Were you a rebellious teenager?
The stereotype of teenagers who don’t listen to their parents and push back against the rules they were raised with is a common one. It also isn’t entirely inaccurate. But the question that many parents need to ask is whether or not that rebellion is really that negative.
While that rebellion can sometimes be frustrating – possibly even dangerous – sometimes, their breaking the rules can also be a healthy sign of emerging adulthood.
Why Breaking the Rules Isn’t Always Bad
For young people learning to be adults, the task of developing their own identity separate from their parents’ is a difficult but crucial for them to move ahead in life. Teenagers breaking curfew or going to a concert their parents don’t approve of are beginning this process, assessing the guidelines their parents set for them to help them grow through childhood the way they thought was best, and deciding that some of them are not helpful for them.
Whether the teenager is right about discarding their parents’ rules or not, this behavior is practice for deciding how they want their life to look in the future.
It’s similar to the phase of development sometimes called the “Terrible Twos:” when young children frequently refuse to do what their parents want them to, even if they previously had no problem with, or even enjoyed, doing whatever it is. Like teenagers, they are crossing between significant developmental stages and exploring how they’re different people from other people. The only difference is that that stage is infant to child instead of child to adult.
Growth of Independence and Personal Responsibility
Of course, just as parents don’t immediately abandon their child in the middle of the “Terrible Twos,” (even if their actions are frustrating), parents of teenagers shouldn’t completely separate from their child in their search for independent identity.
Instead, young adults should carve out their own path in the world with the support of and knowledge from their parents. This, along with the skills and knowledge gained from their own life experiences, are vital in establishing independence as a young adult.
Also vital for emerging young adults is the full understanding that they are responsible for themselves in a way they weren’t even as teenagers. Parents, of course, have a big impact on their children’s development, affecting how those children live their lives as adults.
But eventually, we all become responsible for the choices we make and the actions we take. If you hurt someone or make a bad decision, it’s something you alone have done. This can be a little scary, but it’s just a part of building your life on your own terms, a goal that’s ultimately more fulfilling than following other people’s rules for you your whole life.
As both parents and teenagers, it is useful to recognize that this change is taking place and see how your role has changed within it. If you find yourself struggling and are looking for help, contact Long Island Psychologist Dr. Marc Shulman, today.