Adolescent Rebellion: Good or Bad?

"No! It's my hair, and I can style it however I want to! I'm tired of following your rules!" Have you ever experienced this, or any other form of rebellion? It can seem like your child is trying to make your life difficult, or that they are just out to oppose you. Contrary to popular thought, rebellion isn't always a child's attempt to defy you. It is simply a natural part of growing up.


During the teenage years, your child experiences a lot of changes: physical, emotional, and mental. Part of this change occurs in the prefrontal cortex (the area behind the forehead responsible for thinking and judgment), meaning that instead of relying on your ideas, your child can now form their own thoughts and ideals. Another facet to this development is that your child is now able to synthesize new information into ideas. According to David Elkind, professor of child development at Tufts University School of Medicine, teens argue with their parents as a way to develop their newfound ability. It doesn't mean your child is arguing just to argue: it is all part of the natural maturation process.

Elkind notes another facet to teenage rebellion: social pressures. In today's world, teens are pressured into experimenting with love, sex, fashion, drugs, and body modifications. It isn't that child development has changed. We're seeing the effects of peer pressure at a very young age when kids are too young to stand up to the pressure. Have you ever noticed clothing made for young girls and thought "those clothes look far too sexualized for a little girl"? Those are the pressures your children are facing from their peers every day: the pressure to keep up, to fit in, to be cool. When those pressures meet your rules, rebellion ensues.

Strict parenting can also create rebellious teens. Research has shown that teens raised in strict households have a tendency to be angry and rebellious during the teen and young adult years. Children react negatively when their parents attempt to control them (adults experience this too, often as a reaction to some form of strict parenting from their parents). As your child grows, they will have problems regulating their reactions to any perceived attempt to control them. They may respond with anger or become resentful if they even think someone is trying to control them. Sometimes, these negative reactions manifest as rebellion against the limits you have imposed on your child.


During adolescence, children look for ways to assert their independence and individuality; conflict arises when teens cross the lines their parents expect to be followed. Parents dislike rebellion because it makes their job more difficult. Many parents worry about their teens rebelling because it has the potential to cause their child serious harm; this could be through physical or emotional harm, or rejecting interests and people from childhood.It is important to remember that rebellion is not meant to directly oppose you, but you will most often feel that way because your child is doing something you don't like. Rebellion may also serve as a way to attract parental attention if it is not being received in another way. Lastly, younger children may be more likely to rebel than older children. In his book "Born to Rebel", Frank Sullow