Understanding Your Adolescents Behaviour

Sherri Frohlick, PhD (C)
Doctoral Intern

Have you ever wondered why your adolescent does certain things? Do you often feel confused, frustrated or scared in response to your adolescent’s behaviour? You are not alone. These are common, and normal, feelings that are part of being a parent during the tumultuous and exciting years of your child’s adolescence.

All behaviour says something about our need to connect with others. We all vary in how we express these needs. Babies cry, coo, smile and laugh. As children learn to speak they begin to express their needs with words. But, this isn’t always how it goes! Older children use behaviour and words to express their needs too. Sometimes they don’t know how to express themselves with words or they simply do not know how they feel.  It is natural for them to struggle with this.

If we look at behaviour from an attachment lens it gives us more opportunities to change our relationship with our adolescent by understanding the various things their behaviour could mean. For instance, a child who is picking fights with family members might be saying several different things about his or her attachment needs. Maybe they are having trouble at school and need someone to listen to their concerns. Or, maybe they are feeling anxious and don’t know how to express that to you in a way that is more appropriate. There are lots of things they could be trying to communicate through their behaviour.

As a parent it is hard to figure out what that message might be. This is because behaviour can mean different things at different times. But, doing so is a way to strengthen your bond with your adolescent. You don’t need to always get it right and you aren’t condoning their behaviour by making the effort to understand. But, you are sending a message to them that you see that they are complex people with real concerns and feelings. Sending the message that you are willing to “figure them out” by listening and trying to understand will go a long way. Although it may seem like they are pushing you away, adolescents still need their parents and attempting to “decode” their behaviour is a way of helping them to continue to feel safe and secure in their relationships.

This blog posting is not a form of psychological counselling, advice, therapy, or assessment and should not be used as such by any individual. This blog posting is provided only as an article intended to encourage thought and discourse. For specific psychology related services, please contact an appropriate healthcare provider.