Dealing with a Rebellious Teen? 4 Ways to Manage Their Behavior

Posted November 3, 2010 by

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If you are living with teenagers, you know that they want their freedom and they want to do things their way.  These years can be stressful for both the teen and the parent.  Here are several reasons why I think teens might behave rebelliously… along with some stress management strategies that, in my opinion, can help you keep your sanity!

What causes your teen to be rebellious?

1. Your teen is learning “self identity”.  During adolescence your child is trying to discover his unique identity and “personality brand.”  In these teen years, your kids are likely to push for more independence and may rebel against what they perceive as overly strict rules.  Household rules that they have followed before can now suddenly cause resentment.

2. Your teen may be seeking attention.  If parents become too busy, wrapped up in their own work schedules and responsibilities, they may find little time for the family and neglect to recognize what their teen is doing.  This lack of attention can be very upsetting. In my experience, teens sometimes act out to gain attention, even if it’s negative.

3. Your teen may be experiencing peer pressure.   Teenagers find it extremely important to belong to a group of friends who appreciate and respect them.  More of their time and attention is given to friends than to parents, which is why it is important to know who their friends are and what type of behavior they have.  If friends are joining in destructive behavior such as consuming alcohol, participating in drug use or sexual activities, your teen may feel pressured to do the same.

4. Teens are experiencing hormonal changes. Their bodies are undergoing many physical and hormonal changes.  These hormonal fluctuations often lead to mood swings, which can be rapid and lead to wild variations in emotional responses.

How can you manage the behavior of your rebellious teen?

1. Practice an honest form of communication with your teen.  Teen stress is real.  This time in a teenager’s life can be upsetting for everyone and you may find that you do not have the patience to keep calm.  Be honest with your teen and take the time to listen to their concerns.  Keeping an open line of communication is imperative for both teen and parent.

2. Develop a set of rules with well understood consequences.  Make certain that your teenager knows the boundaries. Explain that as a parent, your first priority is your teen’s safety and that it is very stressful for you, the parent, if you do not know where they are or why they are late for curfew. If you do modify household rules, I personally think you should include your teen’s input for both the modification and for the consequence that will be enforced if rules are broken.  A rebellious teen might be somewhat more cooperative if she is an owner of the rules and consequences.

3. Encourage individual accomplishments. Never compare yourself with your teen or other siblings with your teen. If your teen is a younger sibling, they may believe they are not as smart or talented as their older siblings.  Self-esteem is crucial to foster during these stressful teenage years.  Each child is unique; make certain that your teen is aware of their talents, abilities and intellectual capabilities.

4. Show respect. You were once a teenager.  Showing respect for your teen’s individual accomplishments, honesty and self-reliance will help your teen develop into a mature adult who is capable of making realistic and responsible decisions.

As your teens navigate through these stressful years, let them know that you will love them, no matter what happens, and that it is okay to make mistakes.  The most important thing for a parent is to have the time to be available when your teen needs to talk, and to be supportive.  Cyberbullying, peer pressure, making college decisions, and making new friends can be difficult, but having a supportive parent helps manage the stress and keeps the family members sane.


Ann Gatty, a life coach, inforpreneur, author and organizational strategist. She has taught in classrooms and organizational training sessions and now works as a life coach for professional and personal development. Dr. Gatty has developed curriculum for college courses, organizational training and personal development. From her work and personal experiences, she finds a continuous need among women, of all walks of life, to find a life balance between professional goals and personal responsibilities. Ann Gatty hosts a website,, which offers stress management strategies, life skill development, and a means of finding your true passion in life. She has also authored Discovering God’s Recipe for a Healthy Body, Heart and Soul. Ann Gatty earned a Ph.D. in Instruction and Learning from the University of Pittsburgh, School of Education. She is married, the mother of two young adult boys, and shares her home with her husband, two Great Danes and a Bassett Hound.

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  1. Mother of wisdom Report

    This new generation is a hot mess. All the numbers to a hot line is not helping and parents are overwhelm. If a person don’ have children they have no ideal in knowing what a parent is going through. We all have rebelled at some point in our life, but these kids NOW! are  bold and don’t care what the say or who they hurt.. Some single mothers have it the worst, because they carry the whole responsibility in the home and on top of that they have to deal with out of control kid/kids. It’s a battle for every one, but we must cry out onto the LORD. I know some may reply with bad comments and that’s ok, but prayer is the answer. We as parents have done things our way now lets try doing things the LORDS way. PRAY!

