How to Treat a Rebellious Teen

Rebellion is a natural part of being a teenager and growing up. By rebelling against authority, teenagers are simply expressing their individual beliefs, and from their perspective, they are rebels with a cause. Acting rebellious can serve as justification for underlying or unresolved feelings and severe punishment can make the situation even worse.

Is being a rebel a good thing?

An important aspect of being a teenager is the process of developing a sense of personal identity, a process called the individuation of the adolescent personality. Sometimes a teen’s newfound sense of identity conflicts with their parents’ beliefs. Discrepancies between varying opinions can lead to risky and even deadly behavior, and such risk-taking can damage valued family relationships and long-term friendships.

Examples of Teenage Rebellion

  • Self-defeating and self-destructive behaviors
  • Neglecting schoolwork over a long period of time
  • Drinking alcohol and experimenting with drugs
  • Breaking rules and even laws
  • Engaging in physical risks, through activities like extreme sports and BMX urban biking.

5 Causes of Teenage Rebellion?

Studies have shown that a multitude of genetic and environmental factors contribute to teenage rebellion. By understanding these factors, parents can more easily address the challenge of teenage rebellion.

  1. Teen rebellion is a form of attention-seeking behavior. For example, they might be jealous of parental focus on younger siblings.
  2. Lack of frontal lobe neural developmentin adolescents results in immature judgment and greater impulsivity.
  3. Social anxiety is another cause of teenage rebellion, which makes teens feel left behind. We call this phenomenon, FOMO.
  4. Peer pressure can lead to self-destructive behavior, including substance abuse and premature sexual choices.
  5. As teens go through many physical changes, the resulting hormonal mood swings may mimic the trends of teenage rebellion.

What to Do With a Rebellious Teenager

  1. Develop a clear set of household rules and expectations. When teens understand the ground rules, they are more likely to meet expectations. This is about establishing positive boundariesfor all.
  2. Focus on honest communication by asking questions and listening. If a teen feels heard, they are more likely to open up. Though many rebellious teens are reticent and monosyllabic the walls of silence can be overcome. Empathy is extremely helpful in building a bridge through the conflict.
  3. Pick your battles and have patience. Parents need to think about what’s really important to address and what they can let go. Nobody has an inexhaustible supply of patience, so remind yourself to be patient as you work through these tricky situations.
  4. Be open to seeking professional help and support. Many families are reluctant to admit their child is struggling. However, incorporating professional help can be a turning point in the journey towards recovery.

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Newport Academy Well-being Resources: Rebellious Teen

Accessing Professional Help for a Rebellious Teen

When the situation has reached a point that overwhelms the family, it is important to ask for help. Here is a list of four types for professional support:

Individual Counseling and Therapy

Teenagers open up when talking to someone outside their family unit. A counselor or therapist offers a safe space where issues can be addressed.

Family Counseling and Therapy

Family therapy provides a safe place to work through issues alongside a trained professional and incorporates the teen’s full support system.

Local Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment provides a formal program for addressing the underlying issues that catalyze rebellious behavior.

Inpatient Treatment at a Teen Treatment Center

During inpatient residential treatment, the teen moves into a residential facility and works to overcome the issues in an intensive process.

Newport Academy Restoring Families Resources: Newport Academy Well-being Resources: Rebellious Teen

Approaches for Helping Rebellious Teens

The first step of treatment is to remove the stigma, and offer acceptance and support. Raising self-awareness and generating self-esteem helps the teen re-evaluate their behaviors in an honest mindset.

Professionals provide a comprehensive strategy that helps to restore  trust and re-open the lines of communication within the family unit to build (or re-build) loving connections. Through parental and professional support that emphasizes acceptance and love, a rebellious teen can find healthy, productive ways to express their opinions and passions.

 

Photos by Newport Academy, Dan Stevens and Josh Hild from Unsplash.

Sources:

J Adolesc. 1988 Mar;11(1):29–47.

Neurosci Lett. 2006 Oct 9;406(3):194–9. 

American Psychological Association