Diagnosis: Teenager. Seven Ways to Overcome the Teenage Crisis

Aug 23, 2019


Building a constructive dialogue with a teenager is extremely difficult. Rudeness, emotional blackmailing, provocative behavior – these are the most common reactions of a child even to “harmless” comments from parents. There are often misunderstandings in a family and everyone has deep grievances. But must the transitional age always be so painful? In this article, we will raise an important topic: how to get through this difficult crisis period for the parents and the child with the least losses.


  • Teenage: features of the development of a child
  • Stages of the teenage crisis
  • Causes of the teenage crisis
  • Features of the teenage crisis in girls and boys
  • Negativism of teenagers
  • Problem teenager: what should parents do?

Teenage: features of the development of a child

In psychology, the crisis of the teenage years is considered the most difficult stage in the maturation of each person. During this period, the child negotiates the border between childhood and maturity, which radically changes his/her worldview. This sums up the changes in the behavior of a teenager – just yesterday he/she was a sweet baby, and today he/she seems furious.

The teenage crisis begins from 11-12 years and lasts until 17-18 years. Despite all the negative manifestations, it has an important function – a child seeks himself/herself in this world, understands own feelings, sets priorities, and actively accumulates the experience of a social life. Escaping from the crisis only delays human development. Young people who have worthily gone through this difficult period become stronger and more confident in themselves and gain the ability to control their destinies. [1]

The “hormonal explosion” inherent in the teenage crisis is accompanied by vivid external manifestations – intense growth and puberty. This has many effects on the behavior of a child. We outline the main features of the teenage crisis:

  • An extremely critical attitude to one’s own appearance, which develops shyness and self-doubt.
  • Rudeness and categorization in communications with adults.
  • Either rudeness or kindness due to sudden mood swings.
  • A keen interest in sexual topics.
  • Violation of parental taboos – the first experience of drinking alcohol and smoking.
  • Ostentatious indifference to everything around.
  • Building personal boundaries and maintaining a certain distance with parents.
  • Depressive states.
  • Poor school performance, because there are many distracting factors around – love, new friends, and fresh interests. [2]

Not always all the “symptoms” of the teenage crisis are present in a child. According to psychologists, there are 2 main ways of its flow. [3]

Crisis of independence

This is the most common form of the teenage crisis. In this case, a child becomes rebellious – obstinate, naughty, stubborn, masterful. His/her behavior and attitude to the world around is indicative of striving forward, going beyond the limits of “children’s” norms and rules. A teenager, by all available means, declares to the world: “I am already an adult, and now everything will be related to my opinion”.

Crisis of dependence

In this case, the behavior of a teenager also changes, but in the completely opposite direction to rebellion. A child shows excessive obedience and dependence on parents or elder buddies. It is like a regression in emotional development, a rollback to children’s forms of behavior. A child is afraid to enter adulthood, and he/she is tries hard to stay in that period of life where he/she feels safe “under the wing” of adults.

According to psychologists, a teenager often takes a dual position, that is, he/she shows symptoms of a crisis of independence and a crisis of dependence. But in order to help a child, it is important to understand exactly which signs of the scenario dominate. [3]

Stages of the teenage crisis

The psychologist and teacher L.S. Vygotsky devoted a lot of his academic work to the themes of the teenage crisis. He considered this period in the life of a child to be the most significant, and unique foundation in the development of personality. According to Vygotsky, the teenage crisis smoothly goes through 3 phases. [3]

Phase 1 – pre-critical (negative)

A child begins to break the system, changing his/her behavior. This is the crisis of early teenage. A child from 11 years old will test the boundaries of what is permitted, try to get out of the custody of the parents. The teenager will change old habits and begin to look in a new light at what is happening around.