  2. Mother of wisdom Report

    Distressed parent  This new generation is a hot mess. We as parents need to fall on our knees and pray!

  3. Jackie12 Report

    Hello. I am a stressed mother of a 14 year old. She hasn’t gotten to the point of being “out of control” , as of yet. However, I do feel that it is very near. I have reached out to a child psychiatrist, who didn’t give an actual diagnosis. He only talked to us and scheduled the next appointment, this went on for several weeks. Also I got a counselor for her as well as a youth mentor. Both counselor and mentor, in my opinion, were inexperienced in the teen years. One of them was only 21 and had just started with the youth program with no certificates or license, so I was very uneasy about that. My daughter speaks of depression quite often. And I’m not sure if I’m overlooking something critical, such as a plea for help, or a way to get attention, even if it’s negative. I try to talk to her and encourage her to talk to me and let me know what’s going on and things she may be dealing with. She shuts down and shuts me out. I have reached out to family and friends and asked several to just try to get her to open up. She does the same thing with them. (she keeps coming back to the topic of depression being her reason for not wanting to take part in anything as a family) I recently logged in to her social media accounts, one of which i was unaware of. I watched messages between she and a few of her friends. As I watched these messages, I found out that she had a boyfriend, for quite some time. Which I was unaware of, and completely disapprove. While attempting to speak to my daughter about the “boyfriend” she turned the subject around and was going back to the depression topic. At times, I feel that she may be using this in order to turn my attention away from what she is doing, rather than confront what is happening and take responsibility for her actions. She does lash out at times, and says things I thought I would never hear. Such as, I hate you, I’m not a child, I don’t want to do things your way, etc (typical teen stuff) but I can’t put into words how this makes me feel as a parent who is stuck between wanting to “help” and wanting to beat the “rebellious” out of her. I have spent many restless nights worrying and stressing and trying to figure out some kind of solution with positive reinforcement. And I have to admit, I feel that the worst to come is fixing to be here and I don’t want my daughter to be a teen drinker, smoker, or even worse, a teen mom. I don’t know what to do and my last nerve is shot. Any advice is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      I hear you. I can be tough to determine whether or not a
      child is really facing specific challenges or making excuses as a way to avoid
      accountability. I do think it’s possible to address both options at the same
      time. From what you have written, it sounds like you have accessed local
      supports yet weren’t happy with the results. Sometimes it does take a few tries
      before you’re able to find a counselor or therapist that’s a good fit. I
      encourage you to see what other types of support resources are available for
      you and your daughter. The 211 helpline would be able to give you information
      on counselors, therapists, and support groups in your area. You can reach the
      Helpline 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-273-6222 and online at Something else to keep in mind is that
      even if your daughter is diagnosed with depression, while it would be something
      that should be taken into consideration,  it wouldn’t be an excuse for
      poor behavior. It’s still going to be important to have clear rules and
      expectations as well as consequences should those not be followed. Helping her
      develop effective problem solving and coping skills will also be in order, as
      James Lehman explains in the article Is You
      can begin this process by having problem solving conversations with her when
      she isn’t following the house rules. The reason most kids act out is because
      they lack the necessary skills to deal with situations that come their way. For
      example, your daughter knew it was against the rules to have a boyfriend.
      However, at 14, she probably sees her peers and friends “dating” so, the way
      she dealt with the situation was by not telling you about it. While this
      omission of fact is not OK, it’s also not an unusual way for a teen to try to
      satisfy both their wants and their parents expectations. For more information
      on how to have a problem solving conversation, you can check out this article
      by Sara Bean 
      I can understand your worry and concern. Many parents do wonder what may be in
      store for them when they’re seeing poor behavior now. It may be helpful to know
      that the behavior you describe is normal for a teen. Try to focus on what you
      can do to help your daughter now instead of worrying about what the future may
      be like. All kids make mistakes; it doesn’t mean they are heading down the road
      to ruin. We wish you and your family the best of luck moving forward. Be sure
      to check back if you have any further questions. Take care.

