All children rebel. And if you don’t believe this fact, then you’ve never raised a two year old. It’s called the ‘terrible twos’ for a reason, after all. The toddler wants to assert his own rights and does so by challenging authority. My niece, who I adore, does so at the top of her lungs. I can’t wait until she turns three. But I also wonder how she will begin to challenge authority later in life. How will she rebel when she is a teenager and she has access to money and a car? It makes me worry. Still, every person goes through puberty and most come through unscathed. But parents need to know why teenagers rebel and how they might rebel, in order to be prepared.
The causes of teenage rebellion aren’t that complex. In order to become fully-functional adults, children need to separate themselves from dependency on adults. They need to assert themselves as grown human beings with thoughts and ideas of their own, that may be different from the generation that came before them. This is a normal part of development and can appear in two different types. Teenagers can rebel against society (non-conformity rebellious acts) or against adult authority (non-compliance rebellious acts) on either a large or small scale.
I’m sure when I became vegetarian at age sixteen, my parents saw this as an act of teenage rebellion. I was rejecting their views on animal rights, cooking, and diet and branching off on my own. Of course, this act of rebellion was not highly worrisome as it did not harm myself or others. But rebellious acts are simply anything out of the norm. A Christian child who stops going to church can be viewed as rebellious. An A+ student who stops studying can also be seen as rebelling. Other rebellious acts can be more extreme however. These actions can include sexual promiscuity, drugs, gambling, crime, skipping school, smoking, or suicide attempts.
The effects of teenage rebellion can be both positive and negative. Acting against the norm can help an individual find themselves, by branching out in new areas and discovering what they want to do with their life. They can help learn about their own values, gain new friendships, and discover talents. But the flaw in teenage rebellion is that sometimes, as Carl E. Pickhardt states, teenagers “can rebel against their own self-interests.” Since the human brain doesn’t finish developing until age 25 – long after adolescence – teenagers can’t always see the consequences of their own actions. They might end up ‘sacrificing their future self’ by ending up with a criminal record, an eating disorder, an addiction, or even a pregnancy.
Thus parents have a difficult duty during the teenage years. They need to give their adolescent time and room to explore and grow, without giving up all parental controls. Teenagers should be allowed to make some mistakes, but not ones that will affect their future in a negative way.