5 Reasons Your Teen is Rebelling and How to Handle Teenage Rebellion                 by Mark Merrill


Teenage rebellion is nothing new. Rebellious children have been around since the first children inhabited the earth.  Remember Cain and Abel? So, what should you do about it?  Run from the battle? Raise the white surrender flag in defeat? Go to war with guns a blazing? None of those things will accomplish very much and may end up killing your relationship with your child. Instead, it’s important to first get a handle on why your teen may be rebelling. Understanding why your teen is rebelling is foundational to understanding what we should do about it.  In today’s blog, I’m going to talk about the “Why?” Tomorrow, we’ll address the “What?”

Here are 5 reasons why your teen may be rebelling:

Struggle for Identity.

Your teen is trying to answer the question, “Who am I?”  During the teen years, our children struggle to figure out who they really are and why they are here.  It’s important during this time for parents to help children understand their immeasurable value because of who they are, not for what they do. A mom and dad should help their kids understand the difference between identity and image.

Struggle for Acceptance.

Remember trying to be cool in order to fit in? It’s the same today. Teens still want to be part of the crowd, they want a sense of belonging, and they still feel the pressure to do what everyone else is doing. In the movie “What a Girl Wants,” teenage Daphne is trying to be someone she’s not and is really struggling with it. At one point, her boyfriend asks, “Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out?”  While understanding our children’s need for acceptance, let’s help them understand that it’s good to be different. Encourage them to be different, to have the courage to do what’s right, and the conviction to stand out in the crowd.

Struggle for Attention.

Often teens want others to notice them. They’re silently saying, “Hey, look at me!” And sometimes, they’ll do almost anything for attention.  As parents, we need to do everything we can to give our kids attention by being available when they need us.  A father or mother who is always working and not paying attention to their child will find a child who seeks attention in many wrong places and in many wrong ways. Fathers, especially, need to let their daughters know they are beautiful inside and out. And they need to let their sons know they’ve got what it takes.

Struggle for Control.

When our children are younger, we are in complete control of just about everything they do—what they eat, what they wear, where they go and who they are with.  As they get older, our children want to make more and more decisions for themselves and don’t want mom or dad always telling them what to do.  We need to show our children that they will have more control over their decision-making to the extent that we can trust them to make wise decisions.  Trust is earned over time.

Struggle for Freedom.

If you have teens, you’ve probably heard something like, “I just want some freedom.” While teens say they want total freedom and independence, they still want to, and need to, rely upon us for certain things.  As parents, we need to allow them to experience more freedom as they get older, but only as they learn a very important point: freedom comes with responsibility.

In 5 Reasons Why Your Teen is Rebelling, I shared with you underlying reasons your teen may be rebelling. Once you understand why they are rebelling, you’ll have a clearer picture of what you can do about it.

So let’s review different things teens struggle with, review why they struggle, and then answer the “Now what?” question.

Teens struggle for identity.

  • Why? Teens are trying to answer the timeless question of, “Who am I?” as they grow into adults.
  • Now What?  Help your teen to understand that their image, how others see them, is not what’s ultimately important. Their identity, who they are, is what matters.  Tell your teen, and tell them often, that they are valuable because of who they are not because of what they do. They are valuable because they are a child created by God…your child. My How to Validate Your Child’s Identity blog will provide you with more ideas.

Teens struggle for acceptance.

  • Why? Teens want to feel like they fit in somewhere…that they belong.
  • Now What? Be sure your child knows that it’s a normal desire to want to fit in. But also share with them that it’s good to be different too. Standing up and standing out as a young man or woman, especially when it’s for the right thing, is what leadership is all about. Also, make sure they feel accepted by the most influential person in their life—you!

Teens struggle for attention.

  • Why? A lot of teens desire to have people pay attention to them and they’ll do what they think they need to do to get noticed.
  • Now What? Notice your child. Catch them doing something good and praise them for it. Encourage your teen every opportunity you get. And, as I talked about in my blog, How to Be Available for Parenting Teenagers, it’s important to intentionally set aside time and just be available when your teen needs you or wants to talk.

Teens struggle for control.

  • Why? Many teens want to make their own rules as they grow older, which oftentimes means they are not afraid to break yours.
  • Now What?  You must learn How to Be an Out of Control Parent. That means, as your child grows in age, takes on more responsibility, and earns your trust, more decision-making and control should be given to them. In other words, as I said inCreating Boundaries for Your Kids, their “playing court” should be increased.

Teens struggle for freedom.

  • Why?  More freedom is what most teens think they want.
  • Now What? First, be clear with your child that you love them and always have their best interests at heart—which is the reason you have certain parameters for them.  Remember How to Stay Joined at the Hip and Heart with Your Teen when addressing this issue of freedom. Second, your teen needs to understand that with freedom comes responsibility. So have your teen write down the freedoms they want and the responsibilities they think go along with those freedoms. For example, if they say something like, “I just want to be on my own and do what I want,”  you can say “Well I love you and really want you to stay here, but if you want that kind of freedom, then come up with a plan for how you’re going to live. Your plan should include things like where you want to live, how you are going to pay for it, and all of your other living expenses and transportation.  It might also include things like who’s going to take care of you when you’re sick, who’s going to cook your meals, do your laundry, and hold you when you cry.”  They’ll probably quickly realize that they can only handle a smaller amount of freedom and responsibility while they are still teenagers.

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