5 Reasons Why Your Teen is Rebelling


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.

  • Daera B. Dee Rarua

    My son got so drunk one night and wanted to charge at me because i was so upset… But I thank God that that evening My Silence was so very Helpful that tamed him so down regardless of all the bad words he used on me and also which made him realise and was weeping very hard with a hundred apologies….

  • Daera B. Dee Rarua

    Very True Indeed… We must love our children the way they are… and yes we are only parents to guide them in the right track… But true discipline must start from us, we must model properly in order for our children to follow… Not tell them to do the right thing and yet we are still doing the wrong!

  • duckie

    I don’t know why I keep breaking their rules, but it hurts so badly when I see I’ve caused them disappointment. It’s just that the leash is so short, it feels like I’m being set up for failure.

  • Crystal Clear to Me Now

    duckie – If you care enough to be crushed when you see you’ve hurt them, then you know that they institute boundaries out of love and for your protection; not to frustrate you. I remember for myself and then seeing it in my own kids, we had one face for our folks and another for our friends. When forced to choose, the friends typically won. I wonder if it was because we knew our folks would love us even if we hurt them. You will be an adult far longer than you will be a minor. It’s important that a good foundation is set. One of my sons met his now best friend because the friend was not going to a party where he knew there would be drinking. My son hung out with him instead and they are best friends still at almost 30. Maybe someone secretly needs you to set the bar!

  • danger

    I look at it as putting up bricks between the parents and the kids every time they disagree on something, and bricks make walls. Why would anybody want to put walls between you and your kids or viscera?

  • Solmon’s tongue

    Well you act as if you are perfect, doctor. As well as acting like you know what it is like now. Your day and time is long dead. Not everything can be analyzed by scientific and scholarly knowledge. Rebellion is our forced way to show individuality from the decrepit social standards of your decadent past. By midnight tonight I will have turned 17 years old. I have lived sixteen years repressing my likes because of not fitting in, and with a hellish rage the internet became the outlet to spread my message not of rebellion, but of courage and inspiration

  • Jean Yeo

    I dun know why… but I do know that I’m in rebellious state. it’s like when they start nagging, you just get very annoyed and think they don’t love you etc. like they show love to your older siblings other than you. you get the feeling that you start to hate this family more and more. when they started to say things like confiscating our phone, it makes us get the feeling they they want to gain control over us…
    she will only threaten me by crying and say I don’t love her at all. How is it that I have to keep showing my love when I myself don’t feel any love from her?
    She will only praise my older sibling and praise other kids. yet me? she will only say I’m just a lazy pig when I feel that for this year, I gone out every single day just to study. and when I go out, she give that kind of suspicious feeling towards me.
    she doesn’t trust me at all. I just feel that I want to be in a quiet place, peaceful place, place where she understands me, give me encouragement whenever I need, give me a sense of trust, don’t keep using confiscate phone as threat. that’s all I feel I want.

  • Reed

    MB, My heart breaks for you and your family. But I am so encouraged by your response to surrender this situation to God. It’s not an easy thing to do. I will pray for you and for the strength to continue to give this up to God each and every day. I will pray for a door to open that will allow for healthy communication between you and your daughter and her father.
    And I will pray for God to transform your daughter’s heart—that her eyes may be open to your great love for her and that she may seek you out to rekindle a relationship with you. Thank you for sharing your story. Keep on keeping on. And during this time of waiting, I encourage you to pray without ceasing for your daughter. This blog might be of some
    help! http://www.susanme.com/pray-or-panic/

  • Amy

    MB –

    Praying for your prodigal daughter to return home. And that you will be able to receive her with an open heart and open arms. http://www.markmerrill.com/forgiveness-its-not-what-you-think

    “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

    Psalm 34:18 (NIV)


    You might find this podcast helpful as well. http://www.markmerrill.com/loving-your-child-through-teenage-rebellion-podcast.

  • jb

    so true…

  • Michael lubangco

    My parents always discourage me,and physicaly/emotionaly hurts me that’s why now I’m wasted

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Aw, sorry 🙁 You’re clearly her parents, but she’s probably just feeling sad about how she ended up being given up for adoption and is wondering who she is (genetically) and where she came from. How do you feel about letting her do DNA testing with a company like 23andMe, so she can try to get in touch with her birthparents or other blood relatives?

  • Not Now

    I’m so lost on which of the 5 reasons my 18 year old falls into, there is some of all she is doing. Moved out, staying out all night, hanging with a bad crowd in dangerous areas, very nasty and hateful, thinks we are an atm. She also has an adult encouraging her behavior.

