Teenage Behaviour

Contrary to popular opinion, the rebellious behavior that is often characteristic of teenagers is not a new problem. A close look at history and conversations with people of all ages will reveal stories of poor decision-making, disrespect for authority, problems with relationships, experimentation and laziness that reveal rebellion has been associated with teenagers for generations. When dealing with teenage rebellion, it may be helpful to consider the role of development and influences and, also consider how teenage mistakes are viewed.


A simple overlooked fact when dealing with teenagers during challenging times is that a teen is merely a child developing into an adult. It stands to reason in the same way a seedling will not stand as firm as a tree and a tadpole will not croak like a frog, a young adult will not behave in the same responsible and accomplished manner as an adult. They will make mistakes along the way; they need opportunities to practice and only then will they begin to show signs they are becoming adults capable of making their own decisions and handling their own lives successfully. When rebellious behavior is viewed as evidence of training steps towards adult independence, it is easier to deal with.

The ability to think independently despite what others may think or doing around us is arguably an important life skill. However, although most adults will agree with this, any attempts by teens to assert independence without adult permission, is often met with resistance. This is in part because teens often appear to rebel against everything or the most important things adults insist they follow. However, adults must establish and maintain boundaries for teens to be successful. These essential boundaries may irritate teens since they may feel they limit the opportunities for them to develop independence because they are too rigid.

One way to overcome this is to identify the most important issues and focus on these rather than on trying to control everything the teen does and even think in an attempt to make them fit a pre-determined mould. When adults consistently apply reasonable boundaries on important matters, but also choose their battles wisely teens can take some control and get to practice what it is like being an adult. If they are able to succeed in making some decisions on matters such as what they eat, what they wear, what time they get out of bed, how they manage their free time and their money and how tidy their rooms are for example, adults are not only providing much needed opportunities for them to practice independence in thought and action, but also keep them busy enough to stop their minds drifting into more serious areas of rebellion.

This also simultaneously creates an atmosphere of understanding, tolerance and trust and conserves the energies of adults to deal with more important issues such as monitoring peer influence and setting boundaries in relation to physical freedom and matters relating to drugs, alcohol and sexual behavior. This approach to handling rebellion helps to maintain a positive tone in relationships between adults and teens as it removes the constant urge to nag or lecture, which can cause teens to rebel further. It also provides teens with opportunities for them to gain credit for their own decisions and witness first hand how these decisions impact on others. When they do well and are praised for this, they will gain the confidence and trust needed to progress on to control in some of the more challenging areas. When they do badly they may be more willing to listen to wiser and more experienced adults and will have opportunities  to evaluate their own choices, decisions and ideas.


Teenagers not unlike any other humans, are a product of their environments. Their behavior is influenced by what is happening around them in their homes,  schools, peers, and society as a whole. At times they may feel overwhelmed by the number of people and factors influencing their lives. Like adults, they can crack under this pressure. Adults who are able to analyze how their own lives, decision and moods and actions are affected by influences around them are in a much better position to handle this sort of teenage rebellion.

Teens also characteristically find it difficult to discuss their thoughts and feelings with adults, so discretion is essential in order to overcome rebellion linked to pressure and influences. In many societies today teens from all cultures and backgrounds are being influenced by obsessions with money and status. Such obsessions may be at the root of some teenage rebellion manifested in criminal behaviour. Many teens today feel that they need money, designer clothes and other things to increase their popularity, make them worthy of attention and show they are successful.

Any adult handling a stealing or drug dealing rebellious teen only has to take a look at the money, celebrity and status obsessed world around them to see one of the possible root cause of such behaviours in teens. Of course it is difficult to control the world but understanding that it will ineveitably influence teenage behaviour can help. Teens can be assisted to find ways of earning money legally and to have the patience to earn and save for what they want. They can be helped to differentiate between the designer shoes they want in order to impress or fit in with a certain peer group and the equipment for school they need by seeing this example set by their parents and other adults around them.

Influences and the importance of role models also relates to teen rebellion in areas relating to drug and alcohol use and sexual relationships. Can teens who witness adults damaging their health by smoking, drinking irresponsibly, overly relying on prescription drugs or caffeine as a means of handling life’s pressures and stress or using recreational drugs realistically be blamed for rebelling? The answer is a resounding no. They will inevitably develop the wrong attitudes and rebel as a result of conflicting standards, confusion anger or fear.

Of course adults need to monitor the influence of peers on the behaviour of teens in relation to drugs, alcohol and sexual behavior but also the influence of the adults around them and the influence of the way these things may be depicted in the entertainment that young people enjoy. Movie stars, the characters they depict, musicians and the lyrics in their music can arguably be considered as peers and therefore the influences they have on teen rebellion has to be seriously considered. Supporting teens to make judgments about their choices in relation to entertainment and the degree to which they allow themselves to be influenced by celebrities in music, TV and movies can help to avoid and handle some of the most serious areas of teen rebellion.

Helping teens to understand that life has problems and these can be overcome, relationships should enhance our lives rather than destroy them and that taking care of their health by being sexually responsible and avoiding drug and alcohol misuse are crucial responsibilities. Providing a supportive environment where teens can discuss these serious issues openly will help them to navigate their way through the difficult teen years safely.

Viewing teen mistakes

In the same way that adults have come to understand the crying and babbling sounds of a baby as essential steps towards speech, the immature mistakes and poor judgments made by teenagers can be viewed as steps towards independence from which they will always learn and develop. As painful as it may be for adults to watch the process, it is important to allow teens to make mistakes. No reasonable thinking adult would stop a baby from learning to walk because they cannot do it immediately without falling over. They understand that doing this would deny the child the opportunity to learn a vital life skill.

The point here is that failure on the part of teens on a particular occasion does not mean they will never learn nor does it mean they need more control, pressure or discipline. It simply means they have not learned yet and further lessons, opportunities and support are needed. At times all that may be needed is time. In the same way that teens learned to walk, talk, eat, sleep through the night and use the bathroom independently at their own pace, they will learn to make sensible decisions, handle freedom, make choices and respect others. Keep this in mind as it can go a long way to help to maintain patience and understanding when handling teenage rebellion and cN also help to develop approaches that minimize rebellion.