How Do I Know If My Teen Is Rebelling?

Teenage rebellion is not just about skipping class, staying out past curfew, or smoking anymore, now the rebellion has taken on new forms and looks considerable different from the past.  Understanding the early warning signs of teenage rebellion as opposed to normal development can make the different not only in your relationship with the teen but in their lives as well.  As a mother, former teacher and counselor of teens, I have observed three main areas of rebellion in teens.  Each of these areas is as important as the next and should be addressed.

Authority.  As part of the normal developmental process of a teenager growing into adulthood, teens become increasing aware of the numerous authority figures in their lives.  For a teen, the number of authority figures seems to multiply from parents to coaches to teachers to police officers to store managers to even older teens.  While during childhood the authority figures were for the most part respected, for some teens they all of a sudden seem to become disrespected as the child ages.

Rebelling against authority is open defiance of the rules established whether it is at home, school, athletic field or work.  This rebellion maybe obvious or it maybe secretive, either way it is rebellion against an authority figure.  The teen maybe staying out all night, not going to school, drag racing, sneaking out of the house, running away, drinking and driving, stealing from an employer, school or home, or destruction of property to name a few of the big ones.  Also look for the not so obvious rebellion symptoms such as rolling of the eyes, not making eye contact, intentionally dragging out an instruction, sleeping instead of working, and name calling.

Peers.  It may seem strange that this category would be included as a type of rebellion; however some teens do not have issues with the authority figures in their lives but rather with their peers.  It is normal for teens to experiment becoming friends with different peer groups especially as their interests and activities change.  Some teens do well with multiple peer groups while other teens struggle to fit into one peer group.

The rebellion begins at teens struggle to fit into a peer group that is not accepting of them so they act out against that group.  This can look like bullying on the surface and can resulting in fighting, backstabbing, and name calling.  Some teens switch peer groups repeatedly as a way to prevent anyone from coming too close to them.  In the end, they may experience isolation and lose of friends.  Other teens identify so strongly with one group, a gang, to the point that they are antagonistic to others who are not a part of their group.  All of this is rebellion towards their peers.

Self.  As teens struggle with forming their identity separate and apart from their parents, often times they do not like what they see.  Instead they began a self-loathing process that can rapidly become harmful behavior.  Their rebellion against themselves displays as hatred for how they appear, how they think, how they act and what they have become.  In order to feel better about themselves, they often engage in dangerous behavior to bring relief to the pain they feel.  This self-harming behavior can be cutting, excessive piercings, bingeing/purging, drugs (illegal and prescription abuse), gambling, alcohol use, and excessive risk taking.

If any of these areas sounds familiar, don’t lose hope.  The good news is that when rebellion is handled correctly, the impact on the teen’s life can be long-lasting.  Look for the article titled, “What to Do If Your Teen Rebels” for ideas on how to properly handle the rebellion.

For more information, watch this YouTube video:

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

What to Do If Your Teen Rebels

Rebellion in teens can be secretive or obvious depending on the personality of the teenager and the circumstances.  It can show itself as rebellion against authority, against their peers, or against themselves.  The article titled, “Symptoms of Teenage Rebellion” identifies some of the symptoms and breaks down each category of rebellion separating out normal behavior from abnormal behavior.  Once you have come to the realization that your teen is rebelling, than it is time to take action to help them overcome the destructive behavior.

Think.  The first step in helping you teen is to differentiate between normal teenage behavior and abnormal teenage behavior and address only the abnormal teenage behavior.  Leave the normal teenage behavior for another day.  Also, if your teen is in trouble for stealing from school and sneaking out of the house, then address one of the issues because the issues are not related.  If however, your teen is in trouble for stealing from school and destruction of property at school, then address the issues together.  Having a plan before you begin the conversation knowing in advance the range of discipline that will be given will give you confidence and help you to remain calm during the discussion.

Confront.  The second step is direct confrontation of the issue at hand.  Pay attention to the environment and the people around when beginning the confrontation.  While their friends are over, while their siblings are in the room, and without your spouse is not a good time for confrontation.   Rather choose a time that works for everyone and if needed, set a date.  Select a neutral ground in the home to have the discussion, neither their room nor your room are appropriate as these should be places of comfort.  As difficult as this may be, it is best to remain calm and unemotional during the discussion.  Tears and bursts of anger can be interpreted as manipulation and increase the tension and emotions of the conversation.  Keep the conversation on the one point you decided at the beginning resisting the urge to repeat yourself.