  4. Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

    I can hear your concern. It can be difficult to know what to
    do when your child starts acting out and runs away to avoid a situation he
    doesn’t have the skills to handle. It’s good that you know where he is. I’m
    sure that offers some relief from your worry. It may be beneficial to allow him
    some time away. This could benefit both of you by allowing the two of you space
    to calm down and decide how you want to address what happened, both the running
    away and the behaviors leading up to it. Once the situation has calmed down,
    you can talk with him about the expectations you have when he returns home. You
    want to be mindful not to list too many rules as this may further aggravate the
    situation. Instead, just stick to basics concerning disrespect and  abuse.
    As Carole Banks explains in her article, trying to manage all of the behaviors you are seeing won’t be
    effective. While kids can have times when they don’t respond appropriately when
    upset, the serious nature of your son’s threats of harm is concerning. So, you
    may want to start there.  It’s unfortunate the police and Social Services
    aren’t able to help you. Finding local support is going to be useful. There is
    a service in the UK that may be able to offer you and your family the support
    you need –
    They offer a free, confidential Helpline at 0808 800 2222 as well as I encourage you to check out the site to see what they have to
    offer. We appreciate you writing in and hope you will continue to check back to
    let us know how things are going. Best of luck to you and your family as you
    work through this tough situation. Take care.

  5. Polly74 Report

    I am at the end of my tether 🙁 My 14 year old son is rebellious, defiant, abusive, disrespectful to name just a few of his traits. He has an attendance at school of 61% and this is due to the exclusions he keeps getting for his behaviour and outbursts. I have been in touch with Social Services to ask for help and they have put a Family Support worker in place to work with my son. This has had little effect. He tells me to F Off, he refuses to come home at night, he kicks the doors and walls in the house if he can’t get his own way, he throws things in temper. I have tried to ground him but i work full time so it’s hard to monitor in the day. The last time i grounded him he climbed out the kitchen window. I have taken his Xbox away, taken his Pocket Money away, I’ve refused to allow him to have friends stay over. Everyday there is a different battle with him rebelling against the ground rules at home and I am at the point where i don’t want him in my home any more because he’s making me miserable. I broke up with his dad 7 years ago and he doesn’t see his dad only talks to him on the phone because his father cant be bothered to put himself out to see him. I have another son of 16 and he never behaved like this. I have a wonderful partner now of 6 years  and he is very supportive but i wonder how much more he will take of my sons behaviour. It puts pressure on the whole family. My 16 year old is off to join the army in September and i know this will affect the younger one a lot so im mindful of more behavioural problems to come. I don’t ever want to give up on my son but i’m tired and low now to the point where i just want to say to him carry on, get on with it and ruin your life.

  6. Deeshadow1029 Report

    Just returned from worse vacation ever. My husband and I took our 16 year old and her friend to the beach. Told them cigerattes and pot were unacceptable. First day three found 6 packs in my child’s purse. Seen Text where friend said don’t worry I have two packs. She later on posted a pic on snap chat getting high. She disrespected us the ebtite trio. Her friend barely spoke ru neither of then said thank you for anything. We are about to get home. Any suggestions of consequences she should would be helpful. She had a car and works.

    • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

      I’m sorry to hear your vacation was overshadowed by
      disrespect from your daughter and her friend. It’s not uncommon for kids to
      push back against boundaries a parent sets. Where these behaviors occurred at a
      prior time, a consequence may not be effective in this instance. It may be
      helpful instead to sit down with your daughter at a calm time and establish
      what your expectations are for smoking as well as what the consequence will be
      if you catch her smoking or find cigarettes or pot in your home. While you absolutely
      can set rules around smoking when she’s away from home, those may be a little
      harder to enforce since you’re not always going to know what she’s doing when
      she is out with friends. For more ideas on how to respond to this behavior, you
      can read this article by Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner  For the
      future, you might reconsider whether or not you allow your daughter to bring a
      friend along on family trips. While it wasn’t the friend’s fault per se, having
      someone along who is of like mind may be encouraging for a child who acts out.
      We appreciate you writing in. Be sure to check back if you have any further
      questions. Take care.

