Teenage Rebellion May Mean More Than You Think

It’s common for parents to expect some type of rebellion in their teens. This is a time when adolescents are learning to find their own way in the world. They’re likely going to push buttons, stretch your limits, and test the boundaries you set for them. In fact, when your child becomes 13 or 14 years old, it’s normal to see a change in behavior. He or she may not be as talkative, social, or helpful around the house. Your teen might want to spend more time alone or with friends. You might see moodiness, isolation, and yes, rebellion.


It’s important for you as a parent or caregiver to get a sense of the underlying reasons for your teen’s rebellion. It is normal for a teen to pull away from their parents in an effort to find a sense of self and identity. However, if you find that your teen’s rebellious behavior is over the top, such as doing poorly in school, getting arrested, or being expelled from school, then the rebellion you’re seeing may need professional attention.


Here are signs that indicate your teen’s rebellion is a reason to see a mental health provider:

  • change in eating habits
  • change in sleeping habits
  • doing poorly in school
  • making threats of suicide
  • explosive outbursts
  • irritability
  • dramatic change in personality or appearance
  • experiencing a recent loss
  • having hallucinations or bizarre thoughts
  • a decline in your teen’s hygiene or general appearance
  • controlling or manipulative behavior
  • talking about experiences of shame or rejection

Keep in mind that a teen’s behavior may be a way of communicating what they may not be able to communicate in words. Often, behaviors such as manipulation, lying, stealing, or aggression may be an indication that your teen is experiencing fear, anxiety, or depression. And often those experiences are felt by teens but difficult to express.


Another reason why some teens can become rebellious is because of the parenting style their experiencing. For instance, Lisa Boesky, a child and adolescent psychologist from San Diego and author of the book, When to Worry, says of parenting styles: “Either [parents are] too strict, which brings about more rebellion, or they’re too hands-off, and the child gets into trouble because of lack of supervision.” She continues to say that ideally parents need to find the balance between the two in order to monitor and supervise their child’s life without being overly involved.


Being involved – with just the right amount – with your teen’s life gives you a pulse on their life and can let you know whether the problems they are experiencing are worthy of bringing to a professional. Having a balance between too strict and too hands-off allows your teen the freedom that an adolescent needs in order to grow and do precisely what they are meant to do at this stage of life – find their own sense of autonomy. At the same time, being involved just enough facilitates the ability to guide an adolescent with problem solving when faced with solutions to life’s challenges.


This article suggests reasons behind your teen’s rebellion and when to consider seeking support from a mental health provider. However, if you have concerns about your teen’s psychological well being, it’s always better to err on the side of caution by seeking professional assistance.