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      Dealing with Teenage Rebellion and Defiance

      Many parents can pinpoint the exact year that their child changed from wanting to sit in their lap and read stories to wanting nothing to do with them. And it is not surprising that it is usually in the pre-teen and teen years. Conflict with your teenager may seem inevitable. The fact that teens can be challenging is not new information to parents. What we can do as parents is work to understand why teenage rebellion and defiance happens and how we can best support them during this tough transition into adulthood.

      teenage rebellion

      Photo Credit: flickr user – Pablo

      What Causes Teenage Rebellion?

      There is not one reason that teenagers rebel. There are many different developmental and hormonal changes that can come together and can sometimes create a perfect storm of emotions. This can present as mood swings, heightened emotional responses, or anger. The prefrontal cortex of their brain, the one that is responsible for impulse control and understanding outcomes and consequences is not fully developed in the teen years. In a time when teens are craving more freedom, they do not yet have the capability to fully understand the consequences they may face.Teenagers long to assert their individuality and break free from their childhood identity as they develop their own opinions and world-views, all while navigating the challenging waters of middle and high school relationships.

      How to Deal with Your Defiant Teen

      The first thing to understand is that what looks like rebellion, is often developmentally appropriate boundary pushing that teens need to experience before they leave home to go out on their own. But there is a difference between pushing boundaries and outright defiance. If your teen is exhibiting extreme defiance, here are a few things to think about:

      1. Is your teen reacting to a specific situation? Maybe they are struggling with bullying at school and when they come home, instead of explaining what is happening, they feel overwhelmed and they lash out. It is important to talk with your teen to address any underlying concerns.
      2. Could your teen have an undiagnosed disorder, like Oppositional Defiant Disorder? if your child or teenager has a frequent and persistent pattern of anger, irritability, arguing, defiance or vindictiveness toward you and other authority figures, they may have oppositional defiant disorder. If that is the case, a diagnosis and treatment with a clinical professional can help.
      3. Can you give them room to make mistakes? It is normal, and even healthy for your teen to make mistakes. Teens need that experience with independence to grow. That is how they will learn, not only how to make a better choice in the future, but also their own limitations. Failure allows them to see that perhaps their decision making process isn’t foolproof, and that the people around (like their parents) are a helpful resource in making future choices. There are ways we can let them “fail small”. For example, if they are late to soccer practice, maybe their coach won’t let them play in the next game. Or if they don’t turn in a paper, they will have to work harder to make up extra credit. But there are other behaviors that can have dangerous consequences if your teen makes those choices, like experimenting with drugs or alcohol. In these situations, it is important for parents to intervene quickly, perhaps with professional help.

      Trails Carolina Can Help

      Trails Carolina’s wilderness therapy program was founded with a singular goal – to help families reconnect, heal, and thrive. Over the years, our approach has been shown to produce lasting, positive outcomes, delivering on that mission.

      Each child that enters our campus is unique and brings their own needs and challenges. Immediately, we get to work making sure they receive the support they need, starting by introducing them to their single-gender, age-appropriate group they’ll be growing with.

      These groups are led by experienced, licensed therapists who specialize in working with youth who fit their group’s profile exactly – and it shows. We also work to keep parents engaged along this powerful journey, empowering them to support and communicate effectively with their child when they return home. For more information please call (828) 414-2785.



      Graham Shannonhouse

      A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Graham Shannonhouse has been actively involved in the wilderness therapy field for nearly three decades. After receiving her degree in 1991, Shannonhouse spent 10 years working with a premiere wilderness-based therapeutic program in south-central Idaho. During her tenure, she served three years as a hands-on Field Instructor, three years as Field Supervisor, and the remaining time as Wilderness Program Director. During this period she developed, managed, and served as counselor for the country’s first wilderness program specifically focused on pre- teens ages 10 to 13 Graham returned to the east in 2002 to serve as Executive Director for a therapeutic wilderness program based in North Carolina, successfully growing it to one of the most respected companies in the industry. In 2008, she resigned her position to open Trails Carolina. Having an intimate working knowledge of the roots of wilderness therapy, Graham has brought her experience and wisdom to her position as Partner and Executive Director with the goal of integrating the true family work that must be done to insure lasting success.

      All stories by: Graham Shannonhouse