How to Understand Teen Behavior

By Nicole Vulcan
Do your homework to understand your teen.
Do your homework to understand your teen.

There's no doubt that the teen years are a challenge -- both for the parent who has to witness it, and the teen whose behavior can change by the minute. As you embark on this wild ride, take some time to educate yourself about what's normal and what's not, so you'll have more tools to deal with the bumps in the road.

Learn as much as you can about the changes your teen is going through -- including the physical, mental and emotional changes. Read authoritative sources of information on teens, including magazines such as "Psychology Today" or "Parents" or websites such as or the website of the Center for Spiritual and Ethical Education. As you study, you may begin to understand that the teen years are a time of changes in teens' motivation, attention and risk-taking -- all a result of changes in their brains, advises Dr. Stan Kutcher of

Foster open lines of communication well before the teen years. If you don't have an open relationship with your child from an early age, it will get harder to empathize with and understand her as she gets older. When you have good communication with your kids, you'll be able to talk with them about issues they may be having or the reasons behind certain behaviors. Your child's yearly physical exam is a perfect excuse to talk to your teen about her physical and emotional health, advises the Kids Health website.

Network with other parents with children going through the teen years at the same time. Find peers in your child's activities or find parenting seminars or groups in your community that will allow you to gain some new knowledge and perspective on this tumultuous time.

Talk to the guidance counselor or teachers at your teen's school to get insight into your teen's behaviors when you're not with her. In some cases, teens act much differently with you than they do with others -- and you may be surprised to see that your teen is pretty well-behaved outside your own home. If you're having serious behavioral issues with your teen, the school's guidance counselor may be able to point you to some valuable local resources to help you.


Help your teen make good choices about her health and safety, while at the same time encouraging her independence, advises psychologist Richard Epstein, in an article at Allowing your teen to make some decisions about her money, work or education may show her that you trust her and may mean she acts out against you less frequently.

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.