Beware of teenagers! Surviving your child's teenage years

Apr 05, 2019

“Oh no, it has finally happened. It has started for my dear daughter. She used to be just a normal girl, but now our dear, our beloved child has become disobedient and rebellious. She has stopped dancing, she has no interest in anything! Even her grades went from B’s to C’s! The only things she cares about are friends, parties and social networks. She doesn’t do anything around the house, she demands for us to buy her expensive clothes. She is like a furious person now. She has become rude and snappy and she blames us for everything. I wanted to take her to a psychologist, but she violently protested. I have no idea what to do now.”

– Elena, 42

All parents face the problems of their child’s awkward age to some extent. A nice and obedient child suddenly becomes uncontrollable, aggressive and reserved. There are, of course natural reasons for such a shift in behavior. Around the ages of 12-14, children experience the onset of the teenage crisis, which is often paired with the start of puberty. It is an important period you cannot avoid and cannot cancel. It is the time our children learn to become independent and to search for their place in life. It is an incredibly hard time. A mixture of crisis and puberty is a huge stress for a child who doesn’t yet know themselves, their emotions and abilities.

Let’s talk about the ways that deviant behavior manifests itself, what is normal and when it becomes troublesome. We will also learn the ways to help both parents and children survive this crisis without severe consequences.

Definition of deviant behavior

Deviant behavior is a type of behavior that differs from legal, moral and age-related standards accepted in a society. These standards may vary depending on a person’s age, place of living and social status. Thus a detailed definition of deviant behavior will vary as well.

First of all, you need to evaluate a teenager’s actions objectively. What is the problem? Do they steal? Do they simply dye their hair to a color that other people and adults consider to be abnormal?

Let’s define common types of deviant behavior in the teenage years and what adults should pay special attention to. [1]

Deviant behavior in teenagers. When to worry

Substance abuse

Here we talk about substances that affect consciousness. This includes addiction to alcohol, nicotine, drugs and medication. Intake of these substances negatively affects a child’s health and development.

When to worry

Some teenagers try alcohol or cigarettes out of pure curiosity, they want to feel themselves cool and not a black sheep. Such “experimentation” does not cause addiction, but you should start to worry if a child often smells of tobacco or alcohol, or if they come home drunk.

Even single events of drug intake require focused attention from parents, however, you should consider your reaction. If you punish a child too severely, that can, in return, become a catalyst for more deviant behavior, so a child can display their protest by indulging in alcohol and cigarettes even further.

Internet addiction

This is a constant and obsessive desire to spend time online, surf the internet, spend hours chatting and playing online games.

When to worry

Interest in computers itself is quite safe: it is a means of communication, leisure and even a way to develop various skills. We can speak of addiction if a child:

  • spends at least 10-18 hours online;
  • gets nervous and angry if they cannot play;
  • abandons other hobbies;
  • pays no attention to personal hygiene.

Gaming addiction

Gaming addiction is considered to be more dangerous than a desire to spend time on the internet. A teenager can start gambling and playing games that require values or dares in return.

When to worry

A teenager spends all their money on games and lies about it, for example, he/she asks for money to buy lunch but spends it on arcade machines. Some teenagers may even steal and sell items from home.

Aggressiveness

With proper application, aggressiveness can be useful, for example, it can help to overcome obstacles and achieve goals.  You shouldn’t stop your teenager from experiencing and displaying this emotion completely.

When to worry

If a teenager displays their aggression by inflicting harm to other people and/or animals also by yelling, offending, stealing and spoiling other people’s things, kicking and punching etc.

Lack of will

This problem manifests itself through an inability to stand one’s ground or defend one’s wishes. It may become difficult to enter a meaningful discussion with adults coupled with a fear of authority.

When to worry

All teenagers find it hard to agree with adults, but if they don’t even try to enter an argument and are ready to abandon their opinion, it is a worrying sign. Without valid experience of fighting for their ideals, a teenager may remain childish and dependent on other people’s opinions.

Bullying

This is the modern term for intimidation and harassment. Bullying is aimed at subduing people and suppressing their will. Unlike anger, which appears spontaneously, bulling is a deliberate behavior. It can manifest itself through physical means (kicks, pushes, beating) and psychological pressure (gossiping, intimidation, boycotting).

When to worry

Any bullying event among teenagers requires immediate attention and intervention from adults. There is usually one instigator, but soon enough the whole class can become involved in the bullying. Other children might not want to stand out to be safe themselves. At its worst, bullying can lead to collective beating or even suicide.

Do not blame your child for being a victim. Anything can become the reason for bullying, from personal distaste to the wrong color of hair or glasses. Parents should take the side of their child and protect them.

Lack of plans and goals

Children find it hard to plan and set long-term goals. Also, children’s plans may be different from ours. For example, we might want a straight A child who will become a lawyer, but they wish to become a car mechanic. In this case, it is a mistake to talk about the lack of goals.

