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Beware of teenagers! Surviving your child’s teenage years

05.04.2019 Author: Psychologist Pavel Khoroshutin

“Oh no, it finally happened. It has started for my dear daughter. She used to be just a normal girl, but now our dear, our beloved child became disobedient and rebellious, she stopped dancing, she has no interest to 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 us to buy her expensive clothes. She is like a fury now, she became rude and snappy, blames us for everything. I wanted to take her to a psychologist, and 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 natural reasons for such shift in behavior. Around 12-14 years children experience the onset of 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 be independent and search for their place in life. However, they have an incredibly hard time. A mix 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 a 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 with no severe consequences.


  1. Definition of a deviant behavior
  2. Deviant behavior in teenagers. When to worry
  3. Causes of deviant behavior in teenagers
  4. Complications and consequences of deviant behavior
  5. Helping your child and yourself to survive teenage crisis

Definition of a deviant behavior

conflicts between teenagers and parents

Deviant behavior is a type of behavior that deviates from legal, moral and age standards accepted in a society. These standards may vary depending on a person’s age, place of living, social status, therefore, a detailed definition of a 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 colors that other people and adults consider to be abnormal?

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

We will teach you how to negotiate and reach a compromise

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Deviant behavior in teenagers. When to worry

antisocial behavior of teenagers

Substance abuse

Here we talk about substances that affect consciousness. This includes addiction to alcohol, nicotine, drug and medication. Intake of the following 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 “trying” cannot cause addiction, but you should start worrying if a child often smells of tobacco or alcohol, or if they come home drunk.

Even single events of drug intake requires focused attention from the parents. However, you should consider your reaction. If you punish a child too hard, 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

It 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, asks for money to buy lunch but spends them on arcade machines. Some teenagers may even steal and sell items from home.


With a 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

A teenager displays their aggression by inflicting harm to other people and animals: yelling, offending, stealing and spoiling other people’s things, kicks and punches etc.

Lack of will

This problem manifests itself through inability to stand one’s ground, defend their wishes, enter a meaningful discussion with adults, fear of authority and blind confidence.

When to worry

All teenagers find it hard to argue 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 a proper experience of fighting for their ideals, a teenager may remain childish and dependent on other people’s opinion.


It is a 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 (kicks, pushes, beating) and psychological pressure (gossiping, intimidation, boycott).

When to worry

Any bullying event in among teenagers requires immediate attention and intervention from adults. There is usually one instigator, but soon enough the whole class can become involved in bullying. Other children might not want to stand out to be safe themselves. Bullying often leads to collective beating and 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 may have plans different to ours. For example, we 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

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


This disorder is described by low mood, anxiety, despair, worsening memory and attention, 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, frequent headaches.

    When to worry

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 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 this case are simply a cry for help.

When to worry

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 attempts, or a teenager might think that no one cares about them, so they finish what they’ve started.

Another worrisome sign is self-harm. It features scratching the skin, cutting it with a sharp object, in more rare cases in punches, pulling hair and burning oneself. Self-harm lets a teenager to switch attention from emotional to physical pain or 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 that case.


Teenagers rarely leave their homes for long periods of time. The first runaway is usually out of protest, and a child returns 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 become vagrants. Living in the streets, a teenager might start stealing, begging for money, drinking alcohol and doing drugs.

When to worry

After the very first runaway attempt. In most cases it happens due to certain problems in the family as a 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! Runaways 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.


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 adrenaline rush;
  • desire to attract attention;
  • desire to own certain things.

When to worry

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


Teenagers lie for the same reasons as adults:

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

Teenagers can have an inclination for fantasizing that generally goes away with age. Technically, children do not lie, they fantasize and make up stories.

When to worry

When a teenager lies constantly, even about smallest matters, or uses lies to cover their actions, like stealing, fighting etc. It these cases lying becomes pathologic and turns into a bad habit.

Sexual deviations

During puberty a person develops sexual attraction to other people and the desire to explore their body. Such interest is perfectly normal. It is absolutely impractical to prohibit a teenager to express interest in sex or 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 genitals and talk about it;
  • public demonstration of genitals;
  • sexual abuse of other people;
  • desire to change partners frequently;
  • 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 inability to control the amount of consumed food.

When to worry

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

Causes of deviant behavior in teenagers

causes of deviant behavior in adolescents

You have probably already found your own problems in the list of types of deviant behavior. 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, desire for independence. Teenagers tend to consider the opinion of their peers more. Physical growth gives them the sense of maturity, yet a child does not receive more freedom, which leads to conflicts.

2. 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 sexual appetite. Their hormonal background changes, they have skin problems and strong body odor. Many children have trouble accepting these changes, view their bodies and appearance critically, which affects their mood and self-esteem.

3. Early puberty

In some cases children hit puberty earlier than usual, before the age of 10, which can cause additional problems with behavior and emotional state. Children can also develop frequent headaches and fatigue, which parents can mistake for laziness.

4. Lack of sleep and rest

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

5. Features of brain development

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

External causes

1. Learned helplessness

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

  • a child lacks experience of successful and independent activities, as their parents seize the initiative and do everything in their stead;
  • a child has experienced situations in which they couldn’t do anything and came to a conclusion that they 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.

2. Sexual abuse

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

3. Deviant behavior in the family

Deviant behavior of family members can be the cause of 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.

4. Asocial behavior in the surroundings

Bad company can also be the cause of the problem. Friends that drink alcohol , can also make a yet 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.

5. 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 the subject.

Complications and consequences of deviant behavior

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 law and trouble in independent life.

Just like we care about our children’s physical health, take them to doctors, treat their teeth, buy them medicine, we should also care about their mental health. Timely correction of deviant behavior can help a teenager avoid many problems in their adulthood.

Of course, manifestation of the majority of the deviations listed above does not mean that a teenager will become an adult past praying 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 teenage crisis

correction of deviant behavior among teens

There are several pieces of advice that can hopefully help you make your 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 some 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 thinks otherwise.
  3. Learn to speak as equals, do not turn your conversations into a shouting match. Your teenager will become an adult soon, 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 a teenager, accept their right for expressing 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 a lot of things during parenting, but we can still make up for it during our child’s teenage years. You should accept your child’s needs and give them the tools to control their behavior, be prudent and cautious.

It can be hard to help a child without help, so we offer you a modern solution: 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 to adulthood safely. They will acquire the skills of self-control and self-regulation.

We will teach you how to negotiate and reach a compromise

Make for consultation WATCH VIDEO

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.

7Spsy technique will help them solve their problems and prevent them from developing deviant behavior. You will be able to protect your child from 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.


  1. Istochniki N.A. Rozhdestvenskaya. «Deviantnoe povedenie i osnovy ego profilaktiki u podrostkov. Uchebnoe posobie».