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6 reasons your teenager might be rebelling (and why it's not your fault)

Posted May 7

So your child is a teenager. Now what? You’ve been dreading this age for years and now it's finally here. Your once sweet and submissive angel is now emotional and rebellious.

It’s easy for parents to blame themselves when their children rebel. It’s normal to ask questions like “Where did I go wrong?” or “How do I fix this?” But the truth is, it very rarely is the parents’ fault. Here are six reasons your child might be pulling away:

1. They are trying to find themselves

Very few people look back at their junior high years fondly. Not only do you struggle for social acceptance, you're also trying to figure out who you are. Your child is going through this same battle. Acting out against rules, structure and parents is your child’s way of trying to reject the status quo and gain independence.

2. They are seeking attention

Your teenager wants to be noticed. They want to stand out from the crowd, and sometimes that means seeking attention in the wrong places and all the wrong ways.

As parents, find the balance between giving your children attention and smothering them. Do fun activities with your children and make your home a place where they like to hang out with friends. This will help your child feel more comfortable at home and will also let you keep an eye on your teen.

3. They are seeking some control of their own

As your child grew up, you made all of their decisions for them. You decided what time they woke up, what they wore, what extracurricular activities they were a part of and what they ate. There wasn’t much room for them to make their own decisions. But now that they’re older, you’ve found yourself playing tug-of-war with your teen over who gets to make the decisions.

It’s hard to watch your baby grow up, but it’s important to grant them the ability to make their own decisions as they get older.

4. They are testing the boundaries

As your child gains more independence and adjusts to new rules (like a later curfew), they will try to see how far they are allowed to go before they cross the line. Be sure to keep that boundary clear — not having rules can make your child feel like you don't offer enough attention. If your teenager has a clear idea of what their boundaries and consequences are, they're less likely to intentionally break the rules.

5. They are rebelling as a defense mechanism

Your teenager is trying to make sense of puberty and the flood of hormones that come with it. Author J.P. Kahn said in his book, “Child Development — Problems of Discipline, Authority and Rebellion,” that often times, rebellion comes as a result of trying to mask anxiety or fear. Address any potential emotional concerns with your teen to find a solution to their rebellious behavior.

6. They want to be accepted

Sometimes, children become someone else to feel accepted by their friends. While teens know what they’re doing doesn't align with their parents' standards, they rebel to feel included by their peers. In the “everyone else is doing it, so why not me?” phase, parents should be patient and remind their teen that it's important to have the confidence to stand apart from the crowd.

As your children grows up and ages out of their rebellious teenage years, remember to focus on the positive. These years are hard for the both of you. Find ways to praise and compliment your teen; your support will do more than your negativity will. Most importantly, remember this phase will pass. Soon it'll be just another part of raising children — just like dirty diapers and coloring on the walls.

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