Why Is My Child Acting This Way?

Adolescence is a transitional time in which teenagers move from childhood into adulthood. The psychological and physical changes that occur during this period alter their view of themselves, their family, their friends and the world around them. They don’t want to be seen as children, but instead, they desire to be viewed as adults. They want to develop their own identity and have the responsibilities of an adult (without the consequences). Therefore, as these changes occur, they may feel a need to reject the rules, values and ideology of their parents.

Parents, on the other hand, may feel like their children are acting childish with their demands, such as “ I want to stay out later” or “ I need $250 for an iPod touch.”

Parents can be frustrated by a teenager’s behavior, such as screaming, yelling and acting like a 2-year-old who’s having a temper tantrum. In addition, parents may think, “Why is my child acting this way?” or “I can’t take it anymore! I’m tired of my child’s disrespectful behavior.”

Teens may behave appropriately and be respectful to other adults, but in their own home, these same teens may act disrespectful. Teens need an outlet, a place to let down their hair.

In the same sentence, they may ask their parents to do something for them (a show of love), and they might push their parents away with a comment such as “Get out of my room.” Often, teens’ disrespectful and obnoxious behaviors test their parents’ patience.

Children need limits and boundaries, but they also need loving and caring parents. In a barrage of insults, such as “I hate you” and “you are the meanest mom ever,” I still recommend that parents give and express small loving acts. Recently, a mother reported that her daughter hardly came out of her room because she was mad at her, so the mother slipped a paper under her door that read, “I love you, Mom.” The mother thought she’d find that note crumpled in the trash when her daughter emerged, but the mother found the note taped next to her daughter’s bed. A note in your child’s lunch, on his or her pillow or by text will be remembered and appreciated (even if not acknowledged).

Parents’ reactions to their children’s transition from childhood to adulthood can make this switch smooth or bumpy. For example, if parents become scared of letting go of their “baby,” they may begin a power struggle over who is going to be in control of the teen’s life. It can be difficult for parents to decide which issues can be “let go,” which issues absolutely cannot be “let go” and which fall somewhere in the middle.

Letting go of children and watching them grow up can be challenging, especially when children reject their parents’ beliefs and values. Even though teen behavior is very normal and to be expected, parents may still struggle.

The best advice is to hang on for the ride and get some guidance as to what’s normal and expected. Of course, what works for your friend’s child may not work in your family, but understanding this transitional period can help parents be more prepared for their child’s journey into adulthood.

Lisa (Elisheva) Rabinowitz is a local Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor. She can be reached at 410-736-8118. Her suggestions are for couples in healthy relationships and exclude those in abusive relationships.

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