How to Deal With Your Teenager's Rebellious Behavior

Written by Pam MS, NCSP | Fact checked by Psychology Dictionary staff 

From the perspective of a parent, teenagers can be one of the most difficult ages in which to help your child make good choices. Many teens engage in risky behavior, from sexual exploration to sampling controlled substances to attempting daredevil feats. Teens also tend to rebel against all forms of establishment, which can range from being mouthy to parents to truancy at school and even dabbling in illegal behavior. Some of this is developmentally normal, while the extreme versions of rebellion can lead to choices that can damage a teen's future or even end his or her life. If you have a teen who is behaving rebelliously, here are some things that you can do to try and ensure that they remain safe, along with their future.

Take Stock
The first thing to do is to take stock at the level of rebellious that you're looking at with your teen. You may have a sarcastic child who challenges you verbally but obeys your rules and attends school with good grades. On the other hand, a child on the other end of the spectrum might be taking (or dealing) drugs, in trouble with the police, and at risk of failing out of school. As a parent, your buttons are pushed in either case, and it may feel difficult and drastic. However, the level of rebellion should determine the level of response that you need to take when you go looking for a solution.

Find Ways to Respect Your Teen
For many teens, rebelliousness is a way to get attention and to assert their own independence. If this is the case, then allowing the natural consequences of your teen's choices to happen may be the best way to help them. Once the biggest problem is no longer making parents mad, but facing responsibility instead, behavior may change.

Get Help
If your teen is on the easier end of the rebellion spectrum, then a parenting class or support group may be the right kind of help that you need. However, if your child has begun to rebel not just at home but in the community, then you will likely need more help than just some parenting coaching. Psychologists may be helpful if your child will take to it. This is also a good choice because they can help to decide if your child is simply rebellious or if they are coping with a yet undiagnosed mental illness or behavioral disorder. At the far extreme end of help are teen boot camps, wilderness therapy schools, and psychological residential treatment centers. Though some of these programs gained bad reputations twenty years ago, they are being re-evaluated and are often included in medical insurance programs as much needed critical mental health and behavioral care.

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