Friday, 3 November 2017

Adolescent rebellion: It’s the poster characteristic of the teenager years

It's the poster characteristic of the teenager years: adolescent rebellion. And it's one that causes many conflicts with parents.
Two common types of rebellion are against socially fitting in (rebellion of non-conformity) and against adult authority (rebellion of non-compliance.) In both types, rebellion attracts adult attention by offending it.
The young person proudly asserts individuality from what parents like or independence of what parents want and in each case succeeds in provoking their disapproval. This is why rebellion, which is simply behavior that deliberately opposes the ruling norms or powers that be, has been given a good name by adolescents and a bad one by adults.
Serious rebellion typically begins at the outset of adolescence, and when it does many parents think this opposition is against them. They are usually mistaken. Rebellion is not against them; it is only acted out against them.
Rebellion at this age is primarily a process through which the young person rejects the old child identity that he or she now wants to shed to clear the way for more grown up redefinition ahead. Rebellion at this early adolescent age proclaims: "I refuse to be defined and treated as a child any more!" Now he knows how he doesn't want to be, but he has yet to discover and establish how he does want to be.
How should parents respond to strong rebellion at this stage? When requests are met with delay, use patient insistence to wear down resistance. And try to move the early adolescent from acting out to talking out. Begin by asking, "can you help me better understand what you need?" See if you can get the young person to put their feelings into words. Having been given a full hearing and having had his or her say, the young person may now be more inclined to let parents have their way.
In mid adolescence, during the late middle school and early high school years, most rebellion is about creating needed differentiation to experiment with identity and needed opposition to gather power of self-determination.
When parents feel hard-pressed by these acts of rebellion (breaking social rules, running with wilder friends, for example) they are best served by allowing natural consequences to occur and by repeatedly providing positive guidance. They do this by continually making statements about, and taking stands for, choices that support constructive growth.
Each time they do so, they provide the young person a fresh choice point to cooperatewith them. Particularly when rebellion pushes hardest, as it usually does in mid adolescence, it is the responsibility of parents to keep communicating a reference that will guide the young person down a constructive path of growing up. In the words of one veteran parent who had shepherded two adolescents through periods of high rebellion, "what it takes is the gentle pressure of positive direction relentlessly applied."
Excerpts from the article by Carl. E. Pickhardt in Psychology Today


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