  7. Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

    I can hear your concern. It can be tough to watch
    conflict between other family members, especially when it seems to be having
    such a detrimental effect on your mom’s health. Your sister is going to make
    the choices she’s going to make and the only one who can control whether or not
    she makes different choices is her. Unfortunately, you can’t really save
    another person from their actions or the subsequent consequences. We can only
    change ourselves. I know this doesn’t make the situation any easier to deal
    with. There is a website available for teens and young adults who may be able
    to offer you some support and guidance around what steps you can take. is a website
    that focuses on helping young people deal with challenges they may be facing.
    They offer support in many ways, such as on-line chat, direct call
    (1-800-448-3000), e-mail or text. I encourage you to check out the site to see
    what they have to offer. I wish you and your family the best of luck moving
    forward. Take care.

  8. selma Report

    hi my son is a 17 year old who was and actually still is an introvert with having friends that does not go to school and who drinks and smokes dagga. he has joined them in this activity and was last at school last week Tuesday and is giving me an indication  that he wont be going back. he is becoming very rude. today I have taken all his stuff away and he called me mad and a sore loser. I sent him last year to do a psychological test and the results came back that he is not interested in school and here in South Africa there is no work for a drop out. he wants to become a Rasta whereto I responded that it will only happen when I am death, he called me selfish and I just want him to live his life like I want it meaning that he cant be himself. he has no interest in spending time with me and his father and his younger brother calling us all mad.

  9. 122322 Report

    Ok i am 17 and 2 months from now ill be 18. my mom left last week. My dad who is stricter decided to make me go to bed at 9 and turn in all my electronics at 8 pm. which i found unreasonable since i am nearly an adult. we fight a lot other this and multiple other things. we also get into arguments that i don’t do enough house work even though i do the laundry for 4 people and walk the dog which isn’t even mine. I also do dishes and outside work in the summer. But my father still ignores this and calls me lazy and unprepared for the real world. we tried to see a family mediator but after he she said something critical about how my dads parenting he demanded a new one. he is very controlling and wants structure. this is most of the reason on why my mom left. but with her gone its even worse. I plan to join the army and drop out of high school so i can get away from him. my advice… make rules but let your sons and daughters mature. if they want to stay up all night let them but they will feel the conquence of their actions the morning after. keep basic rules but if they keep getting more rebellious don’t get stricter. that just makes it worse.

  10. Elite Report

    Heres a question: I have a friend with an out of control 14 year old. 2. Develop a set of rules with well understood consequences.
    How do you enforce this if the child basically says “screw you I’ll do what I want”. Parent: “Your grounded”,  Child: “I’ll just leave”. Short of physically stopping the child and fighting with him (which he’ll then claim abuse) there is no way to enforce these rules. You can’t spank a kid anymore. So there is no real threat. Parent: “I’ll take your X-Box from you.” He just goes in and gets it when your not home and kicks the door in. Send him to a behavioral health center and they learn more ways to break the rules, they only have to pretend to be good for a limited time until they get out. Parents are at a total loss of how to control this kid.

    • rwolfenden Report

      appreciate you writing in to Empowering Parents and sharing your friend’s
      struggle in parenting a defiant teen. Because we are a website aimed at helping
      people become more effective parents, we are limited in the advice and
      suggestions we can give to those outside of a direct parenting role.  It’s
      not uncommon for teens to ignore consequences or to test boundaries by
      escalating situations, and for parents to feel helpless as a result.  We
      would encourage your friend to continue working with local supports to assist
      in setting up an effective system of consequences and accountability.  For
      information on available resources in your friend’s community, try contacting
      the at
      1-800-273-6222.  Thank you again for writing in, and we wish you and your
      friend all the best moving forward.

      • Annie Sarah Joy Report

        Pls help and give advice
        My son doesn’t go to school Anymore Takes drugs has to do social work hours for criminal Stuff from Last year and doesn’t listen to us any more. What do we do? He is 16 in August.

