Teenage Rebellion – Everything You Need To Know


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If you thought bringing up a toddler was difficult, you probably haven’t met the parent of a teen yet. And if you have a teen at home, you already know the treacherous ground you are traveling on. The teen years come with a pre-conceived notion of expected behavioral issues. However, when the issues escalate out of control, you may be facing a teen who is in the stages of rebellion.

If you are worried about these drastic changes in your teen’s behavior and want to know what is causing all this rebellion and how to deal with it, do read on.

What Are The Different Types Of Teenage Rebellion?

While most people think that rebellion is always bad, in reality, the way your teenage rebels can be of two different types. Here are the two types of rebellion your teen may go through:

1. Healthy Rebellion:

  • Trying To Understand Different Ideals And Compare Them To Her Own Ideas: Healthy rebellion is one where your teen will try to understand and analyze whatever is going on in the world around her. She will constantly evaluate ideas and values that she sees or hears about on a daily basis and try to understand what is right and what is wrong, as per what her mind believes. It is a time when she will start to evaluate you as a parent and try to understand why you tell her to do and behave the way you do. While earlier she may have done everything you expected without raising her own views about it, she will now be more open and unafraid to share her thoughts.
  • On And Off Rebellion: Your teen will have a mix of good days and bad days. She may sometime feel like challenging everything you ask her to do or expect of her. On such days, she may be moody, may not want to do what is expected of her, and may simply want to shut herself off. On other days, your teen will be absolutely normal and behave in the way you knew her to behave, before the phase of teenage rebellion began.
  • Just An Act Of Being Independent: Sometimes, what you may see as an act of rebellion could actually be just a simple need to step up and get a little independence. Your teen may suddenly want to experiment with a new look, a new hair style or hair color, a new way of dressing up, listening to new genre of music she never tried listening to before, or even wanting to decide on which college she should be attending. While you may instantly look down on all this as an act of teen rebellion, for your teen, it could just be a way of trying to show you that she is changing in terms of what her earlier personality used to be. Also, your teen will become more social and may meet many different types of people, which can open her up to a world of music, style and more that she was earlier not aware of. If she likes what she sees or even if she is confused by what she sees, she may still just try to experiment with it herself and see what happens.

[ Read: How To Control Aggression In Adolescence ]

2. Unhealthy Rebellion:

  • Becoming Increasingly Aggressive: Sometimes, it is possible that your teen will start showing sudden aggressive behavior, which may be highly uncharacteristic of her. Your teen could resort to shouting and putting on a threatening approach towards you, especially when she feels that you are not letting her the way she wants to be. If your teen’s anger gets out of control during such episodes, she could also turn violent and destructive, resorting to harming others or even harming herself in a fit of rage. In addition, your teen could also turn abusive and speak in a type of language you never heard her use before.
  • Turning Bitter Towards Parents Or Siblings: Your teen may not always become destructive or hurl abuses, but you may feel that there is something like a cold war going on between her and the rest of the family members. Your teen may sometimes put up a barrier around her and refuse to communicate with you or your partner, and sometimes, even with younger siblings. She will constantly feel that you or your partner do not understand her, and the feelings will also move towards her younger siblings. It will make the atmosphere bitter, where she will look at you and the rest of the family as nothing more than an obstruction to the way she wants to lead her own life in peace, which she will is the right she deserves.

Why Does Your Teen Rebel?

  • There is a lot that your teen can do that is more than enough to push your patience and your boundaries to the limit. From driving unsafe or fast to drinking and driving, being abusive, shop lifting, getting aggressive or having an utter disregard for following rules and discipline, teenage rebellion can come in different forms.
  • Almost all the teens will go through a rebellious phase during some point in their teen lives. It is a time when your teen is no longer a child but not an adult either, and the feeling of hanging somewhere in between can be quite confusing. Your teen may not be able to understand the new feelings and emotions that are cropping up. It can be an immensely difficult time for your teen, but not being able to express those feelings can often lead to an explosion of bottled-up fears and theories.

[ Read: Common Teenage Behavioral Problems ]

Why Does Your Teen Resort To Rebellious Behavior?

