Ten reasons why teens rebel against us.
1. It’s developmentally appropriate – To a teenager, obeying Mom feels like being a child and they are trying to figure out what it means to be grown up. Most kids still want cuddles and nurturing when they are sick, but they’ve got this developing pre-frontal cortex that they want to practice using, and that means lots of arguing, criticizing and pointing out our flaws. Kids rebel in order to separate from parents, develop their brain and find their own, grown up voice.
2. They know what we are going to say before you say it. – Our children have been listening to us talk for over a decade and our voice is well ingrained in their brain. They know what we are going to say before we do! They know how we want them to dress, walk, talk, study, do their hair and where to put their shoes. Let’s face it, WE’RE BORING! Want your teens attention? Surprise them. Compliment them in a way you never have before. Tell them your opinion on oral sex, the global economy or the new scuba diving class you just signed up for.
3. They need more freedom – Too many rules and expectations, stress, or even just a strong family culture, can make a kid rebel in order to gain freedom and explore their own identity. Teens need time away from parental closeness and the stresses of life so they can relax and learn listen to their own voice. Once they have some space, they may end up making good decisions that they can own and be proud of, rather than to fulfill someone else’s expectation. Encourage teens to ask for what they want. If they say, “I just want a break!” help them find healthy ways to chill out and relax (nature, exercise, and music can be great, just make sure it is purely for fun, with no agenda). If they want more opportunity to express themselves, guide teens toward positive challenges they can get excited about (getting a job, redecorating their room, planting a garden) where they can develop their own determination & judgment.
4. They need less freedom – If your toddler acted up to get attention, chances are your teen will, too. Sometimes rebelling is a cry for help, a teens way of saying, “I’m out of control and I don’t know how to reign myself back in.” Listen carefully to the words they say and take them as truth, “I can’t do this anymore.” or “Everybody hates me” are not just hormones talking, they are telling you what they believe. When your teen needs help, so do you. Even if you have your PhD in adolescent development, you still are too close to the situation and you need an outsider’s perspective and expertise.
5. Blame it on the hormones – Raging hormones during the adolescent years cause teenagers to make rash decisions and act impulsively. Not only are their brains incapable of predicting the consequences of their actions but the hormones cause them to act in surprising ways. If you or anyone in your family struggled with post partum depression or anxiety, hypoglycemia, PMS, adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, be on the lookout for hormonal issues in your teen. To get help, see an endocrinologist, naturopath or read books by Dr. Shames to understand more about hormonal fluctuations.
6. You worry too much – Nothing will make a teenager ignore you more than listening to you “express your concerns”. Worry teaches teens that we are impossible to please, we don’t know what we are talking about and they should stop listening to us. With sensitive kids, worrying teaches them that the world is a scary place and they should be afraid. As parents, we don’t get to choose what they grow scared of. Teens might decide to be afraid of getting fat, or someone not liking them, or getting a B in Science. Overcoming worry is an inside job. Asking your child to change their behavior so you can stop worrying is a short term option and won’t really get you what you want, which is to relax and stop worrying.
7. The social pressures are starting younger – It used to be that sex, drugs and alcohol were issues 17-18 year olds had to deal with. Now 13-14 year olds are having to develop the ability to resist peer pressure and make healthy choices. It’s a tall order for an age that is wired to want acceptance by their peers. This is the reason that in my Time for The Talk class for 9-12 year olds and my Girls Leadership Camp for 12-14 year olds, I focus a lot on resisting peer pressure, making good decisions, and critically analyzing media messages.
8. Your teen is an experiential learner – Some kids are great observers. They love watching other people and gain amazing insights without having to participate. And then there are our experiential learners. These kids aren’t learning unless they are actively participating. Some teens try on personalities, like they try on new outfits, jumping from one trend to the next, figuring out who they are, out loud. If this is your kid, don’t judge a book by his cover and we promise not to judge YOU for what your child looks like! Stay tuned in to the essence of who she is, it might not match the clothes she is wearing.
9. Your rebellious teen is later-born – Frank Sulloway in his book “Born to Rebel” discovered that later-born children are more likely to rebel than older-born children. The babies of the family probably received fewer expectations, less identity with the parents, and more attention for being cute and funny. When these babies grow into teens they feel more free and want to differentiate themselves, not only from Mom and Dad, but from older siblings as well.
10. Your teen is too good! – Delayed adolescence can happen at any time for a teen (especially a first-born or only child) who always aims to please and does all the “right” things. Before going off to college or another pending separation, many teens initiate more dramatic rebellion in order to develop the necessary skills they will need to make it on their own. When it comes to making changes that are good for us, many of us still rebel against our own internalized authority. Trying to eat less sugar? How old do you feel when you sneak those cookies late at night? I tried to put together a writing schedule for my blog and heard my own inner rebel saying, “Don’t tell me what to do. I’ll do what I want, when I want!” Minimize rebellion by owning your choices and decisions.
Do you have a 12-14 year old daughter and live near Walnut Creek, CA? Registration opens soon for Girls Leadership Day Camp called “Getting What You Want.” Email Torie (at) LifeCoachingforParents (dot) com, to get on the interest list. Camps start in July, read more about it here.