Why Do Teens Act Out? How to Help a Teenager Acting Out

There aren’t “bad teens”, but there are definitely bad behaviors that need to be addressed before the teens turn into adults, and it becomes more and more difficult to correct those behaviors.

We won’t be going too deep into the specific bad behaviors, although some will be mentioned; the goal here is to talk about what causes teens to act out and what we can do about it.

7 Reasons Why Teens Act Out

There are a number of reasons that a teenage will act out, and the severity of their “acting out” or rebellious behavior will vary from teen to teen. These things are impacted by their personalities, their temperament, and the specific situations and events that are going on in their life.

Teens Act Out as a Call for Help

Sometimes, when teens act out, it’s a call for help.

They might not even realize they’re making a call for help, or know how to understand the feelings that are compelling them to act out.

When a teen is behaving badly, acting out, and generally having a difficult time, it can mean they need help with something. They obviously have an inkling that something isn’t right, but they don’t necessarily know how to diagnose, identify, or otherwise recognize it.

Testing Boundaries

It’s normal for teenagers, kids, and people of all ages for that matter, to test boundaries. If you’re a parent reading this, you probably know people in your own friend group or at work who also test boundaries.

If someone doesn’t learn how to respect, set, and navigate boundaries in their younger years, they’re going to grow into an adult who has these same issues, except society has a lot more leeway for children and teens who are testing boundaries, but not so much for adults, so this is important to teach your teen.

They Don’t Have Better Tools

The teenage years can be some wild times, and many teenagers don’t have the life experience or the tools to always handle things in the best possible ways.

As teens mature, they’ll ideally learn new ways to solve problems and handle things that don’t involve acting out, but before that maturity kicks in, acting out is a very common response when somebody doesn’t know how to handle something. Teaching a teenager about leadership can help give them the confidence and tools that they need in order to better navigate the world.

Something Has Changed

Has something in your teenager’s life changed recently? A major life change can cause all sorts of breaks in routines, comfort, feeling safe, and everything that that can help a teenager feeling grounded. Moving, a divorce, loss of a family member, personal issues, and other factors can also contribute to this.

They could be reacting to something that’s happened to them. Life changes can be hard, especially when you’re experiencing them for the first time.

It’s Part of Growing Up

“For many kids, misbehaving can be part of normal development. Adolescence is a time of complex social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development.” via Vera.org

Misbehaving and acting out can be totally normal, it’s when it gets to a point beyond “normal” that it starts to be more of an issue.

That doesn’t mean you should just ignore when a teenager is acting out, though, because this is still an opportunity to help them understand something or give them a good lesson about life.

Impulsive Decision Making

During the teenage years, the brain isn’t fully developed, and teenagers won’t always understand the consequences of their actions.

By the teen years, it’s time to start understanding that actions have consequences, of course, but people need to make mistakes and learn as they grow up.

Making impulsive decisions and acting out on them isn’t uncommon during the teenage years, but this is the time to learn.

Acting Out for Attention

Acting Out for Attention

Saying that teens are acting out for attention has some connotations, like “they’re just doing it for attention”, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually when you brush something off as just attention seeking behavior, it acts to belittle it or diminish it. Sometimes, a teenager truly needs attention, and they’ll act out because they don’t know a better way to get that attention.

Acting Out Examples

Here are some examples of ways that teens night act out. If you’ve spent any time around teenagers, you know this is far from being a complete list, but it’s a start.

  • Ignoring their curfew,
  • Experimenting with illicit substances,
  • Staying up all night,
  • Having a bad attitude,
  • Ignoring the house rules,
  • Having anger issues,
  • Ignoring homework,
  • Not answering their phone when parents call,
  • Disturbing their classroom,
  • Graffiti or petty crimes,
  • There are plenty of other examples of teens acting out.

Teenager Acting Out? Here’s How to Help

Teenager Acting Out

A teenager acting out is usually a cry for help, even if they don’t necessarily realize it. As someone in their life, it’s kind of on you to realize that it’s a cry for help.

That doesn’t mean you’re always responsible to help them, especially if they’re resistant to help or acting poorly towards you, but if you’re their parent or guardian, then recognizing calls for help and how to answer them can make a substantial difference in a young person’s life.

Therapy and counseling are very important tools for teens who are acting out, when that acting out starts to stretch beyond the normal line of what most teens will do at one point or another.

If a teen’s personality takes a 180 and all of a sudden they’re always acting out, it’s time to take action. Talk to them, try to find out if something’s bothering them, and try to find a professional that they can talk to in order to reduce the amount of teens acting out.