Here are some of the most important and common causes that can cause your teen to suddenly turn the tables and react in a rebellious manner:

1. A Developing Brain:

  • During the teenage years, your teen’s brain goes through a development phase in the area which is known as the prefrontal cortex. It is located right behind the forehead.
  • The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain that will help your teen to form judgements and do the decision making. As the prefrontal cortex will develop, it will help your teen to get better at understanding things and coming up with independent ideas and thoughts.
  • As a result of this sudden development that happens in your teen’s brain during these years, your teen will now have a new way to look at the world. What was earlier normal and okay to follow may now not seem so easy. Your teen may have been the perfect child and listened to everything you said. Now, suddenly, your teen will start forming her own ideas and want to question why she has to do what you tell her to do, or why you ask her to do it in the first place. Your teen may start disagreeing with you, especially as what you feel is right clashes with her way of looking at things.
  • There is a lot your teen will go through now. She may form her own ideal thoughts about how her parents should be, just as you have your own thoughts about how your teen should be. The ideal impression could be a result of meeting her teen friends’ parents, or even seeing screen idols and creating an illusionary image in her head. When she finds that you, as her parent, fall short of these expectations, or do not adhere to these expectations, she may feel increasingly upset and confused.
  • While the prefrontal cortex is developing in your teen’s brain, it will also give her a new sense of arguing with the world and putting forward her own feelings and beliefs. It is a strong change, one where your teen will feel that she is ready to take on the world where no one understands her at all, creating more and more confusion.
  • It is also the time when your teen will move on from only thinking and forming out ideas to actually try and act them out. For instance, as a child, your teen may have sometimes felt that she wants to tell you her point of view, but never really did. Now that her brain is developing, she will be able to exercise this thought and actually act it out. Sometimes, she may even do things just to try them out and see how it works. For instance, your teen may simply argue with you and get angry, just because she wants to see how it affects you and her and what actually happens when she does.

2. Becoming Social And Adhering To Social Demands:

  • In earlier generations, the coming of age happened during the end of the teen years, somewhere around the ages of 18 and 19.
  • With social boundaries spilling into earlier years now, teens and even pre-teens as young as 11 and 12 are getting sucked in to what is called the social trouble trap.
  • The teen or the pre-teen years today come with a huge burden of getting ready to do those ‘firsts’. From the first smoke to the first real love to the first date to the first sex to the first tattoo to the first piercing to the first drink or drugs and many more, the list is almost never-ending.
  • When everyone else your teen knows effortlessly goes ahead and does these ‘firsts’, it is only a matter of time when your teen will also have to take a call. Your teen will have to choose between doing what may be right and be seen as a misfit among the peers, as compared to going ahead with what everyone else is doing, even if it does not seem the right thing to do.
  • In earlier generations, the highest amount of peer pressure happened during the later part of the teen years, which helped the teens to make a better judgement. In today’s world, the pressure has shifted to new and younger teens, which makes it more and more difficult for them to understand what really will be best for them.
  • Often, when your teen is not comfortable with doing something and yet goes ahead and does it to please her peers, it can create a negative impact on her mood and psyche. She may not be able to relate to it at all and the constant confusion and guilt can be overwhelming, leading her to lash out at you. Also, she may suddenly lose control of her life and may seem to spiral out of control, by doing crazy acts you never knew she was capable of.

[ Read: How To Set Boundaries For Teens ]

3. Trying To Test The Boundaries:

  • As your child moves into the teen years, she will try to find out for herself just what all she can get away with.
  • For instance, if you have set a curfew for her by which she has to come back home, she may simply try and break it to see what the repercussion will be. While you may look at it as a form of teenage rebellion, for her, it could be just a simple and fun way of trying to find out what could really go wrong if she did break the curfew. She will want to know and find out just how you will punish her for not listening to you, or see to what extent she can push you and still have her own way.
  • It is also the time when your teen will want to learn all the experiences first hand by testing them out herself, instead of listening about it from you.
  • Your teen may look and behave as if she is rebelling, but she may still not be able to understand the importance of the boundaries you set for her, and just try to break it because it seems more fun than listening to you.

