5 Reasons Why Your Teen is Rebelling

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Teenage rebellion is nothing new. Rebellious children have been around since the first children inhabited the earth.  Remember Cain and Abel? So, what should you do about it?  Run from the battle? Raise the white surrender flag in defeat? Go to war with guns a blazing? None of those things will accomplish very much and may end up killing your relationship with your child. Instead, it’s important to first get a handle on why your teen may be rebelling. Understanding why your teen is rebelling is foundational to understanding what we should do about it.  In today’s blog, I’m going to talk about the “Why?” Tomorrow, we’ll address the “What?”

Here are 5 reasons why your teen may be rebelling:

Struggle for Identity.

Your teen is trying to answer the question, “Who am I?”  During the teen years, our children struggle to figure out who they really are and why they are here.  It’s important during this time for parents to help children understand their immeasurable value because of who they are, not for what they do. A mom and dad should help their kids understand the difference between identity and image.

Struggle for Acceptance.

Remember trying to be cool in order to fit in? It’s the same today. Teens still want to be part of the crowd, they want a sense of belonging, and they still feel the pressure to do what everyone else is doing. In the movie “What a Girl Wants,” teenage Daphne is trying to be someone she’s not and is really struggling with it. At one point, her boyfriend asks, “Why are you trying so hard to fit in, when you were born to stand out?”  While understanding our children’s need for acceptance, let’s help them understand that it’s good to be different. Encourage them to be different, to have the courage to do what’s right, and the conviction to stand out in the crowd.

Struggle for Attention.

Often teens want others to notice them. They’re silently saying, “Hey, look at me!” And sometimes, they’ll do almost anything for attention.  As parents, we need to do everything we can to give our kids attention by being available when they need us.  A father or mother who is always working and not paying attention to their child will find a child who seeks attention in many wrong places and in many wrong ways. Fathers, especially, need to let their daughters know they are beautiful inside and out. And they need to let their sons know they’ve got what it takes.

Struggle for Control.

When our children are younger, we are in complete control of just about everything they do—what they eat, what they wear, where they go and who they are with.  As they get older, our children want to make more and more decisions for themselves and don’t want mom or dad always telling them what to do.  We need to show our children that they will have more control over their decision-making to the extent that we can trust them to make wise decisions.  Trust is earned over time.

Struggle for Freedom.

If you have teens, you’ve probably heard something like, “I just want some freedom.” While teens say they want total freedom and independence, they still want to, and need to, rely upon us for certain things.  As parents, we need to allow them to experience more freedom as they get older, but only as they learn a very important point: freedom comes with responsibility.

If you’ve ever dealt with your teenager rebelling, or are currently dealing with it, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you handled the situation. Please share your comments with me below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Tallaman

    No better way to establish identity than to know that they are a child of God and that God has a plan for them in this life. They are here to carry out that plan and it is an easier thing to understand when they see Mom and Dad understanding their own relationship to God and reasons for being on this earth. Want to reduce the amount of teenage rebellion? Make sure they understand and live their role as God’s child on this earth. 

  • Linda

    The teen years are so befuddling…as a parent there is little we do to prepare for the changes in our choldren.  I appreciate your insight and help in every way.  I find wisdom in your articles and would love to see more of them relating to teens. 

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Linda, you are so welcome.  I’ll try to do more for parents like you with teens. I have 5 kids myself ages 16-22!

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    Gary, you got that right that our true identity is found in God.

  • Marcell

    all of these things are right on point and sometimes your teen(like mine) could be showing forms of each sign all at one time…The only thing I would like to add to those other parents out there is that when you and your teen are going through these growing pangs, always try to listen with patience and understanding even if youve already set your boundaries, let them feel heard. Also never give up on your teen, they are a reflection of you, the teen age years are like a roller coaster with ups and downs, some things will roll you for a loop, but hang on cause when the ride is over youll both be able to look at each other and laugh at what youve come through and they will love you even more for it. 

  • Mary

    Thank you for all the advice, I really look forward to reading you articles.  My 17 year old daughter is always mad or angry. She is not disruptive but is very verbal with rude and hurtful comments.  I don’t know what to do or how to help her.  Where is this coming from?

  • paT

    My teen is very vain: his hairdo, clothes , etc., etc.. I am trying to connect this with his wanting others to notice him but then again he seems not to interact in a group. He is okay with one to one interaction… although he is not that fantastic in studies (does not want to study), he thinks too highly of himself that he is very knowledgeable..

