Science of Teen Rebellion
September 23, 2019
In the excellent book, Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, there is a great chapter on teen rebellion. Why do teens rebel and lie? Primarily to explore the world and avoid telling us that they broke our rules.
In the chapter, researcher Nancy Darling looked at the issues surrounding lying and deception. What she found was that most teens lie to hide actions that they have engaged in that are counter to the parents rules or desires. They don't want to disappoint and ruin the relationship with mom and dad so they prevaricate and lie. She also found that very permissive parents often have less well adjusted children as the teens perceive the lack of rules as parents not caring. Her research found that "pushing a teen into rebellion by having too many rules was a sort of statistical myth".
I find this to be very true. Teenagers want rules secretly. They want to be and feel loved. They want to explore the world with some sense of safety where the parental guardrails are up to protect them from catastrophe. I also find that they want to engage in adult conversation if you are willing to sit and talk with them. My son's friends often sit and talk like adults. And they listen because they know that we are not judging them. We are there as a sounding board for their lives. We discuss vaping and exploration of risky teenage behaviors. The recent vaping nightmare is a perfect discussion point for why we as parents worry and counsel caution with drugs and all teenage exploration.
Sit with your teens. Have open and honest discussions about house rules, why you have them, and that you love them too much to give them complete freedom.
Reread Brene BrownsWholehearted Parenting Manifesto as it is beautiful.