  • Jeff

    depression is a spirit. the enemy will you it to isolate you. we bind it and him in Jesus Name walk in freedom…

  • Peachy

    So I have a brother. I don’t know what to do with him already. He’s 11 years old while I’m 17. Our parents work far away from us, I mean, abroad. Its hard to live without parents but I survived. Lol ? So, I do not know how to be a parent but I guess I have too. My brother is my responsibility and I love him even though I’m not that showy. I’m really confused where all his bad behaviors are coming from. Is it from the genes? Or was this all because of me? Years ago, I usually pinch him or something when he is misbehaving. But I stopped doing that unless he is disrespecting other people which is really very shameful. I am very moody and I easily get angry which is why its also kind of hard to control myself in these kind of situations. I have a feeling its because of me but I also have a feeling that he just needs attention. I am trying to help him change to be a better human being but he’s not helping himself. I really don’t know what to do anymore. He even disrespected my mom when all she did was to give us anything we like, be it material stuff or not. He only listens to himself and he feels that he is right all the time. He doesn’t like to be told that he is wrong.

  • Peachy

    Typo *to.

    And now, I don’t hurt him physically anymore. But instead, I cry and talk to him. If I get too angry and frustrated, I have the tendency to cry. So yep.

  • Jess

    Maybe teens rebel because there is a lack of understanding on the parents part. Sometimes communication is an issue as well. I grew up being called a slut, fat ass, and useless by my father, grandmother and aunt. Everyone that I’ve met who went through the rebellious phase like me had similar bad home situations. The more they called me names, the more angry I got. I never did drugs or partied or even had sex but I got screamed at every time I forgot to do the dishes or my laundry. Then we found out I have short term memory problems from being hit so much and kicked in the head. Maybe, depending on the situation, the parents need to evaluate them selves. If you are calling your kid useless or a whore, or like my grandma did, yelled at me that I need to go stand on a street corner because that’s where I belong, you need to take a good look at yourself. That’s probably why your kid hates you. You can be gentle with th emotions yet firm at the same time. Discipline is different than cruelty.

  • Jade Brunet

    I have often wondered why teenage years are so difficult. Thank you for informing me that this rebellious stage is partially caused by a struggle for identity. For those going through particularly hard times, it would be wise to seek professional help for a brighter future.

  • anonymous pt. 2

    omg. chill out princess. no need to get so excited.

  • anonymous part 3

    Thats so true. Princess needs to take a chill pill.

  • bimonics

    at an early teen age I think they act out this concept, “I can do what I want and there is nothing you can do about it”. Later teens add, “I am the best judge of my own thoughts, choices, and behaviour”. As issues arise, one must acknowledge verbalize these to the teen and hold a simple, firm line with regard to law and household rules including consequences …


    Oh yes


    Well said Daera since I am going through just that now, with my once beloved son whom I’d give my life to instantly. When he was 13 he still adored Daddy but now, at 15 he has become a robot … high grades at school because my EX thinks he is at University hence he studies all the time. I graduated from 2 Universities in Ontario plus 2 colleges and so, she Spanish while I am British Isles, wants to upstage me on every front. If I were to die she love nothing more however, since I believe in the physical Miracles of Jesus the son of God, there must be something coming up for my Adam and me? When he told me on the 27th on Skype, that they don’t celebrate Christmas, I became angry which caused him to shut down our Skyping. He and I were as close as a father and son could be back on a wilderness park north of Kingston (Frontenac Park) with a chale home and we collected all creatures of God as if they were family. I have 5 years of home videos to prove this. Puberty has taken over and so Adam is identifying with his 5 friends who are all Asian because apparently he has some Asian blood after his so called Mom had a gene test. She will do anything to send me into a spiraling abyss. She deems New Years to be thee day whereas Christmas, not even a tree let alone gift and God forbid, church? I keep trying to bring him back to Skype yet off and on he checks in ignoring my comments, texts, and phone calls. This has never happened before. You are a black lady IF that picture is of you … I’ve engaged with ppl from all over this planet and find I am closest to those of ethnic origin due to their belief system in God; Muslims included but, I find Asian ppl to be hmm … well, their belief system is all about knowledge from Universities. I see those institutions as the Garden of Eden’s tree of knowledge with the devil throughout just like the snake tempting Eve. This is why also KNOW Women’s Studies is a cancer that younger generations have been affected by so much so that many men will not commit to a relationship for fear that the feminist baseball bat will come down on their skulls fracturing their lives ESPECIALLY IF a child is involved.

