Dealing With Teenage Rebellion

A short guide to understanding teenage rebellion and ways to deal with it. A reminder that parents need to acknowledge that they have a teenager.

Most teenagers, at some time in their lives, will openly defy the advice and authority of their parents and other figures of authority. The key to dealing with rebellious teenagers is avoiding confrontation, being patient and recognising that you have a teenager. The important thing to remember is that most teenagers will pass through this phase and return to become normal law abiding citizens.

The major reason for rebellion in teenagers is for them to find their place in the adult world, to find where they belong in the greater scheme of things. Like all children, teenagers cannot know the limits of their behaviour without first exploring the edges. We are not born with an innate sense of right and wrong, we learn the difference through trial and error as we mature. Teenagers only need the time, and life's lessons, to learn correct behaviour.

Why does it seem to happen in teenagers and not younger? That is because teenagers are learning how to be adults, not children, they already know how to be children. Adults have a lot more freedom than children, but adults understand, often through bitter experience, that with freedom comes responsibilities and repercussions. Younger children are protected from the repercussions by their parents, teenagers cannot always be, nor do they necessarily want to be, protected from these repercussions.

Confronting teenagers almost never works, it only gives them an opportunity to test their will and strength. Discussion about behaviour will always work better, but not necessarily always work. When discussing behaviour with a teenager talk about behaviour in general, not their behaviour in particular, this way they can be objective and not feel the need to protect their position. But when discussing issues with teenagers be prepared for argument, they will question every point you make; remember, they don't have the years of experience you have accumulated to find this wisdom, what you know may not match what they have learnt. Do not just impart wisdom, ask questions that lead them to wisdom.

Another aspect to handling teenage rebellion for parents to keep in mind harm. When dealing with a behaviour think about how important the issue is. Is spiked orange hair really an important issue to get into an argument with the teenager over? Who is it harming? It might be embarrassing to walk down the street with, but is it really harmful? Society at large will soon sort the hairstyle out, either accepting it (and hence taking away the rebellion, remember long hair?) or making life difficult enough for the teenager to want to change. If on the other hand the teenager is behaving dangerously, either to themselves or others, then it is necessary to take some sort of action, but not confrontation.

Patience with teenagers, though trying, is vital. As is forgiveness. Parents need to be firm but fair with rebellious teenagers. The key is to treat them as adults but protect them as well, and be there when they come home. Sometimes the parent needs to explain to the teenager that they (parent) wouldn't ordinarily accept the behaviour from an adult but you are willing to oversee it this time. But if the behaviour persists then you treat them like they would treat another adult. If this means that you wouldn't talk to an adult that talked to you that way then when they (teenager) talk to you in their tone then you ignore them.

Subtle lessons like these take time to work but they do work. Yelling and pleading with them doesn't because it only teaches how to get someone to yell. Remember they are in learning mode every minute of the day.

Teenagers are at the age where the world no longer seems large, in fact some people who were once large are now quite small, and teenagers then no longer respond to threats the way they may have as small children. So oftentimes the problem parents are having are due mostly to thier slowness in responding to the changed circumstances, not realising that the mechanisms used in the past no longer work. and because teenagers change fast while parents tend to be a bit slower, conflict can occur simply because the parent doesn't realise they are talking to a young adult, not a large child. So be ready for change when when your child is approaching their teens, don't wait until they get there.

© High Speed Ventures 2011