Phase 2 – climax

Vygotsky marks the climax of the teenage crisis – around 13 years old. Starting from this age, the child’s behavior changes dramatically, and not always for the better. The teenager acts unpredictably and sharply reacts to all processes occurring around. Differences in mood and an unwillingness to learn have a bad effect on the development of cognitive functions at 12-15 years  (memory, attention, thinking) If you do not acknowledge and work with this, it may be difficult for the child to enter and study at the university in the future.

Phase 3 – post-critical

At this stage of the age crisis, a teenager is already reconciled with self-changes. He/she tries to collect the accumulated experience and learns to find compromises with the own “I”. Although not without difficulty, a teenager improves the basics of communication with peers and seniors. He/she understands what is “good” and “bad”. With a successful outcome of the age crisis, a child is quite ready to go into adulthood.

Causes of the teenage crisis

Provocative behavior of the child, according to psychologists, may be associated with his/her fears and self-doubt. The reasons for the teenage crisis do not lie in the fact that a teenager wants a conflict per se. The child is trying to understand his/her own thoughts and convey to others his/her beliefs:

  1. “I am already an adult”

Riot is the easiest way for a teenager to achieve equal rights, to prove importance and to expand the boundaries of what is permitted. A child considers himself/herself an adult and wants to make decisions independently. Of course, his/her interests are faced with harsh parental criticism. Mom and Dad are not ready to admit that their baby has grown up and really has the right to openly express opinions. Hence, here come the numerous problems associated with the teenage crisis.

  1. “Who am I?”

Until 10-11 years old, a child actively learns from the world around. But then everything changes – now the outlook of a teenager is more directed inward. He/she begins to “dig” into his/her thoughts, trying to find his/her destiny in this world and to take certain positions in society. This is the so-called teenage identity crisis. Surviving it is psychologically difficult.

The process of self-awareness requires solitude. That is why many teenagers become silent and closed, limiting their communication with parents. Children are afraid that adults will not understand them. This is one of the main reasons that can push a child to extreme measures such as running away from home and living on the street.

  1. “This is my territory”

All teenagers jealously guard their own personal territory. They are trying to outline those boundaries beyond which parents cannot cross. A child considers the life views of Mom and Dad “old-fashioned”, and therefore not worthy of attention. A teenager, by building personal boundaries, tries to protect him/herself from criticism of parents and life difficulties.

  1. “I have my own opinion”

During the teenage crisis, tough logic dominates the mind of a teenager, he/she needs clear answers to important questions. Critical thinking has not yet sufficiently developed in a child, therefore the world around seems to be bipolar – black or white, with a complete absence of mid-tones. This is apparent until the moment a teenager is able to understand the complex palette of relationships between people. Many of life’s processes do not fit into his/her worldview and only good and bad rule. This provokes numerous conflicts with peers and parents. Also, a teenager can cut off long-standing friendships or completely be disappointed in something.

Features of the teenage crisis in girls and boys

In girls and boys, the teenage crisis is different. What are the gender-related features of this difficult period of growing up?

Teenage crisis in girls

“My daughter is 12 years old. Over the past year she has changed a lot, I literally do not recognize my girl. There are no problems with school performance, but I know that boys have appeared in her company. And now, all the thoughts of my daughter are only about her love affairs. To me, of course, this seems silly, but I see how my girl is worried. She has become withdrawn and is constantly crying. Her answer to all my questions is that everything is fine. But I see she is worried. She has begun to tell me often that she is ugly. Previously, she could even go to school blowzy, but now she spends hours in front of a mirror.

Recently, she decided to go on a diet, eating almost nothing. But what kind of diet can it be? For she is already slender. I’m afraid that eating next to nothing will harm her health. I suspect that this is all in order to be attractive to boys”.

– Irina, 40

According to psychologists, girls enter the teenage crisis a little earlier. It starts at 10-11 years old and ends at 16-17 years old. In many cases, the crisis for girls is milder.

Teenage girls are much less likely to show negativity or latent or passive aggression. This is largely due to the fact that they are sharply experiencing the internal conflict of the realization that they are violating the generally accepted norms of behavior attributed to women. Most girls have a tight control over their behavior in the teenage crisis – they try to behave correctly so as not to cause adults’ discontent.

