What to Do With Rebellious Teenagers

By Angeliki Coconi
Teenagers have a natural inclination toward independence.
Teenagers have a natural inclination toward independence.

Parents of teenagers know that the teenage years bring more than mood swings and acne. From a certain age, many teens will reveal a rebellious streak that will more or less characterize their behavior for the next few years. The challenge for a lot of parents is rooted in understanding this behavior and trying to cope with it.

The Reason Behind Rebellion

According to youth specialist and author of "Losing Control and Liking It," Tim Sanford, teenagers will almost always have a reason for doing something -- rebellion is rarely a result of irrationality or that common “rebel without a cause” mentality with which teenagers are so often branded. The struggle with dealing with a rebellious teen is not knowing the cause. Sanford proposes that parents search for the itch that results in the scratch.

Teens Don't Act Randomly

This approach can be implemented in almost all situations of the kind -- from your teen staying out all night and breaking his curfew to a decline in school performance. Sanford says that idea of human beings as acting purely randomly shouldn’t be taken seriously -- and as all people do, teens act based on one reason or another.

Gaining Independence

A lot of the time, parents might make the mistake of confusing the natural process of “growing-up” with rebelling without cause. Puberty does not simply come with physical changes; at this time, children also have a natural inclination toward independence. When your 16 year old challenges your demand that he be back home by midnight, the reason may have a lot to do with his desire for autonomy -- it is the process of “moving away” from parents and the shelter of home.

Don't Take Rebellious Behavior Personally

According to Psychology Today, children in their teens are often unsure of their place in the adult world and try to practice more adult roles on a continual basis as they grow physically and psychologically. This is an understandable statement; as teens move away from childhood, they start to become aware of their ever-increasing responsibilities -- from teachers, parents, older siblings and peers. For this reason, they will try to push the limits that are set for them in order to test themselves and their boundaries. This will, on the surface, appear as mindless rebelliousness -- but it should often try to be seen as the natural process of the teenager trying to find himself. After all, all adults have gone through that insecure, unsure world of the teenager.

Developmental Individuality

This is the process that therapists call “developmental individuating.” The process involves your child disconnecting from you, spreading his wings and gaining his independence, which is a positive process. Tell yourself this, and try to turn your teen’s often infuriating demands or actions into something positive.

About the Author

Angeliki Coconi started writing in 1999 with the theater comedy "Loop," produced in Athens. In 2001 she wrote and produced another comedy, "Modern Cinderella." In 2006 she was awarded a Master of Science in literature from the University of Edinburgh. In 2009 Coconi obtained the Postgraduate Certificate in Screenwriting from Napier University of Edinburgh.