  • Ryan

    i am a teen that actually is going through a step father step son relationship that has been going on for quite a few years. I want him to listen to what I have to say but he calls everything I say BS or a lie. How do I break through because whatever I do is not enough for him. We have even gotten into a few physical fights but not to serious. Its only when he just doesn’t care for where I go even running away he has lied. He says he doesn’t care. Yet he gets everyone involved. I just want to be away from him but can’t. Please help me.

  • Susan Cochrane

    Hi Frustrated, it’s now 4 years later and I wonder how you’re doing. I was thinking to myself as I read your post, “Wow, this teen is awesome! They have an issue, and then research for solutions, and then share the info with their mom! I bet when this person gets on the other side of the situation, they’re going to be fine.” Well, teens are going through all kinds of changes and parents get stuck in sort of a rut sometimes and just want to keep the status quo. Ie: Keep their loving, compliant child. And not hear any new info. We all get harder to change as we get older, that’s true. I hope that that good trait that you have of looking for solutions is serving you well today!

  • Thea Abigail

    Teenagers rebel because they are self destructive. They are self destructive because they are angry. They are angry at who? At their parents! Why are they angry at their parents? It stems from resentment from when they were children. Their parents didn’t make them feel loved and respected, and now they have low self esteem. Why did they not feel loved or respected? For the following reasons that the parents caused: Lack of physical affection, lack of praise, lack of positive words and compliments, too much criticism, lack of discipline, neglect either physically or emotionally, physical abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, and punishment instead of discipline. It can be a couple of these things, or it can be all of them. You will know by the severity of the rebellion. Even if you were nice and respectful, yet you overly spoiled them, and didn’t discipline them, that can still affect kids emotionally, and cause them to rebel as teenagers. Remember, discipline is the highest form of love! So, stop blaming your teenagers and start taking personal responsibility! You are the ones that raised them! I cannot believe the amount of parents who actually think that they have no fault in this. Parents are quick to take credit for their kid’s success, but not for their failures. You are hurt because your child now doesn’t respect you, or make you feel loved? It is because YOU didn’t make them feel respected and loved! Stop blaming them and start apologizing to them to mend your relationship. Own up to your part. After all that you have put them through that caused the rebellion in the first place, on top of everything, you still keep making them feel horrible by making them feel that they are a bad person and that there is something wrong with them. You are further destroying their self esteem. It is no wonder why so many young people commit suicide! I also recommend that you have them take the 5 love languages test for teenagers. It is online, just Google it. This will let you know in which ways to accurately show love to your teenager. They need love. They are testing you to see how much you love them. They don’t get enough attention from you, so they settle with getting negative attention. That is why they are acting out. Good luck.

  • IntegrityIsEverything

    I was that angry rebellious teen. My mom had an affair when I was in grade school, married the guy, who proceeded to take it upon himself to do all the physical disciplining right away. By time I hit my teens, my parents had bad talked all authority figures from bosses to pastors to the ticket writing police officer. I was held accountable for my younger siblings actions. There was so much going on there that I could not effectively articulate then. But overall, my mom and step-father did not live with integrity. In reality, while I was not doing what they wanted me to, I was actually totally submitted to the rebellious tone they set in the home. I thought they were unfair just like they had of their authority figures. They cut off anyone that would hold them accountable, so I was primed to denounce them when they wanted to hold me accountable. I was premiscous just like they had had an affair and made light of it for years thereafter. I was angry in the same way they were angry with me when I didn’t do what they wanted, except I did not hit them. And I was dishonest just like I had watched them be for years. I judged them in all their flaws as they had put me in a box and I had heard them judge everyone else and gossip for years.

    My point is that while I was behaving in a way I knew I shouldn’t, it was in fact in the spirit in which my parents lived their lives, they just didn’t like it done towards them. I left home at 17. Pregnant. I married at 18 and had our first child shortly thereafter. But you know what happened within a year of being out of the house? My husband and I hungered for stability and integrity and we began to seek God with only the basic Sunday School teaching we retained from our childhoods before our parents left their church. God has been overwhelmingly gracious to us. He showed how and why we were wrong for our rebellious ways regardless of our parents actions. It says a lot to me that we sought God shortly after being on our own. Were we rebellious? Absolutely. I don’t know how things would have been if our parents had more integrity but at every point I was wrong, it resembled the spirit or actual actions of my parents. Not only do teens want to find their identity, but they want to identify with people they can respect. If that is not the parent, there may be just 1% of a reason why and it needs to be owned up to and repented of or it is non-sensical to expect integrity and grace from them. I have watched too many parents play the victim when their very perspectives are reflected in their child’s behaviour that they dislike. They didn’t overcome it so their children are faced with overcoming it, often to a more intense degree.

