What To Do if Your Teen Rebels

By Chris Hammond, MS, IMH


Rebellion in teens can be secretive or obvious depending on the personality of the teenager and the circumstances. It can show itself as rebellion against authority, against their peers, or against themselves. The article titled, “Symptoms of Teenage Rebellion” identifies some of the symptoms and breaks down each category of rebellion separating out normal behavior from abnormal behavior. Once you have come to the realization that your teen is rebelling, then it is time to take action to help them overcome the destructive behavior.

Think. The first step in helping your teen is to differentiate between normal teenage behavior and abnormal teenage behavior and address only the abnormal teenage behavior. Leave the normal teenage behavior for another day. Also, if your teen is in trouble for stealing from school and sneaking out of the house, then address one of the issues because the issues are not related. If however, your teen is in trouble for stealing from school and destruction of property at school, then address the issues together. Having a plan before you begin the conversation knowing in advance the range of discipline that will be given will give you confidence and help you to remain calm during the discussion.

Confront. The second step is direct confrontation of the issue at hand. Pay attention to the environment and the people around when beginning the confrontation. While their friends are over, while their siblings are in the room, and without your spouse is not a good time for confrontation. Rather choose a time that works for everyone and if needed, set a date. Select a neutral ground in the home to have the discussion, neither their room nor your room are appropriate as these should be places of comfort. As difficult as this may be, it is best to remain calm and unemotional during the discussion. Tears and bursts of anger can be interpreted as manipulation and increase the tension and emotions of the conversation. Keep the conversation on the one point you decided at the beginning resisting the urge to repeat yourself.

Listen. During the conversation, remember that this is not a time for lecturing; rather this is a time for gaining insight as to the real reason behind the rebellion. The type of rebellion should provide you with a clue as to what they are rebelling against but that it does not explain the why. To discover the why of rebellion, you need to listen past the words to the heart of the matter while paying special attention to the emotion shown. Look for body language to help you discover what is going on: do they look away when a topic is addressed, do they become angry at a comment made, do they shut down when you respond, or do they cry over what seems like a small issue. Don’t be afraid to identify and inquire about the emotion: fear, anxiety, sadness, excitement, guilt, or surprise.

Remember. At some point it may be useful to identify with the emotion your teen is feeling by remembering a time when you felt the same way. Use this as an opportunity to bond with your teen by sharing an experience with them. Oftentimes teens feel as though they are the only ones to feel a certain way and no one could ever understand them. Just sharing a similar moment and becoming venerable in front of your teen demonstrates a heart of understanding beyond the disciplining.

Counsel. Giving teens counsel is a tricky task because if they don’t feel like you really understand them, they won’t respond well to your counsel. Instead of giving counsel to unwelcoming ears, postpone the conversation until another time and give your teen a chance to absorb the conversation. This action alone demonstrates that you are more interested in helping them to grow than in blind obedience. If they are willing to receive the counsel, then keep it short. Better to get a small message across well then a long message out poorly.

Seek help. If during the process it becomes apparent that your teen is not responding positively, seek help from a professional. Choose a professional who has personal experience with teenagers, perhaps works with them in a coaching or teaching environment or has teenagers of their own. The best help includes some parenting advice as well as counsel for the teen because it is better for everyone to be on the same page going forward.

Rebellion does not have to overwhelming and can actually improve and deepen the communication between the parents and the teen. Use these moments to strengthen your relationship instead of creating a greater divide.


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"Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2011), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005"

About the author- Chris Hammond is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern at LifeWorks Group w/ over 15 years of experience as a counselor, mentor & teacher for children, teenagers & adults.

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