Listen.  During the conversation, remember that this is not a time for lecturing; rather this is a time for gaining insight as to the real reason behind the rebellion.  The type of rebellion should provide you with a clue as to what they are rebelling against but that it does not explain the why.  To discover the why of rebellion, you need to listen past the words to the heart of the matter while paying special attention to the emotion shown.  Look for body language to help you discover what is going on: do they look away when a topic is addressed, do they become angry at a comment made, do they shut down when you respond, or do they cry over what seems like a small issue.  Don’t be afraid to identify and inquire about the emotion: fear, anxiety, sadness, excitement, guilt, or surprise.

Remember.  At some point it may be useful to identify with the emotion your teen is feeling by remembering a time when you felt the same way.  Use this as an opportunity to bond with your teen by sharing an experience with them.  Oftentimes teens feel as though they are the only ones to feel a certain way and no one could ever understand them.  Just sharing a similar moment and becoming venerable in front of your teen demonstrates a heart of understanding beyond the disciplining.

Counsel.  Giving teens counsel is a tricky task because if they don’t feel like you really understand them, they won’t respond well to your counsel.  Instead of giving counsel to unwelcoming ears, postpone the conversation until another time and give your teen a chance to absorb the conversation.  This action alone demonstrates that you are more interested in helping them to grow than in blind obedience.  If they are willing to receive the counsel, then keep it short.  Better to get a small message across well then a long message out poorly.

Seek help.  If during the process it becomes apparent that your teen is not responding positively, seek help from a professional.  Choose a professional who has personal experience with teenagers, perhaps works with them in a coaching or teaching environment or has teenagers of their own.   The best help includes some parenting advice as well as counsel for the teen because it is better for everyone to be on the same page going forward.

Rebellion does not have to overwhelming and can actually improve and deepen the communication between the parents and the teen.  Use these moments to strengthen your relationship instead of creating a greater divide.

For more information watch this video.  

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

What is Behind High School or College Senioritis?

Do you have a senior from high school or college who seems to have shut down and is no longer productive?  Maybe they were productive in the past but now they are procrastinating, their grades are sliding, they don’t care about the things that mattered to them in the past and their tempers seem to be higher than normal.  Or perhaps they seem to negatively obsess over a class, another student, or a family member.  In short, your senior is different and not for the better.

Change is difficult for most people and transitioning from a high school student to a college student or from a college student into the workforce can be more change then they are prepared to handle.  Stress levels are high whenever someone moves but add to that a change in status, change in environments, change in friendships, and change in expectations.  Now you have a recipe for one stressed out senior.  So how can you help?  By paying attention to their behavior and acting accordingly you can alleviate some of the pressure.

Shutting down.  One reason a senior shuts down is because they are overwhelmed with anticipation over what is expected from them in the future.  Perhaps they have a scholarship to a college or job offers lined up and are anxious about living up to these new standards.  So instead of finishing strong, they retreat to a protective shell of sorts and stop performing altogether.  Begin by helping them admit that they are anxious and then try talking about a back-up plan if Plan A does not work to alleviate some of the anticipated pressure.  Finally, inspect your own expectations to ensure they are realistic and not unrealistic.

Procrastinating.  While one senior stops working altogether another one slows down their productivity to a crawl and frequently missed deadlines they would normally meet.  This procrastinating may be a sign that they are nervous about the upcoming change and they are trying to delay the change by moving slower.  At the subconscious level they are dragging everything out to make it last longer.  Unfortunately time moves on regardless of our actions.  Begin by helping them admit to the sadness they are feeling and allow them to reflect on the things they will miss going forward.  Give them the opportunity to spend extra time with their friends so they can begin the process of saying good-bye.

Negative obsessing.  Some seniors finish strong but seem to put all of their passions and negative energy attacking a class, teacher, fellow student or family member.  They obsess over things that never bothered them before and act in a manner inconsistent with their personality.  These students hyper focus their energy on one or two things to distract them from the negative feelings associated with their change.  Begin by identifying their target of negative energy and remind them of how they managed effectively in the past with their obsession.  Then discuss the other emotions such as sadness or anxiety they may be feeling and help them work through it.

Senior year can be an exciting time for students and the hope is that they will look back on their senior year with great memories.  By working with your senior and helping them to identify the stressful feelings they may be experiencing you will help to ensure a good memory instead of a negative one.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Feel They Never Do Anything Right

“I can’t ever do anything right.”  While this seems to be an overgeneralization and certainly there is some evidence to the contrary, there really are people who do believe that they can’t to do anything right.  Perhaps you are married to someone like this, have a friend who says this frequently, a coworker who complains that nothing they do is ever right or you catch yourself saying those words.  And while arguing the points of the matter is unproductive, what does make sense is trying to understand where such thoughts may be coming from and how they can be changed.

