Adolescence is a difficult time. Teenagers are trying to figure out so many things. What they want to be in the future, how to meet school obligations, and how to spend time with their friends. And, everything people say about them, their popularity, and whether they’re accepted are monumentally important. You went through it. You must remember.
Many talk back to their parents, refuse to do their chores, and roll their eyes. Some even disobey or lie and do things that make no sense. The cause is partly physical. Their brain is still developing, specifically the part about decision-making and impulse control. They also experience hormone surges, which can cause irritability, moodiness, and extreme sensitivity. Behaviorally, they’re testing their limits with you and attempting to proclaim their independence. Some of their rebellious acts are normal. You probably acted similarly.
What Behaviors are Normal and What Behaviors are Concerning?
- Choosing friends, video games, isolation, television over family activities
- Dramatic behavior
- Temporary episodes of sadness, anxiety, and frustration
- Saying “I hate you”
- Rejecting both family and old friends
- Losing interest in activities
- No longer telling you where they’re going and/or coming home late
- Doing poorly in school
- Prolonged episodes of sadness, anxiety, and frustration
- Extreme disrespect, disobedience, and outright lies
- Intolerable language
- Stealing from the home
- Abuse of drugs (including prescription drugs) and alcohol
- Suicidal thoughts and/or Self-harm or mutilation
- Hanging out with the wrong friends
- Weight loss or gain
- Obsession with physical appearance
- Ongoing feelings of sadness and/or Not caring about people and things
- No energy, exhaustion, and no interest in activities
- Low self-esteem
- Difficulty sleeping
Ways You Can Help
Parents should know at the outset that they are not alone and that they should not blame themselves. As previously mentioned, adolescence is tough. Struggling teens are loved very much. That’s why you’re reading this article.
Try beforehand to understand why they’re troubled. Is someone bullying them? Are they involved in a problematic relationship or handling something that is overwhelming them or causing them anxiety? Are they abusing alcohol or drugs? Do your best to have a conversation. Listen actively and try not to say much.
You should also consider reaching out to professionals, like school councilors trained with an online masters in school counseling, that can help you and your child move forward.
Set Boundaries, Rules, and Consequences
When the child is calm, tell them that you expect them to express their emotions in tolerable manners. Explain which behaviors are unacceptable and tell them there will be consequences, such as losing their cell phone, restrictions on seeing their friends or other loss of privileges, should they not follow the rules. Use this method to address other unacceptable behaviors, as well.
Use Positive Reinforcement
Rather than use consequences for bad behavior, ignore the negative behaviors and respond positively to good behaviors. Simple praise is enough. Make sure the effort and the behavior is praised. Also make sure they know which behaviors are expected.
Find a Mentoring Program
Mentoring programs are good for teenagers. Mentored adolescents are less likely to use drugs and alcohol and more likely to improve their grades and enroll in college. Programs often focus on physical fitness and goal setting, spirituality, sports, and art.
A child dealing with issues such as drug and alcohol use, thoughts of suicide, and eating disorders, should be seen by a professional counselor, who is especially trained to handle those serious matters.
Never Give Up
It is important that you never give up on the child. No matter how belligerent or rejecting they get. While they act like they don’t want you, they actually long for your love and support and appreciate your concern. It may take a while for you to learn that, but someday you will.