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Do All Teenagers Rebel?
When we think about what it means for a teen to rebel, it looks different to each family as well as each parent. One person may think a rebellious teen is someone who goes against every rule set before them by their parent, while another person may feel rebellion is as simple as saying the word "no" to their parent or other authority figure. The truth is that it is difficult to pin down an exact definition of what a rebellious teen is because it truly is in the eyes of the individual to determine.
The big question is: Do all teens rebel or is there a reason why some do while others don't?
Why do teens rebel?
The first thing we need to determine is the root cause of teen rebellion. For this, there is a singular reason; nature. Let me clarify that for you:
As with many animals, humans follow a certain developmental pattern. There are stages of dependence, exploration, and independence. This is how the young learn, grow, and survive to develop into adulthood.
Humans go through a number of "sets" of this pattern before reaching adulthood:
A newborn baby is completely dependent upon his parents. A six month old explores his environment. A toddler strives for independents "No, me!" or "I do it." This is the first "set" of the trio. So, I guess you could look at it like teenagers are really just like big toddlers. They long for the ability to show that they can do things on their own, yet still need the support and backing of the security their parents provide.
When teens rebel it is most typically because they are trying to show, experience, or gain that independence that the level of their development dictates they seek. Without the feeling that this is being accomplished, it turns into a war between parent and rebellious teen.
Questions to ask yourself:
By understanding that this is a developmental stage in your child's journey to adulthood, you can (hopefully) take a step back and assess the situation for what it truly is; a developmental milestone.
Does your teen feel heard and validated when they speak to you or other adult figures?
Does your teen feel important as a member of the family?
Does your teen feel that they are free to express themselves as they choose?
Does your teen have a healthy self-esteem and self-respect?
Are there any issues which have not been addressed which may be affecting your child's need to feel important or seen as a valid individual such as: being picked on, having a learning or other disability, suffering from something that makes them stand out in a negative way (short, tall, over-weight, under-weight, really smart, struggling to make the grades...)
When a teen feels that they don't fit in, don't belong, or are not "understood" it causes their need to "find themselves" to kick into hyper-drive.
Treat your teen with respect and understanding. Let them know that you hear what they are saying. Even when you tell them "no" to something they have asked, it is important to take the time to explain your reasoning behind your answer. By giving them this respect, they may still hate the answer, but they will also gain a more clear understanding of why.
Encourage your teens talents and interests as much as possible. Teens need to feel special. While they want to "fit in" desperately, they also want to stand out and feel special. Making sure you take the time to praise your teen for jobs well done along with other accomplishments that you are proud of can give them the boost they need to feel special without rebelling.
Set standards. While your teen may act as if they hate this, it is something they need and secretly crave. Having clear guidelines of expectation give them a sense of security and grounding. They are in a new and strange stage of development which can sometimes feel downright scary! Your teen needs to know that you are still there to enforce the rules and expectations for them.
The Number 1 Reason for Rebellion:
The biggest, baddest, most incredibly huge reason teens rebel is low self-esteem and low-self image. If you want your teen to make it out of this stage as healthy and productive as possible it is vital that you ensure your teen has a healthy self-esteem.
A girl who knows she is smart and beautiful just the way she is won't feel the need to draw attention to herself with gallons of make-up, unnatural hair coloring, or dressing like a street-walker. A girl who respects her body and herself will not put herself in a position to be disrespected by others.
A boy who knows he is smart and worth while just the way he is won't feel the need to wear his jeans down to his knees with his boxers hanging out. He won't feel compelled to join up with others who value disrespect and violence over being helpful and respectful. A boy who respects himself and has his values in order will act accordingly. Not because he is told to, but because he wants to.
The more "out there" your teen seems to be to you, the bigger the cry for help they are calling out with! A rebellious teen is a scared, lonely, hurting teen. While it may be masked with anger, hatred, or other negative emotions; these are a false front. Your child is daring you to put them "back in their place" because he/she doesn't feel that you are fulfilling their needs in your roll as their parent.
Whatever, you just don't get it...
When your child tells you "you don't get it" or "you don't understand"; that is your que to dig deeper! Ask those difficult questions. Keep talking until you DO "get it" or until you DO understand.
There may be kicking, screaming, cry filled tantrums... big toddler, remember. Don't give up! Your teen needs you more then ever right now. Let the doors slam, let the high volume rage fly. Stick it out. Let your child experience all of the emotions they need to feel in order to reach the truth behind the issue.
When you take the time to really get in there and work through the heart of the issues with your child, you'll be amazed at the transformation you see. Once your teen feels loved, safe, secure, accepted, and understood; they will be able to find who they really are and act accordingly.