The fourth stage of Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Development is Industry vs. Inferiority which occurs during the prime school age of six to twelve.  During this time, most learning is root memorization and children have an amazing ability to grasp large quantities of information.  This is why the show, “Are You Smarted Then a Fifth Grader” is so interesting.  Industry is the ability to develop some pride in the work a child does separate and apart from their parents’ expectations.  Inferiority arises when a child has been told the quality of their work is not good enough or they are not capable of doing as well as other children.

The Psychology.  This is a time in a child’s life when they are most likely to try different sports, begin to like one subject over another, develop friendships at school outside of parental involvement, and start to question “why is it this way”.  While they ask the “why” questions now, their ability at this age to reason has not fully developed yet.  If the child feels a sense of accomplishment, believes they are capable of doing a good job, or finds value in their natural abilities then they will develop a sense of industry.  If however the child believes they are inadequate, produce poor quality work, or are weak compared to others then they will develop a sense of inferiority.

The Teenager.  As the child grows into a teenager, the sense of industry propels them to work harder in the areas that they already excel naturally in doing.  They may be excellent basketball players so now they work harder to achieve a goal of a scholarship and take pride in their ability to dunk a ball.  The teenager who develops a sense of inferiority sometimes shuts down and refuses to perform because they believe their work to be inadequate.  Or they do just enough to get by, never really trying to excel at anything because they are afraid of the pending rejection if they fail.

The Adult.  A sense of industry will serve an adult well as they need little micromanagement to accomplish a task.  They are confident in setting goals and while they may not achieve them every time, they still keep on trying and generally enjoy doing some type of work.  A sense of inferiority keeps an adult tangled in a web of fear: if they don’t do a task, they will be rejected by others; if they do a task and it works, it is never good enough; if they do a task and it doesn’t work, they will face rejection again.  So they opt for the easiest way out which is to do nothing and usually end up with jobs that are far beneath their level of ability.

The Cure.  One of the hardest concepts for an inferior feeling adult to grasp is understanding that everyone is unsure about themselves from time to time.  They have so internalized the feelings of inadequacy that they believe others really are better than them because they have more talents, gifts, opportunities, friends, and support.  Ideally, the inferior feeling adult needs to realize that they do have a purpose in life and they do have special talents to match that purpose.

By explaining that God created everyone for a purpose and then equipped them with unique talents to serve that purpose, a person can be transformed from inferior feeling to productive.  Once one area of their life has been transformed, the other areas will follow and the adult will have a new sense of how they fit in the world around them.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

Why Some People Don’t Know Who They Are

Have you ever watched someone struggle with answering a simple open-ended statement such as, “Tell me about yourself”?  They seem to get lost often looking like a deer caught in the headlights and respond with confusion, “Well, what do you mean?”  Or “What do you want to know?”  Occasionally they may even give with overly generic statements that by the end you still have no idea who this person is in front of you.  Their struggle is not because they don’t know how to answer as much as it is because they really don’t know who they are and how they fit in with society.

These adults have not yet mastered Erik Erikson’s fifth psychosocial stage of development called Identity vs. Confusion.  During the years of twelve to eighteen, most teenagers begin the search for who they are in comparison to the other adult and peer influences in their lives.  Around twelve years old, a teen develops the cognitive ability to critical think instead of just rote memorization.  All of the information the teen has learned is now being simulated into their life.  This is why the most frequently asked question by a teen is, “Why did I need to know this for my life” especially when it comes to something they are not interested in such as trigonometry, biochemistry, or metered poetry.

The Psychology.  Developing a sense of identity requires all of the years between twelve and eighteen and cannot be accomplished early.  It is not until the teen has reached past eighteen that a person is able to properly assess whether or not they developed a strong sense of who they are.  Understanding who you are means that you can identify the characteristics, traits, talents, gifts, and interests that distinguish you from the other members of your family or your peers.  Not only can you identify these things but you must also be comfortable and appreciate your uniqueness.  A person who is confused takes on a similar personality to a parent or peer instead of developing their own or they take on a personality designed for them by a parent or peer.  In either case, they do not develop their uniqueness nor take pride in it.

The Never Ending Teen.  A common belief that came out of the 1970’s generation is that a person needs to “find themselves”.  While this is true, it should be done during the teen years and be completed just prior to entering into adulthood, it is not supposed to be a life-long exploration.  The never-ending teen is one who goes to college to have a good time and leaves still having a good time only to move back home when the money runs out usually without any prospect of a career.  They are in a state of confusion as to who they are, what they can contribute, how they fit in, and were they are headed.