  • Js9987

    I remember thinking back then, “Being a teenager is HARD! If I EVER have kids I will remember that.”  I had kids and I told them, “I remember thinking that and promising my self that I would remember, but, believe it or not, I forget!” 

  • Kgsweet1

    I don’t think I will be able to laught at this. My 18 year old daughter hates me because she has been fed that I am a terrible mother from her paternal grandmother. This has been happening for years, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until last year when my mother-in-law told my husband that I have ruined my daughter’s life and that I am the reason for her insecurity. My daughter takes no responsibility for her actions. She did not learn that from me. My heart is broken, and I feel this will never get better even after my mother-in-law is gone.

  • London77

    lol. wrong. how can a child find their identity when their parents are forcing religion on them? 

  • dontunderstand

    i am so with u on this Kgsweet1….. my sixteen daughter has always talked to me about everythang.. we get aloneg great but my step mom who is the evil witch, and even my daughters dad, and my ex best friend .. all these keep in mind are running me in tha ground along now with my daughter.. and they believe her.. and its as if they want to hang out w her… my sixteen daughter. i tell her to not go no where and i get home and she has left.. and she says i dont have to listen to u.. i dont down none of these people. that are all adults.. but it is as if the gang up on me. i dont get it. simply because there was nothing wrong until my daughter called yelling at me for no reason. i dont know what to do… i really thank she may be doing drugs.. and i feel so hurt and helpless..

  • dontunderstand

    mine is the same way, but my daughter shows out, and u dont even hav to do nothing.

  • Glbroome

    My almost eighteen year old son hates everything about us. He only wants to do as he pleases and when we ask him to do anything he runs away. I don’t know where it is coming from, and he curses us, most of all it is causing problems with school, younger brother, and the other family.

  • TryingHard

    The wise parent doesn’t “force” religion on their children. They bring them up showing them how a relationship with the Lord can direct your life in a good way to help you be the person you want to be. Part of that is exposing them to it, certainly, but more of it comes from walking the talk. At the end of the day, you can’t force much on kids.

  • Christy

    I am struggling with this right now!! I have been a single mom for 10 years and now I am about to get married. My fiancé is great with her, he tells her how beautiful she is and how she needs to be herself. Don’t try to fight in. Be different. She doesn’t listen to us.

  • Juan

    I have a teen who has is struggling with my new marriage. He a great young man, but lately full of anger. He has blamed me for everything worng in his life, and shows no respect for me and our new home. His mom is the Disneyland mom so when I set boundaries and responsibilities he hates it and rather live with his mom I’m at my wits end.

  • Athena

    We have family meetings.( about monthly?) Each person gets to talk for one minute uninterrupted (whoever is holding the timer/object) . WE model sandwiching (say something uplifting, say what you are concerned about, say something else positive). everyone gets to be heard and we leave with action items – behavior to focus on or activity to schedule. WE also have family time weekly (besides dinner) where we play a game or activity. We aren’t perfect though and i have learned to live in the moment and keep expectations low. Not everything is MY way in a family…

  • Sunderbug

    I have 8 children 26-13. The first 3 went through teens and all was good. Then when teen number 4 hit 18 she suddenly presented a need for a whole new manual on raising children! Suddenly she balked at doing her chores ( dishes- she was also still In school) she was caught web- camping with strange men wearing her shirt so low- it left nothing to the imagination… She got a job after graduation- then stole her sisters car ( they worked together) during a break and went over to a newly met boyfriends house – and lost her virginity-moved out from home on my birthday in anger- moved in with bf 1 for many months, dumped bf 1 for bf 2 – a trucker, got pregnant, and within 3 months married him. She is now married to a man who has no job as he was drinking in his semi while driving and got caught. They live with his parents and he spends his nights playing black ops …he’s 26 and she is now 20 and hasn’t been to church since she left as he and his family are very anti-God anything. It was a year ago feb. that she left. And it is just recently that communication between us has begun in a fragile way… And she is due to date in 5 weeks.

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  • princess


  • Frustrated

    Hey, coming from a teen, I totally agree with the control thing, I keep printing out all these papers for her to read but she just doesn’t get it and tell me to shut up and that the way I act isn’t normal. My mother is constantly treating me like my 10 year old sister and I just want her to hear me out and it frustrates me so much that she doesn’t get it.

