The teen years can be stressful and trying for both parents and teenagers. During the this period, children are becoming more independent and learning to assert themselves. They defy parental authority and find themselves engaged in conflict with their parents as they express their own opinions. Teens are dealing with peer pressure, as well as parental pressure, and are searching to find their own identities. Although there is no definitive guide to raising teenagers, it helps for parents to be patient and communicate honestly with their teens.
Defining Normal Behavior
Defining "normal" teen behavior can be difficult, but no one knows your teenager better than you. Teens experience a range of emotions that can have them behaving in a variety of ways. They are stuck in an awkward spot between childhood and adulthood, and as they struggle to find their place in the world, they may act rebellious. Being rebellious or defiant is typical teen behavior and usually nothing to worry about, since most teens generally adapt to changing hormones and circumstances as they grow and mature.
Freedom of Expression
You may object to the ways your teen chooses to express herself. For instance, teens may choose to dress, wear their hair or use makeup in ways that parents find inappropriate. However, when teens choose to be different in some way, it is often an attempt to gain attention or figure out where they fit in. It is often a way for them to stand up for their freedom and express their individuality. The more parents object, the more likely teens are to do exactly the opposite of what their parents want. KidsHealth.org recommends choosing your battles: worry more about serious issues, such as drugs, and less about harmless expressions, such as wild hair dye.
Typical Teen Behavior
There are certain problems that most parents of teenagers have to face eventually. Common issues include staying out past curfew, hanging around with a crowd you don't approve of and being overly emotional. Teenagers tend to think they are adults and should have the same privileges as adults. However, they often don't display the level of responsibility that would go along with such privileges. You may become frustrated and "preach" at your teen, only prompting more defiant and argumentative behavior. WebMD.com suggests trying not to criticize your teen's friends. However, you can talk to your teen and voice any concerns you have about harmful behavior, such as drinking or drugs, without accusing or referring directly to her friends. If your teen cries or becomes angry over every aspect of her life, don't try to tell her how to feel. Her problems may seem trivial to you, but they are important to her. Listen to her and be the shoulder she needs to lean on.
It is important to have realistic expectations for your teen's behavior, but some amount of conflict is inevitable. Although you may have a very well-behaved and responsible teenager, you should avoid setting standards so high that you set your teen up for failure. For instance, a perfectionist or very strict parent may have such unrealistic expectations that she will be disappointed with her child's behavior even when the teenager is doing his best to live up to parental expectations.
Be consistent with rules and discipline. If your teen breaks a rule, such as staying out after curfew, follow through with the punishment for breaking that rule. Let your teen experience the consequence of his own behavior. When he demonstrates that he can handle a certain level of responsibility, then you can extend his curfew. Talk to your teen about safety issues and make sure he understands why certain rules and disciplinary actions are in place in your home.
Reasons for Concern
Teenage behavior may be selfish, demanding or defiant, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is abnormal. For instance, it is typical for teens to be curious about sex due to their maturing bodies and increasing hormone levels. However, there are some signs that may indicate a behavior problem. Consistently poor grades, lack of concentration and skipping school may indicate a behavior problem. It may be reason for concern if a teen regularly displays angry outbursts, aggressive behavior or outwardly defies parental or other authority figures. Physical symptoms such as changes in appetite or sleep patterns can indicate a psychological or physical health problem. Consult a professional if your teen suffers from depression, substance abuse or exhibits dangerous thrill-seeking behavior.
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