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Responding to Normal Teen Behavior

One of my fondest memories as a child was looking through the newspaper to find my favorite cartoon comic, Dennis the Menace. That cartoon often reminded me of myself and the shenanigans I would pull at home and around the block.

Now as an adult and having children of my own, I realize some of the shenanigans I pulled were me growing and learning as a person, but just normal youth behaviors – I’m sure my parents didn’t feel that way. 

As a dad of two and watching them grow and develop into young adults; I laugh because I see some of the same things in them that I have done myself. I’m sure you have heard the saying, “Been there, done that and bought the t-shirt.” Yep! I say that to myself often under my breath. 

But have you ever stopped to think, why do we do what we do? Is it something that we learned? Is it our DNA or perhaps our personality? As part of growing up and becoming more independent, children often test independent ideas and ways of behaving. Sometimes this involves disagreeing with you, giving you a bit of ‘attitude’, pushing the limits and boundaries you set, wanting to be more like friends, and even taking risks.

Some of the changes in youth behavior are explained by the way teenage brains develop. The parts of the brain responsible for impulse control do not fully mature until about age 25. These brain changes have upsides and downsides – youth can be imaginative, passionate, sensitive, impulsive, moody, and unpredictable.

While they are enduring the changes in the brain, it’s extremely important to encourage good behavior in youth. It’s more than just action on our part, it’s about communicating openly with your child, being consistent, and creating and maintaining a warm and loving family environment. This positive and supportive approach to behavior often means that you have less need for discipline strategies.

When you do need to use discipline for youth, it’s best to negotiate and agree on limits with your child, and then help your child work within them. Establishing rules, limits, and boundaries help your child learn independence, manage and take responsibility for their behavior, and solve problems. Your child needs these skills to become a young adult with their own standards for appropriate behavior and respect for others.

So what happens when your child is Rude or disrespectful; these behaviors can and will happen, especially during middle adolescence – although not all children behave this way.

If this kind of behavior is an issue for your family, setting clear rules lets your child know what you expect. For example, you could say, “We speak respectfully in our family. This means we don’t call people names.”

Involving your child in these discussions means you can later remind them that they helped make the rules and that they agreed to them. Your child is also more likely to follow the rules if they think they’re fair.

Modeling these rules in your own behavior shows that you mean what you say.

If you need to talk with your child about rude behavior, staying calm and picking your moment will help the conversation go better. It can also help if you focus on your child’s behavior. Instead of saying, “You’re rude”, you could try saying something like, “I feel hurt when you speak like that to me.”

Navigating through youth behaviors can be challenging, youth. Here are a few examples that are most common for youth. 

Fighting With Siblings

Sibling fighting is natural. As long as it doesn’t get physical, it helps children learn important life skills, like how to sort out problems, deal with different opinions and treat others with respect. When you guide your children toward sorting out their conflicts, you help them develop these skills to be able to manage effectively at school, in society and their future workplace. 

Peer Influence

Peer influence is when you do something you wouldn’t otherwise do because you want to feel accepted and valued by others. It isn’t always about doing something against your will. Peer influence can be positive. For example, teenagers might be influenced to try new activities or get more involved with the school. But it can be negative too. For example, teenagers might try things like smoking or doing risky things. If your child is confident, with a strong sense of themselves and their values, it’s more likely they’ll know where to draw the line when it comes to peer influence.


Bullying is when someone deliberately and repeatedly upsets, frightens, threatens, or hurts someone else or their property, reputation, or social status. It can be verbal or physical. It can happen face-to-face, behind someone’s back, or online. When it happens online, it’s called cyberbullying. Bullying is serious, and your child will need your support to sort it out.

Teenage Parties

As your child gets older, they’ll probably want to go to parties with their friends or host a party at home. If handled well, teenage parties can be an important and positive aspect of your child’s social life and development. By talking about ground rules, planning ahead in case things go wrong, and keeping the lines of communication open, you can help your child stay safe – and have fun too.


Risk-taking is an important way for youth to challenge themselves and learn about limits. It might be trying new tricks at the skatepark. But it could also include more concerning behaviors like truancy, smoking, alcohol or other drug use, unsafe or underage sexual behavior, and gambling. You can help your child learn to assess risks. Talking about your family values and keeping the lines of communication open is also a good idea. You might be able to channel the desire to take risks into extracurricular activities or community activities like sports, music, or drama.

A lot of youth behavior is a natural part of growing toward late adolescence and young adulthood.

But you might be worried if there are changes in your child’s attitude or behavior, along with other changes like mood swings, withdrawal from family or friends and usual activities, or poor school attendance.

If you’re concerned about your child’s behavior, you could:

  • discuss your concerns with your child to see if they can tell you what’s going on
  • talk to other parents and find out what they do
  • talk to your child’s school teachers to see if they’ve noticed any changes
  • consider seeking professional support – good people to start with include school counselors, teachers, and your General Physician.

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