4. Using Rebellion As A Form Of Self Punishment:

  • In some cases, if your teen knows she has done something that you will not agree with, or that she herself is not comfortable with, she may take to using a rebellious behavior as a form of self-punishment.
  • Your teen may have done something unknowingly or in a fit of rage, such as being rude to you or a younger sibling. Now that she feels bad and remorseful about it, she will not be able to come up to you and apologize for it, as she is still confused and embarrassed about her own behavior.
  • As a result, your teen may start throwing tantrums, or behave in a way that is equally bad and will force you to take notice. In fact, she will want you to take notice and admonish her and treat her badly, which she feels is what she deserves for her earlier bad behavior.
  • In many instances, your teen will feel that she does not deserve the love, care and kindness you or other family members share towards her. As a result, she will try to constantly behave bad and rebel against you, so that you are forced to get angry and tone down your love towards her.
  • It is also a way for your teen to try and make you aware that she feels she is not good enough and can be a bad influence on the family.

[ Read: How To Deal With Teenage Attitude ]

5. Use It As A Defense Mechanism:

  • It is true that sometimes, your teen may start behaving in a rebellious way as simply a way of using it as a defensive mechanism.
  • Your teen may be feeling scared, confused or anxious, and it could be due to a host of reasons. Maybe your teen is not able to understand all the changes she is going through or maybe she is overwhelmed with the sudden increase in emotional upheaval that she is experiencing. It could also be that she met someone and is starting to develop feelings that are both emotional and of a physical nature.
  • Instead of coming up to you and discussing all her concerns and anxiety, your teen may try to put up a strong and brave face. One of the easiest things for her to show that she is strong is to lash out in rebellious behavior.
  • Also, if she feels that she is getting close to someone but her feelings may not be reciprocated, she may again try to put up a wall around her to prevent herself from getting hurt.

How Can You Deal With A Rebellious Teenager?

While it may look like a daunting task, remember that you too may have gone through the same emotions when you were a teen yourself. Also, for your teen, it is a crucial time of self-understanding and coming of age. In comparison, you are more experienced, so it is important for you to try and handle your teen with an open heart and an open mind. Here are a few ways that will help you deal with your rebellious teens in a positive and less conflicting way:

1. Keep An Open Communication With Your Teen At All Times:

Your teen will be going through some real stress during the teenage years. So make sure you constantly talk to her about the challenges she faces and about any concerns or fears that she may have. Sometimes, you may feel that small and insignificant things end up making her feel troubled, and it may take away your patience to try and deal with it at all times. However, make sure that you do not give up on the talking part. Be patient and listen to her. Show her that no matter what happens, she can always come up to you and discuss whatever is going through her mind. Once you show her that you will happily listen to her without interrupting her at all times, she will come up to you with her fears and questions. As a parent, you are the best person to guide your teen through these years.

2. Encourage And Appreciate Your Teen As An Individual:

The biggest struggle that your teen will go through during the teen years is to try and maintain a sense of individuality. Help her achieve this sense of self-worth by looking at her as an individual, instead of only thinking of her as your child or as a sibling. Encourage her to do things her way and encourage her to try out new things, albeit in a safe way. Appreciate her efforts and her willingness to learn and grow and show her how she can take her quest to self-realization to the next level, with your guidance to lead her. Make sure that you respect your teen for what she is, instead of showing her down and telling her you know best. Only when you show her respect will she want to prove up to your image of her.

[ Read: Life Skills For Teens ]

3. Make Her Understand About Rules And Consequences:

One of the things that can really confuse your teen is when she is not able to understand what will happen when she breaks a rule. Often, your teen will specifically break rules only to see what the repercussions might be. She may think that trying to break out of discipline and rules is fun, but she may also just try to see just what punishment you will come up with. In order to avoid the entire routine of flouting rules and then grounding her or giving her a punishment, it is always a better idea to set the boundaries in advance.

Tell your rebellious teenagers about specific house rules and disciplinary rules that she absolutely has to follow and that cannot be broken. Make sure you set realistic rules. For instance, your teen may want to go out and party with her friends. You can set a curfew for ten pm which you know she will be able to follow. On the other hand, if you set her curfew till eight pm, it may not really be a realistic or practical rule, and she may end up breaking it even if she did not mean to do it. Set down all the consequences and punishments that will happen if she breaks the rules. That way, your teen will already know what she is getting into and will try to avoid it as much as possible.

As a parent, you can be your teen’s best friend. All it takes is understanding, patience and lots of unconditional love to make sure that your teen gets back to being the child that you know. Treat it as a phase and very soon peace will be resolved.

Moms, do share your experiences of how you deal with your teen during those rebellious phases.

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