Teens can be confusing creatures, swerving from bright, positive and happy to moody, defiant and negative all within the space of a few hours. They're dealing with an influx of hormones, social changes and information that affects the way they act and make decisions. By understanding the difference between normal teen behavior and behavior that is indicative of a problem, you'll know how to react to your teen's ever-changing behavior.
Expect a little rebellion from your teen at some point. She's testing out her autonomy and ability to make her own decisions, which sometimes means rebelling against the choices you've made for her. Teens also rebel to get attention from contrary behavior -- even if that attention is negative. It's normal as long as the rebellion doesn't become a pointed effort to constantly undermine your parental authority, or it's leading your teen into trouble at home, school or the community.
Changes in your teen's body -- acne, body hair, weight gain and others -- can leave your teen feeling self-conscious. This can create a dip in his once strong self-esteem. It's normal for your teen's opinion of himself to waver, especially when you factor in social changes like dating or dealing with friends at school. As long as your teen doesn't constantly dwell on the negative, make derogatory comments about himself to you, or specifically avoid social situations because of low self-esteem, it's simply a normal reaction to the changes in his body.
Expect your teen to be a little bit selfish. That's because her maturing brain isn't yet equipped to always understand how her actions affect others. While you might be baffled when she ditches a family event to hang out with her friends, understand that it's normal for teens to focus on the moment and only on how her life is being affected. It might cause a few spats, but as your teen matures, she'll better understand how to consider others when she makes a choice.
That creature making grunts and answering you with one-syllable words? It's not a caveman -- it's your teen. It's normal for teens to cut down on communication with parents and other adults. They usually believe adults won't understand them, which is why they'll turn to friends instead. However, it's not normal for your teen to withdraw completely and avoid any and all communication. You should be able to coax a conversation out of your teen -- just make sure that you're actually, actively listening.
An influx of hormones -- thanks to puberty -- means your teen might suffer from sudden mood swings. Those mood swings can be amplified by any of the above behavioral changes. It's important that you don't take a sudden switch from happy and talkative to moody and withdrawn personally. As long as it's short-lived, you can chalk it up to being a normal teen. Still, mood swings that are violent, frequent or long-lasting could be the sign of something abnormal.
If your teen's behavior doesn't seem normal -- he's no longer interested in things he once loved, he withdraws himself socially, he avoids talking, he's often angry, he willfully and constantly disobeys you, or he talks about hurting himself -- it's time to seek professional help. Your child could have a behavioral or mental disorder that causes him to act differently. A mental-health professional can prescribe treatment options to get your teen back to normal teen behavior.