As your charming child morphs into a rebellious teenager, take a deep breath and have a good look at the situation before you throw up your arms in anger or distress. Your teen takes a vital step towards adulthood by way of fighting against your rules, regulations and attitudes. Moving beyond their previous dependence on parents, teachers and other adults, teens learn to make decisions, understand the consequences of their behavior and get ready to take on adult responsibilities.
Why a Teen Needs to Rebel
The growing need for independence sits at the heart of teenage rebellion. Many teens prefer to use peers as role models and often begin to question the reasoning behind home and school boundaries as they step closer to adulthood. The physical changes involved in adolescence and puberty coincide with emotional, intellectual and moral growth, points out Kids Health -- all of this can leave teenagers feeling overwhelmed. They test different types of behavior, and it's through this testing and boundary pushing that they learn what works and what does not from their own successes and mistakes.
Healthy Acts of Rebellion
Changes to a teenager's hair and clothing emphasize her growing independent tastes and highlight her inclusion within a group of friends. Her opinions may begin to differ from yours as she develop her own values, leading to potential conflicts on subjects ranging from television programs to world affairs. A teen may break family rules regarding chores, evening curfews, loud music and schoolwork and find herself facing unwelcome sanctions as a result. These acts of rebellion normally occur from time to time rather than continuously. They give teenagers the chance to see the results of their decisions for themselves and learn when rebellion may be a mistake.
Unhealthy patterns of rebellion can include acts of defiance that increase in frequency. Violent bursts of anger, physically and emotionally destructive behavior and unrelenting foul language may indicate that your teen feels bitter resentment towards adults and authority and needs help in navigating those feelings. Watch for falling grades or frequent truancy from school, and keep an eye open for loss of energy, neglect of appearance or sudden changes to friendships, as these could indicate a variety of problems, including drug, alcohol or tobacco abuse. Additionally, sudden gains or losses in body weight or a refusal to eat with the family could be signs of an eating disorder that needs attention.
Support Your Teenager
Allow your teen space to develop personal standards and opinions, advises the University of Alabama. Avoid conflicts over less important issues like hair color, but stand firm on rules of behavior that affect the health and well-being of your teen or the rest of the family. Model self-restraint by keeping your temper, and be willing to concede a point when your teenager offers a well-founded argument. Your flexibility regarding rule modification -- whether you agree with your teen's decision to become vegetarian or to paint his nails orange -- can help him to understand how to manage conflict in adult life.
Talk and Listen
Keep communication channels open to lay the foundations that enable your relationship to grow as your teenager enters adulthood. Listen carefully when your teen talks to you, and show an interest in her friends and occupations. Offer advice only when she asks for it. Use consistent and firm consequences for inappropriate behavior, such as the withdrawal of privileges, and don't hesitate to seek help immediately from teachers, counselors or healthcare professionals if you find your teen's rebellion extends to substance abuse, self-harm or violence. Remember to reward your teen for friendly, helpful and kind behavior -- perhaps by offering additional privileges or treats -- and provide positive feedback more often than criticism as much as possible.