Family Conflict. Angry black father scolding sad daughter

Struggling with a Rebellious Teen? You're Not Alone

It's an awkward time for both parent and child. Your child is beginning to assert their power as a young adult, while you're still trying to maintain your power as the parent.

Both of you want power but neither wants to give it up. It can be frustrating and exhausting! In this blog post, we will discuss how power struggles happen in many different ways.

Struggling with a Rebellious Teen? You're Not Alone


We'll also talk about some things that have worked for other parents out there just like you.

What is a rebellious teen and how do I know if my teen is one?

A rebellious teen is someone who is unhappy with the power imbalance in their relationship with you.

A rebellious teen may exhibit some or all of these signs:

- They don't listen to anything that you say without a fight.

- They speak rudely and disrespectfully, often using profanity when talking to parents.

-There are power struggles over clothing, food, curfew, and friends.

- They are disrespectful to you at every turn: rolling their eyes or making a rude face when they talk to you.

-They resist authority by refusing instructions rather than obeying them.

-There is a power struggle in the area of doing chores around the house or helping out with family tasks.

- The power struggle is over using the car, phone or TV, and computer.

-They threaten to run away if you don't let them do what they want."

You vs. Your Child: Perception is Everything

Although it may feel like they’re trying to control you, kids generally don't think of a power struggle as one person enforcing their will into the other.

In reality, children often get upset about things not being fair or that somebody else is at fault for it. Now and again they may do this without even realizing what they're doing.

The power struggle is not a battle of wills, but rather a developmental stage in which children are trying to assert their independence. It's about them feeling like they have power and control when all else feels chaotic or uncontrollable.

In this power struggle, you're parenting with your heart more than with the head. You've tried reasoning with your child, but you're not getting anywhere. You try to be patient and wait for the power struggle to end, but it's lasting longer than before.

Most of the time, your children are not really seeing it that way. Most kids think and behave differently than their adult parents do.

Adults often misinterpret the youngster's behavior as defiance rather than a different outlook of life in general.

In power struggles, the power is always on one side. The power can shift back and forth, but in the end, it's still a struggle for power that ends up feeling unproductive to both sides.

It often starts when children start struggling with their own independence as they grow into adolescence. They're trying to assert themselves and learn who they are, but their power is limited.

As they get older and understand more about the power struggle happening between themselves and adults, children start to push back against what's expected of them because it doesn't make sense or feel fair.

They can become frustrated with not having as much power in this particular situation as they do elsewhere in their lives.

The power and control they feel in other areas of their lives are what fuels this frustration. 

For instance, if a child feels like the power to decide when or where he leaves his house has been taken from them by an adult, then being told that it's time for bed even though there are still 30 minutes left before bedtime might feel like a power struggle.

Not What You Might Think: The Goal is not to Take Power Struggles Away

The key is not to take power struggles away but instead to soften the defiance. Letting little ones push back appropriately helps them develop autonomy, but only up to a point.

Letting their power struggles last for a minute or two before intervening; and then when they have calmed down, offer simple choices about what to do next. For example, "Do you want me to tuck in your shirt?" If the child says yes, follow through with that request. But if they say no, then respect their decision and move on.

However, parents also need to teach their children about the responsibility that comes with autonomy. 

Children look to be given more independence and decision-making capabilities, but should not be permitted to argue in an abusive or hurtful way.

Here's the bottom line: children need to learn how to argue with their parents without being hurtful .

This means that it is important to show our children how power struggles can be productive. They need to learn both power and responsibility.

Without power, we don't have anything as parents or as people in general. Without responsibility, power becomes a destructive force.

When the police pull you over for a traffic infraction and you don’t think that your actions warrant an infringement of your rights, it can result in what we call a power struggle. You might find yourself screaming at the officer, which will not be helpful.

Instead, try calmly and respectfully explaining your position. Whether or not he still gives you a ticket, you’ve been able to present your viewpoint in a way that doesn’t get you into more trouble, and might in fact solve the problem.

Why It’s a Mistake to Give in to Defiant Power Struggles

Almost all children will become resistant to their parent's authority as they grow older. Some kids often express their defiance through socially acceptable means, but some try to exert this power by being stubborn and oppositional.

These children are quite defiant; when told there will be consequences for not obeying your rules, these types of kids don't care and may act like they don't understand. They may even go so far as to say "you're not the boss of me."

This type of power struggle is not uncommon in parenting, but it can be a confusing and frustrating situation for parents who are used to being an authoritative figure.

Giving into power struggles with defiant children will only reinforce their rebellious behavior; these power struggles should be viewed as power struggles, not power plays.

When a child says "you're not the boss of me," it's important to realize that they may just want more freedom and independence from you.

They are testing their boundaries with you and seeing what reaction they will get for power struggle behaviors.

One way to overcome power struggles with your teen is to shift power dynamics by adopting a team mentality, rather than an authoritative stance.

You can also set up parameters and expectations for behavior that you are willing to work on together.

Creating a collaborative power dynamic will allow the child more freedom while still providing boundaries within which they should act if there's harmony between parent and child.

One way power struggles can be avoided is if you are able to find a way for your teen to feel as though they still have power, but not at the expense of hurting their relationship with parents.

For example, some children may want more freedom and independence from you (such as having more time on social media).

They might just want to show that they are growing up and can get their own power from you. In this case, a power struggle might arise if one of your rules is limiting the amount of time spent on social media.

It may be helpful to create boundaries with some negotiating room for both parties so there's something in it for everyone. The child will love the power they have to negotiate, and you will get the power of having rules in place.

The child is not being defiant because he or she doesn't want to do what the parent wants; it's more about wanting some power back from those early years when the teen was told what to do without any input.

Tips for parents on how to be more understanding when dealing with their teenager's behavior

* Give them power by negotiating boundaries for social media.

* Set consequences, but don't overreact when they break the rules.

* Be more understanding about their feelings and where their anger is coming from; it's not just because you're setting limits on what they can do or say (power struggle). Let your child know that you understand and respect them. 

* Share your own worries or concerns with the child to show that you're on their side, not just against power struggles in general.

* Don't take away privileges as a punishment for power struggles; instead try taking away things they enjoy doing (i.e., stop playing video games).

* Keep power struggles to a minimum by encouraging your child to do things that make them happy (i.e., playing outside, watching movies).

This power struggle is not just about you and the power of control over what they can say or do – it's also about their feelings and where their anger comes from. Put yourself in your teen's shoes. What might be making them so angry?

Wrapping Up

When parents feel like they’re the only ones in their shoes, it can be hard to believe that there are people who understand what you go through.

It is important to remember that no matter how bad things get, we all have a choice of whether or not to give up on our child and ourselves.

The only way we can make sure our children are happy and healthy is by taking their needs seriously.

There are many ways for parents to find guidance and support, but it's always best if they have a doctor on hand with specialised knowledge of child development.

We hope this article has given you some practical tips for dealing with a rebellious teen as well as some encouragement from other parents who have been where you are now.