When to worry

You should be concerned when a child shows no initiative, becomes passive, lies in bed all the time and has no hobbies and no interests. Such apathy can be a sign of depression.

Depression

This disorder is described by low mood, anxiety, despair, worsening memory and attention and a loss of interest towards life. Depression is not always apparent. A child may still get good grades yet feel anxious and lonely. Latent depression may manifest itself by sleep disorders, bed-wetting and/or frequent headaches.

When to worry

You should be concerned when you see any signs of depression or have any suspicions. Depression is not simply a bad mood and lack of desire to brace oneself, it is a serious disease that must be recognized early.

Suicide and suicidal behavior

Suicide is voluntarily ending your own life. Suicidal behavior includes attempts to kill oneself and thoughts about one’s own death.

Teenagers usually do not wish to die, but they often feel so hurt they want to ease that pain by any means. Suicide attempts in such cases may be a cry for help.

When to worry

You should become concerned when you have any suspicions or see any signs. You shouldn’t taunt your child or tell them “if you really wanted to, you would have already done it”. You need to pay utmost attention to any suicide conversation or attempts. Otherwise a teenager might think that no one cares about them and take a step further.

Another worrisome sign is self-harm. This may mean scratching the skin or cutting it with a sharp object, in more rare cases punches, pulling hair or burning oneself can occur. Self-harm allows a teenager to switch attention from emotional to physical pain and to silence their guilt. It is important to help a teenager replace self-harm with safe ways to handle emotions. Prohibition and reprimanding are not effective in such cases.

Vagrancy

Teenagers rarely leave their homes for long periods of time. The first absence is often out of protest, and a child may return home after calming down. However, if the family situation does not change after that or becomes even worse, a teenager might start to run away regularly and even become a vagrant. Living on the streets, a teenager might start stealing, begging for money, drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

When to worry

You should take action after the very first runaway attempt. In most cases it happens due to certain problems in the family system, so you need to analyze and change the habits of all family members. Any punishment may provoke further attempts and establish a habit of vagrancy.

Attention! Running away can also be unwarranted, without any objective reason, and be a consequence of brain damage, schizophrenia, epilepsy etc. In such cases you need to consult a psychiatrist and treat the cause.

Stealing

Teenagers may desire to seize other people’s things due to various reasons:

  • as a protest;
  • as revenge or aggression;
  • a desire to bolster self-esteem or prove their bravery;
  • for the sake of an adrenaline rush;
  • a desire to attract attention;
  • a desire to own certain things.

When to worry

One instance does not mean that a child will continue to steal henceforward. If a family has established trusting relationships, you need just one conversation to consolidate that stealing is bad. However, in a troubled family petty thievery can become systematic, so you will need to take action to correct the teenager’s behavior.

Lying

Teenagers lie for the same reasons as adults:

  • a fear of punishment and desire to hide the truth;
  • a desire to leave a good impression;
  • a desire for revenge (by gossip and slander);
  • a desire to make their story funnier and more interesting;

Teenagers can have an inclination for fantasizing that generally minimizes as they mature. Technically, children do not lie, they fantasize and make up stories.

When to worry

You should be concerned when a teenager lies constantly, even about the smallest matters, or if they use lies to cover their actions, like stealing, fighting etc. It these cases lying can become pathologic and turn

 into an established habit.

Sexual deviations

During puberty a person develops sexual attractions to other people and the desire to explore their body. Such interest is perfectly normal. It is absolutely impractical to prohibit a teenager from expressing interest in sex or to masturbate. The best way of preventing early pregnancies, STD and other problems related to sex is not prohibiting, but informing them properly about the risks, and about methods of contraception.

When to worry

When sexual attraction becomes pathologic:

  • addiction to sexual experiences, for example, constant desire to touch the genitals and talk about it;
  • public demonstration of genitals;
  • sexual abuse of other people;
  • a desire to change partners frequently;
  • the perception of sex as the only way to receive attention and approval.

Eating disorders

Types of disorders:

  • anorexia, or weight reduction by refusing to eat;
  • bulimia, or overeating and purging by vomiting or other means;
  • compulsive overeating, or the inability to control the amount of consumed food.

When to worry

When the first signs appear. Eating disorders can quickly become persistent and established habits.

Teach how to negotiate and compromise

Causes of deviant behavior in teenagers

You have probably already found your own problems in the list of types of deviant behavior. The teenage years are extremely rough for children. Let’s find out what can cause such inadequate behavior.

Physical and psychological causes

  1. Teenage crisis

The crisis itself is a very difficult period in a child’s life. It is accompanied by irritability, quick temper and the desire for independence. Teenagers tend to consider the opinion of their peers more. Physical growth may give them a sense of maturity, yet the child may not receive more freedom, which leads to conflicts.

