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Teenagers Who Refuse to Obey Parental Authority

author image Kristine Tucker
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.
Teenagers Who Refuse to Obey Parental Authority
Some teenagers refuse to obey parents because they want freedom.

Teenagers often disobey their parents because they don't want to submit to parental authority. Many teens view submission as weak and don't want to give up their developing desire for independence. Unfortunately for them, disobedience often results in a loss of privileges and leads to reduced freedom. Parents should hold their teenager accountable for her actions, but try to find win-win solutions so the teen doesn't feel repressed, frustrated or overly coddled.

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Teenagers, especially those between the ages of 15 to 18, crave autonomy so they often refuse to obey parental authority. They might engage in risky behavior or make poor decisions because they want to test the waters. Even though disobedience is frustrating, parents should gradually allow more independence while expecting the teen to make age-appropriate decisions. On, Psychologist Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D., recommends that parents remain empathetic during disagreements, remain calm and provide clear guidance about risky ventures or important decisions.

Unclear Expectations

Teenagers often disregard and disobey parental authority when expectations are unclear or ill-defined. For example, a parent might say, "I don't like the crowd you hang out with, so I want you home early." What the parent really means is, "I'm worried about your safety, so I want to make sure you are home before dark." Clearly defined rules, such as curfews, homework requirements, appropriate language in the home, cell phone limits, Internet usage and household responsibilities help a teenager know what is expected.

Appropriate Punishments

Parents often think that a strict authoritarian parenting style will get a teenager back on track. In reality, harsh punishments often embitter teens and make them want to act out even more. Overly strict and critical parenting doesn't create better-behaved teens. It negates positive interactions between parents and teens and damages a teen's ability to develop self-discipline, says Dr. Laura Markham on her website at Aha! Fair punishments and natural consequences are better ways to respond to teen disobedience. Teens often learn from their mistakes, and parents can intervene when the natural consequences are dangerous or destructive.


Some teens disobey parental authority because they have a rebellious attitude. A teenager might disagree with her parent's disciplinary practices or feel animosity toward her upbringing and respond with disobedience. Parents who aren't fair or consistent with their child-raising methods can cause their teen to feel angry, bitter and disappointed. Rebellious teens aren't easy to work with, so parents must tread lightly without tolerating rude or inappropriate behavior. Parents might try talking to their teen about their previous failures, acknowledging that the teen has valid reasons for feeling angry or frustrated. Medical professionals, family counselors and psychologists can also help parents and teens work through the reconciliation process.

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