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Dealing with Adolescent Rebellion

As discussed in my previous post on the topic, Adolescent Rebellion: Good Or Bad?, rebellion is a natural part of child development. Rebellion arises when your child wants to exercise their changing brains and grow towards independence, but their developmental phase clashes with your rules. In this post, we will discuss some of the differences in rebellion during each phase of adolescence, and some ways you can communicate with your teen during this phase.

During late childhood (8-11), your child still relies on you to guide them, but it is important at this stage to begin practicing skills that will make the adolescent stage easier for you both. Skills such as active listening and communication will go a long way towards helping you and your child during the adolescent years. Active listening means actually listening to someone, instead of half listening to what they are saying and thinking about your response. In late childhood, your child is able to think logically (albeit with limited ability) so they may begin to debate rules and ideals with you. Be prepared for this: it is a natural part of development! Your child needs to form their own opinions and beliefs, and late childhood is the beginning of this process.

Around 11 or 12, your child begins the adolescent phase of development. Adolescence is divided into three stages: early (11-13), middle (14-18), and late (19-21). Rebellion is a part of a growing bid for independence. Parents should practice consistency with their actions towards the growing teen, while at the same time listening to their ideas and not attempting to undermine their growing independence. Teens do need to have limits and rules, but it is important to recognize that as they grow older they will attempt to challenge these rules. It is not meant as disrespectful or rejecting your role: they are practicing their newfound cognitive abilities to think abstractly and debate with others. Being calm, open, and respectful (not patronizing) will go a long way towards keeping the lines of communication with your child open. Talking with your child at this point in time might be frustrating, but try to remember that they are struggling with a myriad of problems that their brain is still trying to figure out how to handle. In late adolescence, your child has already experienced most of the physical changes they are going to. They are still finishing the final stages of mental maturity, such as the ability to think things through, reflect, increasing emotional stability, and moral reasoning.

In early adolescence, rebellion may begin with small things, such as curfew or clothing. In mid to late adolescence, your child will often start experimenting with sex (if they have not done so already). This may occur out of peer pressure or because they are attempting to establish their sexual identity. They may also begin or continue experimenting with their appearance. By late adolescence, your child has established their identity, although this may go through small changes. Rebellion in these two stages is different because of the changes your child experiences. It is important to remember that during early adolescence, your child is just that: a child. They need rules, guidance, and an authority figure to look up to. During late adolescence (often the college years), your child is more of a young adult. Often times they do not need the rules they did as a child. They need advice, respect, occasional parameters (especially if they are still utilizing your car or house), and to know that you will be there no matter how hard life gets.

Adolescent rebellion can be a challenge to deal with. It can try your patience and often times feel as if the phase will never end. Remember that your teen is going through a trying time and they need your love and support. Respect is essential, even when you aren't receiving it in return. You are the adult, and it is your responsibility to set the example for your teen. Rebellion is only temporary, and a calm, rational discussion of your rules and your teen's reasoning may help solve many disagreements.



Emily Taylor is a graduate of Western Carolina University. She intends to pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and it is her goal to work with individuals who suffer from affective disorders. Emily has worked with children of all ages for over 10 years; she has also tutored college students and served as a mentor.

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