  • typical

    all children think their parents are overprotective. Even the ones with the most LAX parents

  • typical

    Stick to your guns. When it all falls apart your limits and boundaries will not be to blame. Just let him know he is loved no matter what, and he will always be welcome home as long as he respects your values and rules.

  • typical

    Pray. Love her and the new baby. Don’t speak about her bad decisions (she knows she made the wrong ones-or will very soon). Dont give her money or babysit all the time, but let her know you will always be there to be a shoulder to cry on, and will always be praying for her. I have one that rebelled, and after a year, she is back wanting to mend the relationship.

  • typical

    Let them know that you love them but will not tolerate abuse of any kind. Set boundaries with CLEAR repercussions. “You speak to me like that and you will stay home this weekend”. If they leave anyway, lock them out and leave a note on the door. Do NOTHING for them. No money, no clothes, no taking them anywhere. It is a powerplay…

  • Beverley Hohne

    We adopted a little girl aged 5 years. Everything was fine until she hit 14 – she then went completely off the rails and said she wanted to go into care as we were not her parents. She refuses do see us and is now aged 16 and worse than ever. we are not sure she will ever come back to us??

  • Anonymous

    Parents. Remember what it was like for you as an awekard hormonal teenager, trying to figure life out. It’s not easy and I think it’s even harder for teens in this generation especially in Christian homes. There is so much pressure coming from all directions and ” fitting in ” is harder than it used to be. Especially with all the social media. Finding your self in god, maybe the best thing to do but it’s the last thing we want to hear. We just need our parents to understand and listen to us instead if always being the one talking and forcing there religion down our throats. Let us find our relationship with god and stop showing how much you disapprove in us. We know when we screw up and sometimes we just need to let loose sometimes and experience life outside of our house and church… Maybe I’m wrong about this stuff but… I do know that kids who are raised with overprotective parents who never trust there kids… Often rebell. Just have understanding and grace as your teen goes through this sucky stage and remember that you aren’t perfect and you have made many mistakes. Sometime I feel godly parents can get on a high horse and forget how to get down.

  • Anonymous

    That’s because they usually are

  • Kiara

    You are amazing! I’m a teen and if my grandma and mother read this I feel growing up would be much easier!

  • just a teen

    I think your true identity is found in yourself. This is coming from a teen who has had no cause at all to rebel… And she does not believe in God. I mean, I’m not saying anything against God, but I think teenagers – and people in general – just want unconditional love, acceptance, and I guess meaning to their life, too. If they find that in God, great! But, parents, please don’t just rely on God to show your child the way. I need guidance from my parents. And, actually, being constantly preached to about God made me struggle with identity for the longest time.

  • joy

    my daughter just turned 16. she hates me and her step dad. we moved schools end of last year and she seems determined to stop schooling. she sulks then says we dont talk to her, asks her to keep off then she is upset we are off…

  • Facebook

    I tell my daughter that i love her and i miss her every. Even thou she tell me to stop texting.her father let this behavior goes. And we been divoirce for 9 years. And my ex rip my family from me. My oldest is. 13 and youngest is 11. He fill my daughter head. With llies. And made it look. Like i don’t matter. IV been fighting this since our divorce. In 2005. I been doing everything i can to. Show my oldiest daaughter I’m here for.but she don’t want to talk,or see for 9 months now. And she has. A hatefull attitude toward me. She laugh if I’m hurt.

  • justin

    im a teen whos gone through ur sons situation. the best thing u cand o is to just find the root behind his misbehavior, which in this case is most likey, him wanting the same amount of attention as b4 u were married. try n give him as much as u can, even if he starts to annoy u

  • Lorena Mariz

    My parents should read this…Though I am not rebelling against them. The problem is that, I get very very depressed of what they are telling me. Every time I go out with my friends, they think that I am flirting with a boyfriend and hiding something when I’M NOT. It hurts, when they say something to you that means like I am doing something wrong when I am with my friends. My friends are decent and I chose them. I have introduced them to my family as well. They are so overprotective. Please, I can’t stand typical teenagers who would only think about love and being wild. I am 16 years old, and I haven’t had any boyfriend yet. The thing is my family DON’T trust me. What should I do?

