How to Deal with Teen Rebellion (Before it Becomes a Serious Problem!)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapist

Bella Stitt, LMFT

By Bella Stitt, LMFT

During adolescence, teens experience rapid physical, mental, intellectual, emotional, and social developmental changes. In addition, teens are often faced with a brand-new set of responsibilities and privileges, causing them to swing back and forth between dependence and independence. They are truly in limbo…caught between childhood and adulthood and often struggle with how to cope.

As part of their intellectual growth, they challenge rules and expectations by trying out new ideas and possibilities.

Because their brains are still being developed, they may behave in ways that seem impulsive, defiant, aggressive and irresponsible. Seeing the long-term consequences for their behaviors may not be so clear and they may find themselves unable to control their impulses, resulting in poor choices. Below are a few ways that you can manage teen rebellion (without making it worse!), followed by a few warning signs that your teen’s rebellion is taking a turn for the worse…and may require professional help before it becomes a serious (and potentially life-threatening) problem.

  • Talk to them about your day, which tells them that you respect their opinions as a budding adult (therefore decreasing their need to prove their independence).
  • Pick your battles. Leave your objections for things that really matter, like drugs and alcohol.
  • Set expectations that are reasonable and age appropriate. When expectations are inappropriate, they may feel that you don’t care about them or don’t trust them to behave appropriately…and they will act out accordingly.
  • Share your family values and talk to them about what you believe is right and wrong. Teen years are a time for experimentation, and it’s important for them to know the risks and benefits of making good choices.
  • Respect their privacy by trusting them unless issues come up and you need to get more involved.
  • Encourage teens to get enough sleep. Teens need between 9 -10 hours of sleep a night in order to function well and make more responsible decisions.
  • Allow teens the opportunity to come up with their behavioral expectations and consequences so they can take ownership for their own behavior and be accountable.
  • Don’t over-involve yourself in your teen’s life; allow them to make their own mistakes that they can learn from.
  • Provide your teen with choices and alternatives. Find a middle ground and let them win some battles. This will teach them to learn how to compromise, communicate in a constructive way and express what they believe in.

Warning Signs that Your Teen’s Rebellion is Becoming a Serious Problem

A certain amount of change is a normal part of the transition. However, really drastic or long-lasting changes in personality or behavior may be a sign of trouble and indicate a need for professional help.
Watch for one or more of these signs:

  • Rapid, drastic changes in personality
  • Sudden change in friends
  • Sleep problems
  • Extreme weight gain or loss
  • Skipping school regularly
  • Failing grades
  • Jokes or talking about suicide
  • Signs of alcohol or drug use
  • Run-ins with the law

If you see any of these warning signs, seek help immediately! An experienced counselor can help you and your teen identify the source of the problem and determine the best plan of action to work toward lasting solutions. If you feel your teen needs expert guidance, contact us for a free phone consultation.

Contact us to schedule an appointment by calling 650-461-9026

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