Parenting Articles

Rebellious Teens

Rebellious and Defiant Teens

One of the most difficult parenting situations that come up around the world is that of rebellious and defiant teens. It is true that most teenagers rebel to some degree. They are testing their limits, and learning to be individuals. It is only natural to rebel a little bit in order to develop a sense of self. However, asserting individuality and testing the boundaries is a different proposition from outright rebellion and defiance.

Rebellious and defiant teens have a disdain for authority, and show little desire to work with parents, teachers and others. They repeatedly cross the line, and may show outright disrespect, flouting rules constantly, or ignoring your strictures. Dealing with rebellious and defiant teens is difficult, and you can only do your best. Here are some ideas for trying to deal with rebellious and defiant teens:

Do what you can to enforce boundaries

It is important to show your rebellious teenager that there are still rules. This means doing your best to enforce consequences. No, you probably can’t stop him or her from sneaking out the window at night. However, you can take away computer privileges or video games. You can also remove car privileges and make it clear that if your child wants to benefit from the extra, “fun” things you have as a family, he or she needs to be a functioning and respectful part of the family. Try these teen behavior contracts.

Try to avoid big fights

This can be difficult, but you need to try to avoid big fights. Part of the reason that defiant and rebellious teens act out is to get a reaction from you. One of the best things you can do is react calmly. Explain that the poor decision that a teenager has made is resulting in a specific consequence (try to choose consequences that you can actually enforce), and that he or she can earn back your trust.

Big fights over a teenager’s hair or clothes will only put you in a losing position. Calmly state that you do’t approve of something your teen is wearing, saying, or listening to, and leave it at that. If the behavior is offensive, you can enforce consequences.

Be available to talk

Try to be available to talk. Listen to your teenager. If he or she comes to you with a problem, or confesses something he or she did, hold your tongue until he or she is done. While it may be difficult, try to avoid making judging statements. If your teen wants advice, give to him or her candidly and calmly. If he or she is admitting wrong-doing, calmly point out that there is a consequence attached to all such actions, and that it will be enforced. Try to help your teen, or just listen on occasion.

Be clear in your unconditional love

It is difficult, but when dealing with rebellious and defiant teens, you need to be clear about your unconditional love for your teenager. Make sure that you are clear that it is the behavior you do not approve of. Also, do your best to avoid comparisons between your troubled teenager and others. These comparisons will most likely only provoke more efforts to rebel as teens feel unloved.

Continue to invite your troubled teenager to family activities, and express a desire for your child to join the table at meal times. Be sure that you continue to provide the basics of life: Shelter, food and clothing. However, you do need to make it clear that you will not tolerate violence in your home, and that your teen should not endanger anyone else in the family.

Programs for rebellious and defiant teens

If your teenager has become so unmanageable that he or she is engaged in illegal activities, or becoming violent, you might have to look into programs for your teenager. Make it clear that you love your teen, and you want to help him or her, but you can’t have destructive behavior in your home. Programs for rebellious teens can help your teenager learn techniques to manage his or her anger issues and problems. In these cases, your teen might still have problems when he or she gets back from the program, but they might be more manageable.

It can be difficult to know what to do if you have a troubled teenager. You should do what you can to re-establish a good relationship with your teenager, and show that you are concerned and loving. In the end, though, all you can do is try your best, since rebellious and defiant teens make their own decisions.

Troubled Teen Issues

Teen Vandalism

Teen Vandalism

Although sometimes viewed as juvenile pranks, teen vandalism is actually criminal. To find out more about teen vandalism, continue this article.

Definition of Vandalism

The official definition of vandalism is given by the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It says that vandalism is “willful or malicious destruction, injury, disfigurement, or defacement of any public or private property, real or personal, without the consent of the owner or persons having custody or control” as stated in the most recent Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Fact Sheet on Juvenile Vandalism, issued in July 2000.

Vandalism includes a wide variety of acts such as:

  • posting graffiti in public places
  • breaking or throwing items out of windows
  • smashing mailboxes
  • stealing
  • trashing unguarded property, often empty buildings and/or lots and public or semi-public toilet facilities; school property is often a target
  • setting fires
  • tampering with equipment, such as vending machines and pay telephones
  • setting false fire alarms
  • damaging parked cars
  • damaging trees 

Understanding Teen Vandalism

Some of the behaviors and situations that are linked to teen vandalism include:

  • binge drinking
  • seeking money to buy drugs
  • peer pressure
  • feeling hostile towards the property owner 

In the case of graffiti, however, there may be other factors at works. At least some graffiti vandals (as the New York Police Department chooses to refer to them) consider themselves “graffiti artists” or “street artists.” It seems that these individuals view their efforts to be towards ornamenting or enhancing coupled with self expression. The international fame of Banksy, the English graffiti artist, and other graffiti artists has likely contributed to teen confusion about whether graffiti vandalism should be considered criminal.

