The topic of teen rebellion has occupied the attention of parents and mental health professionals for a long time now. Therefore, there are many different theories about the teen rebellion. However, while all the theories are different, one thing is always the same - whether the teen is rebelling against socially fitting in (rebellion of non-conformity) or against adult authority (rebellion of non-compliance) - it is never easy to deal with the rebellious teen.
Even though it is not easy to deal with the teen rebellion, appropriately dealing with it is essential for the healthy development of the children. Therefore, it is important to start working on our understanding of the concept of teen rebellion as soon as possible. Our understanding of the concept will be the first step in appropriately dealing with the rebellious teen.
What is Teen Rebellion?
Pretty much every teenager will test the limits – and even cross the line – at one point or another. Therefore, it seems that teen rebellion is on a certain way a developmental norm. However, there are varying degrees of rebellion. What one parent considers to be a rebellious child, another parent may consider being a dream child. Nonetheless, even the best-behaved child may go the wrong way at some point. The good news is that this does not have to be a bad thing! Rebellion can actually be a very healthy and integral part of teen's transition from childhood to adulthood.
Healthy rebellion is a consequence of the natural desire to grow. Given that being an adult includes making decisions, teens need to question the world around them and take ownership for their personal beliefs and actions. Not having the experience which will guide them through this process, teens will make mistakes. These mistakes will play a critical role in the learning process and they will result in the healthy psychological growth.
Unhealthy rebellion is often driven by the same desire, but maladaptive tools are used in order to fulfil it. Also, often there are other factors involved as well. Other common causes of unhealthy rebellion are parental discord, inappropriate discipline methods, family confusion (e.g., an alcoholic parent, abusive situations, financial pressures), peer influence, fear of failure, low self-worth, etc. The unhealthy rebellion can cause teens to rebel against their own self-interests, engage in the self-defeating and self-destructive behaviour, experiment with high-risk excitement, reject safe rules and restraints, and injure valued relationships. In these cases, it seems that mistakes will lead to new mistakes, and there will be no learning process in the background. Therefore, it is not unlikely that teens will make mistakes that will bring them, and maybe even their loved ones, in danger.
There are no certain warning signs of teen rebellion. However, there are certain things that are closely related to the teen rebellion. When these indicators are noticed, it is important to become alerted and watch closely what will happen next. Sometimes, early detection and reaction can make a positive difference in lives of the whole family.
One of the indicators is abrupt changes. Teens undergo massive changes, physical and psychological. The changes in attitude, values, beliefs, dress, appearance, friends, patterns, and relations with parents are expected. However, if they are abrupt and dramatic, they can be an early expression of teen rebellion.
Furthermore, temporary changes in teen's emotional state are not a cause for concern. However, extreme changes are. Therefore, extreme moodiness, sadness, hostility, agitation, belligerence, personality changes, talk of suicide or hopelessness present a reason for concern.
Irresponsibility is a sign that should be addressed right away. It includes a pattern of maladaptive behaviour such as lying, manipulating, breaking promises, being late or absent, a lack of any honest effort. This pattern has to be interrupted right away, and not ignored.
All families experience moments when they fight. However, it is important that parents are always close to their children. Behaviours such as yelling, threatening, outright defiance or rebellion, as well as any other kind of behaviour that indicates that children are rejecting the parents, is a reason for concern and should be addressed right away.
Children can be stubborn and uncooperative, and sometimes that is just a part of normal development. However, the refusal to communicate with parents or acknowledge problems is not an acceptable behaviour and it should be a reason for concern.
However, these are just some of the warning signs. When in doubt, it can be very beneficial to consult with a mental health professional who will be able to guide the parents and offer them support during this time of turmoil and stress.
What to do?
The fear of teen rebellion is so great that some parents stress over everything their kids do, taking even normal behaviours as a sure sign that their kids are headed for the edge of a cliff. On the other hand, some parents fear the teen rebellion so much that they ignore obvious warning signs, and hope that their kids will grow out of it. Neither of these two strategies is good.
So, what to do? Well, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. We should make an effort to understand the concept of teen rebellion and be watchful of early warning signs. If there are some warning signs, they should be timely and appropriately dealt with. And, whenever we are not sure or feel like we need some help, we should consult with a mental health professional who will be able to navigate our journey through this stage of our teen's life.