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How To Deal With A Rebellious Teen

conflict resolution

The growth and transformation that occur during one’s teenage years are immense. As is true with maturing through any stage of development, there are inevitable growing pains. The hormonal shifts, physical changes, social and emotional complexities and newfound need for autonomy can leave any teenager feeling overwhelmed, and react accordingly. The growing pains that often accompany adolescence can span beyond the teen and affect his or her loved ones. Every teenager is different and will navigate his or her adolescence in a nuanced and distinct fashion. The range of behaviors teenagers may exhibit during adolescence will vary drastically, as they will be unique to the individual young person. As teen’s works through finding their place in life, individuating and all else that accompanies adolescence, it is not uncommon for them to become rebellious. 

Rebellious Teenage Behavior 

Teenage rebellion can manifest in a variety of ways and last varying lengths of time, depending on the individual. Some examples of teenage rebellion include exhibiting any combination of the following behaviors:

  • Stubbornness 
  • Defiance
  • Combativeness 
  • Aggression
  • Overt disrespect
  • Making risky, unhealthy, and/ or dangerous choices
  • Truancy 
  • Withdraws from family, friends, and/ or previously enjoyed activities
  • Abusing drugs and/ or alcohol

The challenges that accompany the teenage years are unavoidable. Learning tactics to help support your teen during this trying time can make the process significantly easier. Usually teenage rebellion is a phase that passes as a teen matures further into adulthood. 

What To Do

Dealing with a rebellious teenager can be incredibly difficult, emotionally draining, exhausting and sometimes feel impossible. There are, however, several ways to support your teenager ease through this transition and help to make the maturation process easier for everyone involved. 

  • Set boundaries: young people crave clarity and structure. Setting clear and firm boundaries can help your teenager understand what is expected of him or her, and that consequences will ensue when boundaries are not honored. 
  • Keep your composure: it is imperative to stay calm and in control of your emotions when dealing with an out-of-control teenager. When a rebellious teenager witnesses you losing control (i.e. losing your patience, yelling…etc.) it can create confusion surrounding acceptable expressions of frustration. 
  • Reinforce positive behavior: Many rebellious teenagers seek attention and rebellion can produce a large amount of negative attention from others. Focusing on and celebrating positive behaviors can help to shift the constant need for negative attention to seeking positive attention.
  • Express your love: regardless of one’s age, every child wants to feel loved and appreciated. Show your teen consistent expressions of appreciation to reinforce your love. 
  • Rules and consequences: in the same vein as setting boundaries, it is helpful to create age-appropriate rules and have full transparency regarding consequences. Although at times it may feel like your teenager is running your house, the reality is that you, as the parent, are in charge of the household. Creating and enforcing clear rules can help a teen learn the difference between right and wrong. 

It is important to note, that teenagers do not have fully developed brains. Teenagers innately react from an emotional standpoint, as the prefrontal cortex does not complete its development until age twenty-give, at the earliest. The prefrontal cortex, as described by the University of Rochester Medical Center, is the area of the brain that governs one’s rational thought, impulsivity and decision-making. Teenagers must, instead rely on their amygdala, which is the area of the brain that reigns over one’s emotions, feelings of pleasure, memories and motivation. Hence, although the physical appearance of some teenagers may provide an illusion that teens are fully developed adults, they are not. Bear in mind that teens are developmentally incapable of responding to certain experiences as thoughtfully as an adult. 

For Information and Support 

Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know is in need of mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person for the long term. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our admissions team is available to answer any general questions regarding mental health issues, treatment, and/or specific questions about the program at Pacific Teen Treatment and how we might be able to help your family. We can be reached by phone 24/7 at 800-531-5769. You can also contact us via email at or through our contact form.

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