on August 05, 2015

Teen rebellion happens often enough to inspire a plethora of books, music and movies reflecting the struggles and woes that accompany the teenage years. Teen rebellion generally happens in one of two ways. Rebelling against social norms is one way. This is how I rebelled when I was a teenager. I didn’t participate in sports or school clubs and I didn’t dress like my classmates.

To this very day I rebel against social norms, so I can empathize with all the other non-conformists out there. The second kind of rebellion is against adult authority. This type of rebellion usually results in the teens butting heads with parents, teachers, principals, and other adult authority figures.

The key here is surviving this part of life, both as a rebellious teenager and as a parent of a rebellious teen. First and foremost, remember they are attempting to assert individuality. From some cultural viewpoints this may not be acceptable; other cultures encourage individuality. Individuality alone is basically harmless. What most parents worry about are the negative consequences of rebellion. Rebelling against their own interests can lead to self-esteem issues, while rebellion in general can lead to self-destructive and risky behavior. As parents, it is nearly impossible to look the other way when our children, who are emerging adults, start following a dangerous path.

At the early onset of rebellion, when requests are being ignored and acting out is occurring, remember what else is occurring at this point in their lives. Puberty and hormones are in full force, and since rebellion typically starts between 9 and 13, there is an internal struggle as they try to both shed their childhood and hold onto what remnants of childhood remain. Even though it seems like they are rebelling against you as a parent, they are rebelling against everything that is happening internally. Nag them patiently, and be insistent. Encourage them to talk it out by asking them how you can better help them. Be prepared for eye rolls and sighs, just remain consistent.

Rebellion in ages 13 to 15 should just be met with natural consequences. Make sure expectations and rules are clear to your early teen, as well as the consequences when rules are broken. Be consistent and follow through, but also treat each violation as a new incident. This growing up business is a learning process, and mistakes will be made on the part of the parents as well as the teens.

Rebellion in late adolescence, ages 15 to 18, is usually the result of the teenager who is making an attempt to distance himself from parental approval. This is usually the case when your normally well behaved teen suddenly begins making risky choices and acting out. This can be the scariest time, as the older teens tend to have access to many more harmful substances than teens who rebel at earlier ages.

Drug and alcohol use and other criminal behaviors make our jobs as parents even more difficult. At this point we are supposed to encourage independence, and try to see things from their point of view. Again, communication is key, and even though they may not seem to communicate back, a part of them is listening. Remember to take deep, relaxing breathes because the teenage years don’t last forever!