Another distinctive feature of the difficult teenage crisis in girls is the fact that they are often fixated on imperfections of their appearance. Girls are often looking for all kinds of ways to achieve an unattainable ideal of beauty. Often, the methods they choose do not justify the goal at all and may undermine health – for example, strict diets. Girls’ bright defiant makeup, with which they try to show off, is completely inappropriate in middle and high school.

Some teenage girls demonstrate negativity with a socially significant orientations – they try to protect the rights of other people and overly protect close friends from troubles. [4]

Teenage crisis in boys

“My son is 15 years old and he goes to high school. For a couple of years now, we all have been fighting with his teenage crisis. He gives us riots which are driving us crazy.

There are constant parties and games on the computer – another half of the trouble. He is studying under the lash. Soon he should enter the university, but along with his academic performance, his discipline at school is also bad. I am constantly called to the school by the headmaster, because my son starts fights and is rude to teachers.

My husband and I tried everything – we calmly talked to our son, we locked him at home, and took away all his gadgets, but nothing has helped”.

– Marina, 38

With boys, the teenage psychological crisis begins at 11-12 and ends at 17-18 years old. It often proceeds very rapidly. The fact is that young men are already beginning to develop an idea of ​​a masculine type of behavior. But these are not always the correct behavioral attitudes – a boy tries to solve too many problems by force and aggression. The other extreme is complete withdrawal and estrangement from loved ones in order to hide his true feelings, because it is believed that “a man should not show emotions”. And in the teenage years, taking into account how much hormones “rebel”, it is difficult to hide your feelings. Thus it becomes way easier to stay alone.

Boys more calmly perceive their own manifestations of aggression, having the belief that men, if necessary, are prone to such behavior with no regrets and reflections. Teenagers more often blame their outbursts of rage on external factors – “I’m not to blame, this is how the circumstances developed”. [4]

Negativism of teenagers

Negativism is a pessimistic attitude towards the world around, manifested in a negative assessment of people and their actions.

Negativism is especially pronounced in teenagers during the teenage crisis. Given the immaturity of the child’s personality and his/her black and white picture of the world, he/she perceives many life situations extremely negatively. A child becomes stubborn, withdrawn, rude and even aggressive and often violates discipline in school. But this is only the outer shell – negativism becomes a kind of armor, which covers the numerous fears a child has on the verge of growing up. In fact, negativism is a teenager’s reaction to some unmet personal needs. For example, a lack of respect, understanding and love from parents and close ones. [2]

According to psychologists, negativity in teenagers largely depends on the environment in which the child grows. If a child is brought up in a family with constant conflicts, where disrespect for each other and aggression is the norm, a negative attitude towards the surrounding reality will manifest itself sooner or later. [3]


Psychologists divide adolescent negativity into passive and active. A passive negativist does not quarrel openly, he/she simply ignores the requests, demands and comments of parents. The specificity of active negativity lies in the fact that a teenager puts all his/her strength into arguing with adults – he/she does the opposite of what has been asked. [3]

Problem teenager: what should parents do?

How well the teenage puberty crisis will pass will depend on the characteristics of the child and the basics of education that the parents have laid down. Equally important is the position of the close environment. Despite the fact that the “prickly” teenager shows everyone negativity, he/she needs support more than ever. Do not push a child away, try to understand his/her own feelings and help him/her to enter adulthood with a sense of a solid foundation.

When solving so many problems that accompany the teenage age crisis, parents have to be patient so as not to spoil their relationship with their child. What recommendations will help?

1. Learn how to properly resolve conflicts with your child

Strict prohibitions and punishments, emotional blackmail, sharp criticism, imposing one’s own opinion – all these do not work in successfully raising a teenager. It is important for parents to learn how to effectively get out of conflicts with a child via a confidential dialogue and a sincere desire to help. Listen, teach and offer advice.