        • Empowering Parents Coach drowden Report

          Annie Sarah Joy
          It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now. It
          will be beneficial to allow your son to face the natural consequences of his
          actions by having him complete the social work hours he has been given. It will
          also be of benefit to set well defined limits and boundaries around drug or
          alcohol use within your home. You may not be able to control the choices your
          son makes when he is away from home; you can set house rules and have clear
          consequences when those rules are broken. It’s probably going to be in
          everyone’s best interest to focus on one issue at a time, such as his drug use.
          For more information on what steps you can take as a parent to address this behavior,
          you can check out this article by Kim Abraham and Marney Studaker-Cordner You might also
          consider finding out if there is a program in your area to help you gain some
          authority back in your household. These programs are often called CHINS (child
          in need of services) or PINS (person in need of services). A parent usually
          needs to petition the court for one to start. Many parents have found the
          oversight offered by these programs to be instrumental in getting their
          household back under control. You could contact your local clerk of courts to
          find out if this may be an option for you and your family. I hope this helps to
          give you some idea on moving forward. I appreciate you writing in and hope you
          will check back if you have any further questions. Take care.

    • hisharel Report

      Elite  I am a parent of 3 teens. Grounding a teen is just stressful and doesn’t fix anything, sometimes you just have to ride out the wave. Every day is like a year for the parent. The kids all think they know more. We knew more than our parents and these kids think they can outsmart us. Be present, stay home, be there when they walk in the door and when they walk out. Always ask where they are going and always remind them to be careful.

  11. D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor Report

    To “may”: Thank you for sharing your questions. I can hear how frustrated you are with the choices your son is making and I can understand the desire to limit the outside factors you believe are influencing his behavior. Something to keep in mind is kids are influenced daily by many outside sources like TV, social media sites and other forms of media. It’s probably not going to be effective to try to forbid your son from spending time with certain people because that may have the opposite effect. As James Lehman discusses in his article Does Your Child Have “Toxic” Friends? 6 Ways to Deal with the Wrong Crowd there are ways you can try to limit the time he spends with friends. We would also suggest focusing on his behavior. Ultimately, your son is responsible for the choices he makes, regardless of the outside factors that may be influencing his decisions. It will be helpful to have clear limits and expectations around acceptable behavior, for example, what time he is to be in every night. If he chooses not to meet that expectation, you can hold him accountable with a consequence. We would also recommend problem solving with your son to help him develop replacement behaviors and better problem solving skills. Here are a couple other articles you may find helpful: How to Give Kids Consequences That Work & Why Consequences Aren’t Enough, Part 2 Making Child Behavior Changes That Last. We wish you and your family luck as you work through this issue. Take care.

  12. may Report

    I have 17 yrs old son who is rebellion and lately has been skipping school and his marks has been going extreemly down what should i do. in mean time he doesn’t respect his curfew time but other than that he is okay what should i do how i keep him away from his friends who has been influence his behaviour

  13. georgia Report

    i have a 17 yr old with bipolar. we just discovered she stole $300.00 from our checking account, just since she has been hanging out with the wrong group of kids. my head is spinning right now, i have tried everything i could think of. she fights with me when i try to ground her, we have called the cops, she is so smart and beautiful,i just want her to snap out of this and realize what she is doing. what can i do? i feel helpless. we see a phys. dr. she is on meds, she skips school, on second ticket. i just want to super glue to a chair until she sees what she is doing.

  14. Ann Report

    Teenagers face a lot of problems: problems with peers, school, studies and parental boundaries just to mention a few. These problems cause many teens to act out, many times in rebellious ways. It is vital to be able to communicate clearly, without judgment, and honestly with the teen in order to identify what is the real or core problem that is causing the misbehavior. If you can establish that kind of environment, do it. Remember, do not be judgmental while exploring the issue. If you have a pastor whom your son can trust, seek his/her help. Show your son that you do care by your actions. Remember, setting relistic boundaries is a way of showing him that you do really care for him. Lots of love and good communication is a good recipe.

  15. Terrinelson72 Report

    My 14 year old son has court on Nov 15. The court is recommending that he go to a juvenile detention facility for a 60 day diagnostic. I started implementing the program in the spring and my son took my car to get what he wanted. Subsequently, he has been charged for joy riding. I feel like giving up. He says I don’t care about him. I am so sad that we are where we are at. I had to get him an attorney because the state attorney assigned to him was incompetent. My daughter is a senior this year and we are all so stressed out. His grades this year started out really well but now he seems like he doesn’t care. Any advice would be helpful.



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