Teenage Rebellion: The Difference Between Normal and Dangerous Behavior

teenagers hanging out

The worst part of parenting isn’t your child’s “terrible two” phase. It’s their teenage years. As early as nine years old, your child may start showing angst and chafing at being treated like a child. It will intensify as they approach their teens, potentially evolving into full-blown rebellion.

But that’s a normal part of growing up. When you were a preteen and a teen, you probably had a lot of angst, too. So don’t be surprised if your child rebels in their adolescence. However, normal doesn’t mean acceptable. Your child’s teen experiences will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If they mingled with the wrong company, their future may be thwarted.

Your guidance is most important at this phase in their life, no matter how much they try to resist it. In this article, we’ll go through a brief explanation of teen rebellion, and determine which acts are normal and potentially dangerous.

Why Do Teens Rebel?

Many parents blame social media and their teen’s group of friends for their rebellion. But neither of them are the root causes. Rebellion actually happens due to a teen’s brain activity; in their prefrontal cortex, to be exact. The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain that facilitates judgment, understanding outcomes and consequences, and impulse and emotional control. This part of the brain doesn’t reach full maturity until your mid-20s. That explains why many rebellious teens come back to their senses in their early adulthood.

The prefrontal cortex is also responsible for the brain’s reward and pleasure responses. Coupled with a teen’s rising hormones, their brain will trigger an impulse to take risks. That’s what encourages them to do what they’re not supposed to. Remember, their prefrontal cortex isn’t mature yet, so their understanding of outcomes and consequences is still flawed. They don’t consider the possible grave effects of their rebellious acts. They just focus on the pleasures they’d get from them.

teenager holding a spray can

Normal vs. Dangerous Rebellious Acts

A teen’s rebellious phase can also be the time they’d start showing what their future might look like. The acts listed below can help you determine whether they’d have a bright future, or a potentially bleak one:

  • Neglecting school work: Normal

Children develop more complex interests during their teens, so it’s normal for them to dislike schoolwork. If you often find them playing video games all day instead of studying, don’t panic. It doesn’t automatically mean they can’t go to college or land their dream job.

  • Drinking and smoking: Normal

As dangerous as these vices are, it’s actually normal for teens to try them out. They think smoking and drinking make them cool. The key to stopping it is to make them understand the long-term adverse effects of these vices. Tell them how those habits pose dangers to themselves and to others.

  • Clubbing: Normal

Teens are curious and they’re in a rush to grow up. As such, they sneak into clubs pretending to be 21-year-olds. However, going to clubs potentially exposes them to the wrong crowd or to predators. They might also get access to illegal substances in those places.

  • Dating: Normal

If you don’t allow your teens to date, chances are they’d be more eager to date. In this case, what you have to monitor is their love life itself. If their school doesn’t give them sex education, sit down with your teen to have “the talk”. They’d feel awkward about it, but you have to push through until they understand the seriousness of safe and unsafe practices.

  • Violence and Crime: Dangerous

If your teen is often involved in fights, cases of bullying, or worse, crimes, that’s no longer just a phase. They might be experiencing mental or emotional distress at home. That distress can trigger a violent impulse. Kids who are maltreated or neglected at home often become violent. If you’re having family problems, consider getting family counseling. That can solve all your issues and prevent your teen from becoming an aggressive bully or criminal.

  • Substance Use: Dangerous

Though it’s normal for teens to be curious about drugs, it’s dangerous for them to try it and never stop. Substance use muddles their brain and affects their judgment. It can make them more reckless and impulsive, going beyond the normal acts and venturing into potentially life-threatening habits. No doubt, it will ruin their future.

Whether your teen is engaging in normal rebellious acts or dangerous ones, try not to be overbearing while dealing with it. Don’t invade their privacy either, or act judgemental. Instead, be available for them as much as you can, and set boundaries. That way, they’d understand the consequences of their rebellion a little better. But more importantly, be patient. A teen’s rebellious phase won’t end overnight. To some, it takes years. So continue to be a loving parent and being an authoritative figure they respect at the same time.

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