Adolescence is often viewed as a negative part of child development, as teenagers turn from the obedient children parents know and love into moody and rebellious strangers. However challenging this developmental stage is, rebellion is a normal and necessary part of growth during adolescence. It is usually short-lived, and most teens and their parents weather the storm with minimal problems.
Why Teenagers Rebel
Teens are working toward being independent, which means they must distance themselves from their parents. An important part of becoming an adult is making personal decisions alone, and this requires some rebellion. The struggle to be autonomous often leads to mistakes, and while mistakes are part of growing up, these little failures can cause your teen to feel restless, moody and defiant.
Healthy Versus Unhealthy Rebellion
Teen rebellion typically lasts about 2 years, but for some teens it can last as long as 4 to 6 years. Teens who rebel in a natural and healthy way examine and challenge the values and ideas that they once accepted without question. This challenging behavior comes and goes, and does not usually increase in intensity. A teen rebelling in a healthy way will have bad days, but it typically doesn’t escalate out of control. If your teen is showing frequent bouts of explosive anger, abusive language or destructive behaviors, her rebellion is unhealthy. The relationship between parents and teens in an unhealthy rebellion becomes increasingly strained as anger builds on both sides. According to the University of Alabama's Parenting Assistance Line, unhealthy rebellion may be caused by parents who tighten their control over their teens, which prevents the natural progression from rebellion to maturity.
Coping with Rebellion
Teens need to be allowed to form their own opinions so that they can own the standards or morals they choose to adopt. Allowing your teen the freedom and space to explore his own ideas, and to question what he’s accepted until this age, encourages him to be independent and will lead to a strong individual who will stand up for his beliefs. Giving your teen this space is hard, especially when you know he’s about to make a mistake, but it is necessary. Pick only the battles that are truly worth fighting. Curfews are important. Part of being an adult is following the rules that keep you safe. However, clothing choices are not worth fighting over. Your teen’s clothes reflect his personality and are not usually a safety issue, even if you feel his choice is wrong. While space is important, show interest in your teen’s activities and friends so that the lines of communication remain open.
Rules are Still Important
While you have to allow your teen the freedom to make choices and to rebel on some issues so that she can learn to take responsibility for her actions, she still needs rules and consequences. Respect your teen’s choices with regard to personal space and possessions, but the rules relating to safety, the law and respect for others should remain in place. You should welcome your teen’s friends, but make it her responsibility to clean up after them and to make sure they’re aware of house rules, says the Children’s Physician Network. Keep the rules consistent, and don’t change them to avoid a fight. Your teenager is smart enough to know that if she pushes enough buttons, you’ll cave again. You can establish rules and consequences that don’t inspire conflict by including your teen in the rule-making process. This also shows that you respect her opinion and value her input, which improves self-esteem and encourages independence.