  • AngelHorseMomMD223

    This post of yours is several years old but I will be praying for you & your kiddos. You are very wise for your years and should be proud of the changes you’ve made & the person you’ve become. May G-d continue to bless your journey & guide your steps. Blessings!

  • AngelHorseMomMD223

    This info is quite helpful. My 13yr old is in the rebellion lying bad decisions phase. And because his father & I were divorced many years ago, he’s chosen to run off to his dads rather than face the consequences of his actions at home. Unfortunately for my kiddo he will learn you cannot run away from your problems & the messes he’s made at school with bad behavior & grades will catch up to him no matter who’s home he’s in. I can only hope and pray that this ends well as his dad has no patience for anyone interfering with his free time nor does he have any idea what’s really been going on or what he’s getting into. He’s enjoyed being kept in the dark and just being mister fun guy these last 12 years. I’m terribly frustrated & upset that I now don’t get to parent, I can’t help when I’m not there, I can only pray & try not to excessively worry.

  • Sky

    I’m actually the rebellious teen, not the parent of one. I feel like my parents don’t love me. My biological father walked out about a decade ago, and I feel like my mom’s favorite child is my younger brother (13 month age gap), and my step-dad’s favorite is his own son. I feel unwanted and I don’t know how to deal with it. I guess my rebellion is how I deal with it? So they’re forced to give me attention, even if it’s negative. My rebellion isn’t light either; I got a secret tattoo a couple days ago in a sketchy place, held on to my friends’ illegal drugs, and snuck out to hang out with boys. I just don’t know what to do with myself. Please help.

  • Been There

    Sky – First of all, I’m really sorry you are feeling unloved. I’m sure it’s not true at all. Maybe your mom spends more time and effort on your brother because he is the baby. She might feel like you’ve got most things under control and you have shown that you are mature, intelligent and trustworthy (?), so she focuses on him. Mom’s are grateful for kids that are self-sufficient enough to take some of the burden off of them. It’s kind of a sideways compliment, and she may not realize she is doing it. I would say talk with her and let her know how you feel and that you still need her. This is what I hear when I read your post: I’m smart. But no one seems to be noticing me, so who even cares what I do? Well, I felt similar when I was your age, hiding things I did that I would have hated for my mother to discover. If one person had said “you are better than this, you have to stop doing that”, I would have! I felt like I had no cheerleader in my corner. (My parents were divorced but there were five of us, which would be daunting for her having to provide, and him, not being able to provide. There really was nothing left of her to nurture much.) I’m married now with grown children, waiting for grandchildren to arrive. Life for me now is good, but could have been better if I hadn’t ‘shot myself in the foot’ in my younger years. I think about things I almost did. Two words for you today: Sowing and Reaping. You can’t expect to continue to do these things and not suffer any consequences. Some consequences could be life-altering (prison, teen-age pregnancy, etc.). You may be trying to hurt your mom, and you will if you continue, but you are also hurting yourself. Your now self, and your future self. Are you on the verge of doing something that would change the trajectory of your life, and not towards anything good? Talk to your mom. Give her a chance to make it right. Don’t assume she knows how you feel. AND, find things to do that are exciting for you but don’t potentially get you into trouble! Volunteer somewhere that you can get your hands into something that you enjoy doing (a stable caring for horses, community theater or chorus, reading to little kids at the library… okay maybe not great ideas for you, but you get the picture!) My heart goes out to you. You are smarter than this!

  • sacleveland

    Okay but what if biblical commandments and rules about identity themselves put strain on the relationship? As a college student, my relationship with my mother greatly improved when she STOPPED asking me to conform to the church’s culture.
    For me it was femininity. I hated my long hair. The dresses I had to wear every Sunday. The very limited number of roles I could fill in church. The encouragement to be more submissive. To not talk to the boys and to make friends with the girls. I hated it I hated it I hated it so much and I didn’t understand why God wanted me to be so /weak/ and /submissive/ and /replaceable/. And I resented my mother’s wishes for me to be like that.
    We got along much better when we stopped going to church and I could finally be boyish.
    Then again I don’t have much of a relationship with God now. I’m happier though.

    So. Don’t know what to say about your advice.