2. Respect the teenager’s personal space

Despite the fact that you have every right to give advice and guidance to your child, respect his/her personal space and do not impose your opinion on certain issues. In order not to spoil relations with the teenager, observe the boundaries that he/she has established. Knock on the door before entering the teenager’s room, do not read messages on his/her phone and on social media, do not ask too much about friends. Even these seemingly insignificant changes in your behavior will let the child understand that you are not encroaching on his/her personal life.

This does not mean that the teenager’s life should be left to chance. Continue to monitor his/her time and school performance. But this should not look like an encroachment on freedom.

3. Treat a teenager like an adult

It’s time to stop looking at your child as a baby. A teenager is already old enough to make certain decisions. Give him/her some freedom of action and respect his/her desire to do “adult” things. Everyone, even a child, has the right to make a mistake. It develops the personality and helps accumulate life experience.

4. Do not discount the feelings of a teenager

A teenager sharply perceives literally every event in life. Help him/her to painlessly get out of conflicts with friends and offer support when he/she fails. Seeing that you do care, the child will be more self-confident and will listen to your advice, which is extremely important.

Learn the art of communicating with your child. “Not a big deal – your girlfriend left you! You will have a plenty of them!” – these are not the most suitable words of comfort for a boy suffering from one-sided love. Do not discount his/her problems and offer support in difficult times. Sometimes it’s quite simple to say, “I understand you”.

5. Find common touch points with a teenager

A teenager faced with misunderstanding from parents, often moves away from them and closes up. Try to find common touch points with your growing child. This will help ensure effective prevention and correction of deviant behavior, as well as monitoring his/her emotional state.

Find a common hobby with your child. Actively relax together, go to the movies or attend exhibitions and concerts. Believe, that not everything that modern youth loves is bad. Understand what your child is interested in. This will help you to be on the same wavelength.

6. Show a personal example

Teenagers are sensitive to hypocrisy. Be sure that a phony sermon on moral values in the form of instructions and orders will not affect the child. Teach him/her using  personal examples. This will help the teenager understand the essence of what is happening around and master the art of communication. Each child absorbs many behavioral attitudes precisely from the environment in which he/she was brought up. Let the settings be calm and not aggression with excessive strictness.

7. Use the 7Spsy behavior modification technique

Despite the sensitive attitude of parents, there may be situations when a crisis in a teenager is accompanied by a serious reaction. He/she literally “breaks bad” – leaves home, does not want to study at all or tries alcohol and drugs, which can turn into serious chemical addictions. In such cases, you can’t afford to hesitate – contact a psychologist for help.

The teenage riot is largely due to negative attitudes. If you adjust them, then you can solve many problems in your child’s personal development. An excellent result is shown by the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented methodology of behavioral psychology based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky.

Completing the course will help a child change those established negative attitudes that push him/her to aggression or isolation. With acquired skills, it will be easier for the teenager to understand himself/herself and the processes flowing around. This is important for the harmonious development of the personality. Replacing negative attitudes with positive ones, the child will learn to competently resolve conflicts, which will help build a productive dialogue with friends and parents.

Training under the 7Spsy behavior modification technique is designed for up to 6 weeks. In this short period of time, the child will master a healthy behavior model that will allow him/her to live productively through the teenage crisis and develop the necessary personal qualities.

Consultations and communication with a psychologist are carried out in a convenient online mode – by e-mail, in chat rooms and by phone. Reassure your child – he/she need not tell friends about the training in which he/she will participate. This is extremely important for teenagers – they do not want anyone to know about their “weaknesses”. Participation in the training is strictly confidential.

Bright and emotive headline

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

Institute of Distance Psychology Pte .Ltd UEN 201834385M 4 Battery Road, #25-01 Bank of Chaina Building Singapore 049908.

LLC Tekhnologii Ideala, Center for Research Psychology 

TIN 5406976032 / PSRN 1175476058801

+7 (800) 550-99-36

+7 (658) -671-95-25