And, in fact, teen’s graffiti creations-while not in sanctioned places-may have artistic merit. This possibility places this type of teen vandalism in contrast to types of vandalism in which items are devalued through being smashed or broken. That is, smashing property is wrong because it damages property. Graffiti is wrong because it is created in the “wrong” place. While addressing teen vandalism often involves reparation and repair of damaged property, addressing teen vandalism involving graffiti may also involve providing the individual with a sanctioned place in which to perform his or her “art” and opportunities to put the talent to a positive use.

Consequences of Teen Vandalism

Besides repairing damage to structures, covering graffiti, replacing ruined property, there are other high costs to teen vandalism. Publicly viewable vandalism changes the atmosphere of a place. It may give the impression that the people in the area do not value their space and that the area is not well-protected and perhaps unsafe. This may result in reduced use of the area in and around the damaged property. Property, such as subway cars, that has to be removed from service in order to be cleaned of graffiti or repaired also can cause disruption of service.

Addressing Teen Vandalism

Different approaches are taken to teen vandalism. Education is one approach. Making sure that teens can distinguish pranks from vandalism is one issue addressed. Repairing and restoring property, which has been found to ease public concerns as well, is another. Reparation is often part of the restitution if a teen vandal is caught.

A third approach to preventing teen vandalism is prevention. One way of preventing vandalism is providing alternative activities for teens. Teen centers, schools, and community groups may sponsor alcohol-free activities, for example. Patrols in areas that are susceptible to vandalism may also help discourage teen vandals from harming it.


National Criminal Justice Reference Service
The U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention

Troubled Teen Issues

Teen Truancy

Teen Truancy

Compulsory education is mandated by law in all 50 of the United States. In general, an unexcused absence from school is an instance of truancy. But to be branded as a truant, a student must intentionally miss school with absences that are unexcused at an age at which education is compulsory in the state in which the student resides. Teen truancy is of particular importance and interest because of truancy’s link to other problems, the most obvious of these being failure to complete one’s education. To understand more about the issues of teen truancy, read on.

Because state laws differ, a student who is considered truant in one state may not be truant in another state. For example, in states for which the upper limit of compulsory attendance age is 16, a teen of that age may drop-out of high school without legal issues, whereas in a neighboring state with an upper age limit of 18, that adolescent would be a teen truant.

Understanding Teen Truancy

Because national figures on truancy have been collected from state data which do not use identical categories, it is difficult to build a precise picture of the teen truancy situation in the United States. Issues such as how to count teens who earn a GED, teens who run away, or teens whose whereabouts are not known have muddied the picture. Although the legislation referred to as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) instituted a requirement for states to create a shared definition of truancy and a school level data collection based on this definition, the fruits of this mandate have not yet been seen.

Causes of Youth Truancy

One thing that is important to understand is that students are truant for different reasons. Not all students who fail to go to school are up to no good on the one hand or irresponsible on the other. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) has reported that in 2003, 5.4 percent of high school students skipped a minimum of one day of school because they were concerned for their personal safety.

Negative factors contributing to teen truancy are considered as originating in three areas: the teen’s personal character and psychology, the teen’s family and community environment, and the school.

Personal factors include poor academic performance; mental health issues; substance abuse; the demands of pregnancy or parenting; and lack of understanding about the importance of education. Home and community factors include family situations that lead the teen to choose to work rather than attend school; a situation of abuse or neglect; parental substance abuse; negative role models; and disdain for education among role models.

School factors that can contribute to teen truancy include poorly designed and implemented attendance policies; policies that remove the student from school as punishment; poor instruction; poorly maintained facilities; an unsafe environment; and lack of quality special education for students in need.

Guilt by Association

What is known about teen truancy is the strong links with other problems. Truancy is, unsurprisingly, considered an indicator for poor academic performance, for example, on standardized tests, as well as dropping out of high school. But beyond an incomplete education, one of the greatest concerns raised by teen truancy stems from the fact that it is a risk factor for other problematic behaviors and outcomes, including:

  • social isolation
  • low self-esteem
  • feeling of rejection from parents
  • juvenile delinquency
  • substance abuse
  • teen pregnancy
  • unemployment
  • significantly lower earnings than high school graduates
  • adult criminality 

Addressing Truancy

There are a variety of programs in place to address truancy. They may be instituted within the school itself, in the community, or arise in the courts. These programs have different approaches and goals. Some focus on middle schoolers, hoping to address truancy before it becomes a high school problem. Others focus on making high school graduation possible for teens at risk.

Some programs work to make the consequences of their behavior more salient to teens. For example, as of 2004, 17 states linked school attendance and grade point average (GPA) to the right to have a driver’s license.

Truancy Sources

National Center for School Engagement
Federal Probation Newsletter, December, 2004