Teenage Rebellion

Teenage Rebellion

by Don Jacobsen

Question: Dr. Don, our 13-year old is beginning his teenage rebellion early. We talked to him about it a couple of nights ago and he let us know that as a teen he feels he is entitled to some freedom. So he has begun staying out past the curfew we gave him, he only does certain chores that he doesn’t mind doing, and he often talks very disrespectfully to both his dad and me. Do we just let this behavior run its course or should we somehow deal with it?

Reply: Your son is right, of course. As a teenager he should be getting more freedom than he did when he was eight or eleven. But the part of the equation he hasn’t figured out yet is that he thinks he can get freedom by rebellion. Fact is, freedom for a 13-year old is not an entitlement, freedom is more like a kind of pay check. The more you work to prove you deserve it, the more of it you get. Furthermore, the more rebellion he displays the more he is demonstrating that he is in fact not yet ready for self-management.

I would also like to re-frame your question a little. You talk about his "beginning his teenage rebellion early," as though you have determined that rebellion is a period he must pass through in order to move on to adulthood. Let me try to give you a different look at that process. It is the parents’ job to set boundaries and establish rules; it is the child’s job to test those limits. This is where it is reinforced that someone is in charge in the family, and it isn’t him. In the next half dozen years or so he will be making virtually all of the decisions about his life. So today is rehearsal for the real world. We give him additional freedoms so he can show that he is learning to use good judgment, make wise choices, exercise common sense, and ask for counsel when he needs it.

When he does something that is, well, childish, we reel in his rope just a little, explain why he now loses some of the privileges he had, that we’re going to start over with a clean slate, and that we want him to have the freedoms back as quickly as he demonstrates that he can handle them. You know what? He’ll actually be relieved.

REBLOGGED: Don Jacobsen is Administrator and Dean of Coaches for the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Institute. Don is a Certified Master Coach, author, educator, syndicated newspaper columnist, and clergyman; his third book, "Rare Kids; Well Done," was recently released. He is also a member of the American Christian Leadership Council. Visit his website at http://rarekidswelldone.com/

Article ©2014 Don Jacobsen