Rolling eyes, slamming doors, and angry words. Sound familiar? If so, you may have a teenage rebellion on your hands. The teen years can be difficult because of adolescents’ general moodiness, heightened emotions, and rebellious behavior.
Why can parenting teens be so hard sometimes? To understand why your teen might be rebelling, you first need to understand more about the teenage brain.
The Teenage Brain
Two major areas of the brain play a role in rebellious teenage behavior:
- Amygdala – The amygdala is linked to emotions, aggression, and impulsivity. The most common example of the amygdala at work is the body’s fight-or-flight response. This part of the brain is responsible for immediate reactions, such as fear and aggression.
- The prefrontal cortex – The prefrontal cortex sits in the front of the brain, behind the eyes. This section of the brain is linked to executive functioning skills, which include planning and problem solving, self-control and emotional regulation, and the ability to focus and consider consequences and the future to make long-term goals.
Infancy and childhood are crucial periods of brain growth, and some parts of the brain continue neural development into the second decade of life. Although the growth of the amygdala peaks between ages 9 and 11, research indicates that the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain associated with critical thinking that regulates the amygdala, does not fully develop until the age of 25. As a result, the teenage brain relies on the unregulated amygdala for processing and behavior. In other words, the part of the brain that lets us think before we act isn’t fully developed in teenagers, which is why their behavior is often guided by emotions and reactions.
What might this mean for you as a parent? A rebellious teen.
Help Your Child Through Teenage Rebellion
Even though your teen’s brain doesn’t make it easy for them to think through decisions, you can and should still set boundaries and rules. However, try to be patient. Just because the reasoning behind your rules makes sense to you, doesn’t mean your teen is understanding it the same way. Teen brains are not adult brains.
The best thing you might be able to do when dealing with a rebellious teen is to support them as their brains develop. Listen and try to understand how your teen feels and show an active interest in their hobbies. Encourage your child to make healthy choices, such as eating a well-balanced diet, getting enough physical activity, and prioritizing quality sleep.
Keep an Eye Out for Dangerous Extremes
While some amount of angst and teenage rebellion is common, keep an eye on your teen to make sure they’re OK. Mental health is incredibly important because the amygdala plays such a critical role in your teen’s brain.
Depression is increasing in American teens, and girls are nearly three times as likely than boys to develop depression, according to the Pew Research Center. Depression can be dangerous, especially when left untreated. To determine if your teen might be experiencing depression, watch out for:
- Changes in weight
- Lack of interest in things that used to bring them joy
- Prolonged sadness
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Withdrawal from friends or family
Talk with a Professional
A pediatric primary care provider at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana can help determine the cause if your teen’s rebellious behavior seems extreme. Help is also available through St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s behavioral health services.