The Adult.   Even sadder is an adult who still struggles with these issues twenty or forty years later than they should.  The adult remains confused and frequently blames society, parents, spouse, children, or anyone else for the shortfalls in their life.  This is not to be confused with a mid-life crisis which is entirely different as a person reflects on their life and frequently makes major changes because they are unhappy with the direction they are headed.  Rather, this is a lack of direction from the beginning or a lack of desire to even have a direction.

The Cure.  In order for a person who is confused about their role in life to continue on that journey into adulthood, there must be another person enabling them.  This person makes excuses for them, indulges them, minimizes their behavior, or likes them just the way they are because they are more easily manipulated and controlled.  So to change the confused adult, the adult who is enabling them needs to stop.  Otherwise, the confused adult will have no motivation to change their behavior.  Once this has happened, the confused adult can begin the hard work of figuring out who they really are.

The good part is that God did create everyone for a purpose so the confused adult is not on a pointless journey into never-never-land.  An adult who can identify their special gifts and talents and who knows how to use those gifts and talents contributes well not only to their family but to society.

For more information, watch this video. 

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.

School Is Starting: Is That Good or Bad?

There are two kinds of parents when school starts: one says, “Yay Ho, school has started” and the other says, “Boo Ho, school has started”.  Your child’s reaction is almost universal with combination of “Oh no work again” mixed with “Yay I get to see my friends again” and topped off with “Eek what if…”  Still the end of summer is here and the beginning of a new school year presses on with force.  If you are emotional with either excitement or disappointment at the start of school, imagine how your child feels.

The thing about a child’s emotions is that they don’t always come out in the most expected way.  For instance a nervous child starting school may appear to be more aggressive towards their siblings or you instead of showing anxiety.  Your child may not even realize what is going on inside or be able to give it a name but their behavior which is different from normal clearly shows that something is amiss.  So what is the best way to handle the start of a new school year?  Too many times parents believe that shopping for stuff for school is one of the ways to deal with the anxiety but it is not.  Shopping to calm anxiety only contributes to a problem later which sadly can turn into a shopping addiction as an adult.  But there is a better way.

Mark the end.  The start of school is the end of summer so mark the event by doing something with the family the weekend prior.  It can be nearly anything or a combination of small things just so long as the family is together doing something that is mutually pleasing.  Some ideas are spending a day at the beach, taking a bike ride, watching a favorite movie, or having a family cook-out.  Again it does not have to be anything outlandish just something that indicates to your child that things will remain normal.  One of the natural concerns for a child is the fear that everything is going to be different in some manner this year and they will not be able to handle whatever it is.  By participating in a normal family activity, your child will rest in knowing that some things will not change.

Don’t bug them.  Even though you may know they are nervous about school starting, don’t bug them about it or force them to talk about it.  Rather allow them to talk about it in their own time even it if means waking you up in the middle of the night.  But let them talk.  This is not a time for a lecture, for minimizing what they are feeling, or for talking about you; this is a time to listen to them about their concerns.  What you child needs to know now is that you care about what they are feeling and you are available to listen to them when they are troubled.  They want to know that what they are feeling is normal and if you assume what they are feeling instead of listen to what they are feeling, you just might miss an opportunity to connect emotionally with your child.

Be encouraging.  It is always hard to encourage a child that does not want to be encouraged but that does not mean you should not do it anyway.  Just because your child does not receive the positive encouragement well and acts negatively in response does not relieve you from the responsibility to encourage them.  At some level it will sink in even if they are resistant and angry at first.  This is just one of those times when you need to be the adult and give your child what they need instead of what they ask for just like you did when they were little and wanted a cookie before dinner.  Remember you said, “Dinner first and then the cookie”.   So, encourage first instead of disciplining their resistant and negative behavior.  A demonstration of grace and understanding will far outweigh any benefits of discipline in this moment.

Put your emotions in check over the next few days and make it less about how you are feeling about school starting and more about how your child is feeling about school starting.  If you don’t, then your child will likely pick up on your emotion and project that to you instead of focusing on their emotions.  Instead they will suppress their emotions for your more dominant and safe emotion.  This is dangerous because eventually their emotions will come out like an explosion and you will quickly discover a whole other set of problems as a result.  So if you are excited or disappointed about school starting, share it with your spouse not your child.

Repairing, restoring, and rebuilding relationships takes time, energy and effort.  If you find yourself needing more help during this process, please call our offices at 407-647-7005 to schedule an appointment.  Or you can send me a quick email at chammond@lifeworksgroup.org.