Why do teens act the way they do?

Recently I have worked with a lot of teens and many parents of teens who all finds life difficult.

Honestly, teens are really struggling and feeling lost in a world they have trouble understanding, and they have found a way to protect themselves.

They act out angrily!

Sounds familiar?

Ok the teens I worked with, did not say they wanted to protect themselves but when you talk to them, they feel unheard, transparent, uncertain…. in short, vulnerable.

When one feels vulnerable, they will project anger, because anger is strength.

The other things they do is react against the rules of their parents.

Because parents have those “strict” rules or ideas, or whatever and it is “not cool” to be like your parents, when you are trying to become your own person…

Sounds familiar?


If we look at this situation from the 6 human needs’ perspective, one can see that there are different phases in the development journey of a young human being.

Up until teen agers year, kids will receive safety/connection and significance from their parents. It is a steady constant, which allows them to strive and develop.

Then when teenager years happen, they are thrown in a world of changes.

Their body changes, their mood changes, their world changes (school, friends, relationship,…).

Everything is up in the air, and for some, it can become too much. They get really thrown by all those changes, those uncertainties. They feel vulnerable, because for the first time, the parents/protectors can not help with that transition. Not really, anyway.

  • Some kids will embrace the changes and seek even more changes, adventures and dangers, which the parents feel strongly about and will try and curb, leading to conflict.
  • Some will go inwards and try to make sense of those changes quietly.
  • Some will go on the attack of everything and anybody. (They are angry at the world)

Parents and adults are so thrown by those reactions. No matter which path the kid takes, the parents will find those changes difficult. Because no body likes changes.

It is not uncommon for people to give advice along the line of “don’t react, it is a phase, it will pass and your relationship will be stronger after”.

I would agree with this, unless the parents are changing who they are in order to accommodate their kid’s phase.

Parents can loose themselves in that process. Because sometimes, the “phase” can last 4 or 5 years.

But when a kid acts up, most of the time, no matter how they act up, they work with the assumption that parents will always be there no matter what.

But I question the fact that unconditional love means we have to let our child do anything.

Our children during those teenager years are faced with so many changes to start with. And suddenly we are becoming this permissive, weaker version of ourselves, so that they can push the boundaries to level that are unsafe and we don’t want to react because we don’t want to upset our children.

What if our new found attitude was adding to an already ever changing world for them.

What if, in doing so, we are removing the feeling of being safe and being protected.

I am not suggesting that you can not adapt to the circumstances, but you can’t give up on who you are!

I meet so many parents who have completely changed their behavior in order to not make the situation worse… And yet, it went from bad to worse.

I have met so many kids who are screaming for help, but don’t feel they get the same level of attention they used to from their parents.

In those critical years, communication is so important.

Also, the understanding that it is a period of time, in the development where kids are learning to become their own person, Where they go and discover themselves outside the family cocoon.

It is expected that they are going to fight, because it is safe to do so, because no matter what, you love them unconditionally.

So my advice to parents is always, stand your ground. Stand by your rules. Be loving, but firm. And let them find ways to develop in a manner that is going to be respectful and strong.

I am not talking about sending girls to convent and boys to military style education.

But knowing that those confrontations are part of the development of characters will change your approach.

Also, remember, in a world that is constantly and endlessly changing, having boundaries, while your kids may complain about it, will provide them with a constant, something they can rely on, an anchor of sort.

So in short, be a parent.

If you need help navigating this special period in your kid’s life, don’t hesitate to contact me (joelle@joellespractice.com) or book your free discovery session (Click here)

With care



Joelle @ Joelle’s Practice

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