  • natasha

    i have a 14 yr old son that was so bright in school and now he is just the opposite of being good in ,he just has this i don care attitude and no matter hoe much we try and reason with him by laying the card down for him ,he just does not budge.

    over the past two years he has just dropped drastically so we tried a method out at home to see if he was having a difficulty learning.we discovered that the bright spark in him was still there ,he did not want to make the effort in actually learning or even studying on him own.
    if he is not asked or told to do something he will not even bother.

    another things is he lis allot and we cant understand y he does that.

    my son will never ask questions regarding school work instead he is rather interested in things that does not relate to his education.he wants to be a navy marine which i know really requires him to study well and pass all grades well.
    we currently looking for a place for high school for next year but it worries me that he will just become worse.

    he does not drink or smoke like normal kids his age would start experimenting out.
    i really need advise or help???????????

  • guestss

    As a teenager, I can personally say my rebellion was caused due to never being listened to, and being yelled at without chance to explain. My theory became: well if they’re going to be mad anyway, I may as well do the things I want to. Also I was tired of my parents always making it about them. If I’m acting out, maybe it’s about how I feel??

  • Clarence Biddle

    She will be 20 shortly Started hanging out with a guy. Now rebels, staying out all night, slept in her car, says she’s been sheltered, needs her freedom. All of a sudden. Wasn’t raised this way and we have gave space and freedom.. We don’t know why she is suddenly turning on us

  • Paul lytle

    On more reason inconsistency ifor you aren’t clear and flip flop and expect them to know unarticulated rules surefire for rebellion also behaving in and overprotective manor especially if for instance all their friends can go to the movies but they can’t that can kick it off

  • Scarlet

    my parents put restrictions on everything! it’s frustrating and i can’t do anything without a time limit or anything. I’m 15 and i don’t have a phone yet. I”M DYING. i want to rebel so bad but my parents have so much force upon me. i need help plz…..

  • anonym

    So right, I am kinda rebelling but also understanding, I understand that I love my father and he loves me, and wants everythIng good for me, but It’s very hurtful sometimes. Everytime he starts arguing and “angry-advicing”(how I call it) that “world is difficult and you need to fit in.” Can you imagine? While other parents are struggling to keep their childrens identities alive and not lose it just to fit certain groups, my father tries to put me in a box, he says that I am “girly boy” and I should stop becoming friends with girls, one time he even yelled at me just because he thought that I was gay, although I am not. Probably he dislikes me for being different from him. I am way more liberal, while he is conservative. He is not acting very aggressive usually, but sometimes when he does I am very scared, I am scared to grow my hair, scared to buy certain trousers. I want to learn In american university, as I have great grades, know English well and have as technical mind, also artistic, because I love painting, drawing. I am usually scared that he’ll go passive, which I think is more hurtful than being aggresive, sometimes he acts like he is more disappointed of me than me of him, or even ruin my life and not let me graduate in USA or even not let me graduate in my own country, I know that I am wrong, but I always have this feeling. everytime I take phone in my hands, he becomes very strict that phone is very bad, while I only take phone in hands for no more than half a hour a day, I don’t even have time, I study, I do my hobbies (writing books, painting, drawing, reading scientific articles). Sometimes he becomes desperate and starts trying to talk to me as I was his closest friend, but how can I talk when sometimes he’s hurting me so much, I never talk to him about myself, only to my mother. I understand that he wants good for me and tries to get close to me, but I just can’t, even if I wanted very much, I can’t. I don’t know what to do, I am planning to write down my emotions and leave a notebook open, so maybe he will read? I know that I am teenager and I am overreacting some things, but I also understand that I am not that stupid to react on nonsense.

  • Youtuber

    …sorry but there are plenty of Atheists here.

  • thetruth

    You need to loosen the reins!!!!! Do not try to control your rebel teen by creating a bunch of restrictions. This will only make your teen want to rebel more. They are not little kids anymore and they want to grow up and be free.

  • not_here

    Personally, I think “rebelling” is just an exaggerated way to demonize the normal struggles that one faces as a teen. Sure, most teenagers will engage in acts that are potentially dangerous and serious- like drinking, smoking, taking drugs, performing crime, etc. However, as a chill teenager that does none of these things, I can say that the most infuriating thing is that parents/teachers/adults will never be satisfied with how are you coping this journey of self-discovery, and most of the times even criticize you by comparing their own experiences to yours. Even though they restrict your freedom by treating you like a child, they still expect you to behave and act maturely in randomly specific instances and then “act your age”… it is just too confusing and exhausting. Most of the time, parents just chose not to understand their child’s concerns or need of space, framing it as “bad behavior” or “loss of innocence” that must be corrected. If you’re going to be criticized either way, then it is better to act as you please and be at peace with yourself, as long as you respect yourself and others.