  1. Puberty

This can also be the cause of asocial behavior in teens. Their bodies change, and they feel awkward. They have new desires and develop a sexual appetite. Their hormonal background changes and they may have skin problems and strong body odor. Many children have trouble accepting these changes and view their bodies and appearance critically, which affects their mood and self-esteem.

  1. Early puberty

In some cases children hit puberty earlier than usual – even before the age of ten. This can cause additional problems with behavior and their emotional state. Children can also develop frequent headaches and fatigue, which parents often mistake for laziness.

  1. Lack of sleep and rest

Lack of quality sleep can cause anxiety in teenagers and promote deviant behavior in the same way as for adults. Children who get insufficient sleep display bad moods and bursts of anger more frequently. They have poor control over their emotions and struggle with stress. A good night’s sleep is more important than finished homework and extracurricular activities.

  1. Features of brain development

When children reach the age of 13, the regions of their brains responsible for emotions start developing rapidly, while regions responsible for emotional control cannot keep up. Due to this, teenagers have trouble controlling their actions.

External causes

  1. Learned helplessness

This is an apathetic state, in which a teenager does nothing to improve their condition, even if they have the possibility. A teenager lacks faith in their abilities and think that changes are impossible. This state has various causes:

  • a child lacks experience of successful and independent activities, as their parents seize the initiative and do everything for them;
  • a child has experienced situations in which they couldn’t do anything for themselves and came to the conclusion that their efforts cannot affect the final result at all;
  • a child perceives all mistakes as catastrophic: “I am a loser, I never do anything right, everything is meaningless.”
  1. Sexual abuse

This can cause deviant behavior, as well as sexual deviations, which can in turn lead to other types of deviant behavior in teens including aggression, alcohol addiction etc. You need to be especially sensitive when discussing this topic, it would be wise to work with a psychologist and provide care for a teenager who has survived sexual abuse.

  1. Deviant behavior in the family

Deviant behavior of family members can be the cause of a teenager’s asocial behavior, as children tend to copy their parents. Domestic violence towards a child can also lead to behavior problems during teenage years.

  1. Asocial behavior in the surroundings

Bad company can also be the cause of the problem. Friends that drink alcohol can also make a previously sober teenager consume alcoholic beverages. If a teenager has lawbreakers among their acquaintances, there is a high risk that they will also break the law.

  1. School education

If the teenagers perceive their school system as respected and just, they tend to express less deviant behavior. A negative view of the school, especially due to unfair treatment of the students by teachers, can make a child protest by skipping classes, disrupting lessons and refusing to learn.

Complications and consequences of deviant behavior

The teenage years are extremely important for personal development. A lot depends on how a teenager will survive this period. For example, it can define whether they will have alcohol or nicotine addictions, bursts of anger, problems with the law and other troubles in independent life.

Just as we care about our children’s physical health by taking them to the doctors, treating their teeth and buying them medicine, we should also care about their mental health. The timely correction of deviant behavior can help a teenager avoid many problems in their adulthood.

Of course, the manifestation of many of the deviations listed above does not mean that a teenager will become an adult past caring for, but they will have a much better and easier life if you can pass this difficult period smoothly together.

Helping your child and yourself to survive the teenage crisis

There are several pieces of advice that can hopefully help you make life easier for yourself and your child:

  1. Teenagers have a hard time during this period. They change, and their perception of the world changes with them. Parents should support them and find a solution that will satisfy everyone, not just a method to put down a rebellion.
  2. Your child is not your enemy. You are in this together, and you have the same goal: a better relationship, even if a teenager temporarily thinks otherwise.
  3. Learn to speak as equals, do not turn your conversations into a shouting match. Your teenager will become an adult soon so do not strangle their independence.
  4. Remember about age peculiarities and ask your child to perform tasks they are capable of.
  5. Pay more attention to your teenager by accepting their right to express emotions and do not invalidate them. Something you see as trivial can be soul-crushing for a teenager.
  6. Think about changing your behavior to improve your relationship.

These pieces of advice will help you accept the changes your child is going through. There are no perfect parents, and we often disregard things during parenting, but we can still make up for this during our child’s teenage years. You should accept your child’s needs and give them the tools to control their behavior but be prudent and cautious.

It can be hard to help a child alone, so we offer you a modern solution – the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. During a course that lasts a mere 2-6 weeks a teenager will change their behavior in a way that will help them transition safely to adulthood. They will acquire the skills of self-control and self-regulation.

Another benefit of this course is that it is taken remotely, so you can work from home at a convenient time. Many teenagers find it hard to open up and tell “those stupid adults” about their worries. An online test is much easier and more familiar to them. Teachers and even their peers will not know about them taking this course.

The 7Spsy technique will help teenagers to solve problems and prevent them from developing deviant behavior. You will be able to protect your child from making mistakes that cannot be undone in the future.

Here is the last piece of advice: always love and support your awkward, mischievous, stubborn and short-tempered teenagers. They need it.

 

An example of a room of a shopping addict and a hoarder

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

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