  • Lorena Mariz

    That’s right, but I am not rebelling against them. That’s something I cannot do. But instead I get very depressed. I throw out my anger not in the manner of drinking, smoking, cutting and all such. I kept it all in…a result of depression. Lately I’ve been thinking of being alone is better. This depression is constantly lingering me and everyday when I woke up I don’t have the urge to wake up and do something. I lost interest on my hobbies too.

  • momof2teens

    Although I am now raising teens, I remember the feeling that I was being accused long before anything (bad) ever occurred. i think part of this message simply comes from parents inadequacy when it comes to “helpful” communication. i often find myself “testing the waters” with a topic and it gets interpreted as an outright accusation. It’s frustrating for me too, but as a teen, I feel for you. My best suggestion is to always be truthful. If your behavior is trustworthy, share that with your parents… always let them know in a mature manner that you are seeking their trust. And if you get into a situation where you made a good choice, try sharing that. Thank them for their guidance. As parents, we are constantly wondering if we have done what we should. Now, because of my experience with my daughter, I again stress the importance of being honest. She will tell me “at least [she] is not doing what all the other teens are doing, when I know she has (pot in her room, pics of kissing boys, etc.) My intuition is very strong and I often knew things were going on while she was insisting they weren’t. That DID NOT help build trust.

    I hope for YOUR sake, you strive to continue to make good choices in your life. Mistakes are bound to happen, but you wont regreet making wise decisions.

  • dirk

    You’re children are going to rebel so badly

  • yashal

    im with you

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  • Tracy

    “Fathers, especially, need to let their daughters know they are beautiful inside and out. And they need to let their sons know they’ve got what it takes.”
    Dumb. Why not let daughters know they’ve got what it takes as well?

  • Ksmonterrosa

    These comments are from long ago, but I have something to say. I was once a rebel teen but I was raised with good principles and morals I was taught to respect myself and my neighbors I was taught that valuing myself was very important to dress in way that showd dignity to be honest and appreciative towards others. Teenagers like to feel that their in control especially when their friends and companions lives their life without limits or have parents that doesn’t have the time or day to hover over their teens. They want total freedom and they believe its ok to do as they desire as their heart moves them but the heart is treacherous and desperate and will hurt us if we use our hearts to make decisions rather than our mind or a trained conscience to do so than they will be able to see the bigger picture teens really don’t have to go through bad experiences to learn how to be wise. Example: one doesn’t need to get hit by a car to know that it is painful and life threatening. When we gain knowledge of Jehovah God principles and morals come along Gods word teaches us to discern from the wrong and the right but Gods standards are not the worlds standard and that is what makes it even more difficult for a teen to choose wisely…if we were to take in Gods knowledge and his wisdom their will be less teens suffering from depression low self esteems and less teen mommies. I’m now a mother of 3 and I had my kids during my rebel stages and I’m struggling to give it all that I can with the help of my God JEHOVAH and regardless if I’m a Christian or not as a parent in my house theirs rules principles and morals that will be respected cuz we’re the parents. Example: if we’re giving a driving lesson and we see that driver practicing is loosing control of the wheel we won’t just sit their and watch as he crashes and put not only his life at risk but others to we interfere adjust the wheel take control. Our teens need guidance and at time for us as parents to make radical decisions for them even when they don’t want us to that is our role as good parents and that is what God expects from us…

  • Lisa Serrano

    My daughter completely changed right when she turned 15. She’s almost 17 now but has put our family through so much. Drugs, sneaking out, partying, lying, stealing, etc. All she cares about is having fun and the “experience.” She always talks about how she cant wait till she turns 18 so she can leave the house and do as she pleases. Her father and I have tried everything… from getting a therapist, threatening to call the police, contracts, taking her car, etc. but she always finds a way and blames us for not giving her enough freedom. I simply cant keep up with her and I dont know what to do. Just last night I caught her sneaking in her window all drugged out on Xanax. She always promises that she wont do it again and that she will change but it keeps on happening. I dont know why she chooses to be so self destructive when she has everything she needs.

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill

    You are not alone in this struggle Lisa, unfortunately many teens are self destructive. I hope this series of articles will help open communication and understanding. http://www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/teens/conflict-with-your-teen/conflict-with-your-teen

  • bubbels

    parents should not be focusing any religion upon there child and should instead let the child know you are okay with whatever beliefs they go upon and, that is what teens want

  • Lotte

    How to handle a very disobidient teeanager? Please help

  • http://www.MarkMerrill.com/ Mark Merrill