Teenage Behaviour: What To Expect and Why

As your child grows up and becomes independent, they test out independent ideas and behaviours. This may involve disagreeing with you as a parent or giving you attitude, breaking boundaries that you’ve set, changing and wanting to be more like their friends and even taking risks. This is normal and common during adolescence.

Mos changes in teenage behaviour are explained by how the teenage brain develops. The part of the brain that is responsible for impulse control matures at the age of 25. The changes in the brain offer both upsides and downsides – teenagers can be passionate, impulsive, sensitive, moody and unpredictable.

Encourage Good Teenage Behaviour

Encouraging good behaviour among teenage is about open communication, consistency and creating and maintaining a loving family environment. This approach ensures that you have less need for discipline.

When it comes to disciplining teenagers, the best strategies focus on agreeing on limits and helping teenagers work within them. Rules, boundaries and limits help your child take responsibility for their behaviours, learn independence and solve problems. Involve your child in setting these limits. The approach is better than punishment and consequences. This is because it helps your child develop standards for appropriate behaviour and respect for others.

Handling Disrespectful Behaviour.

It is common for teenagers to be rude or disrespectful. Set clear rules that lets your child know what to expect and how to behave. For example, say things like, “We speak respectfully in this house.”

When you involve your child in these discussions, you can later remind them that they helped make the rules and they agreed to the rules. Your behaviour should reflect that you practice what you preach.

When you are talking to your child about rude behaviour, stay calm and pick your moment. Focus on the child’s behaviour. Instead of saying “You’re rude,”  say something like ” I feel hurt by the way you spoke to me.”

Common Concerns About Teenage Behaviour

Fighting with Siblings

It can be stressful for parents when teenage siblings keep fighting. Fighting among siblings is normal, and as long they aren’t physical with each other, fights help children learn important life skills – like how to deal with different opinions and how to treat each other with respect.

Teach your children how to sort conflicts, and allow them to resolve fights amongst themselves. For example, if they are fighting over the TV, switch it off and don’t allow them to watch it until they work out a solution themselves.

Teenage Parties

Teenage parties have a bad reputation, but they can be important and have a positive aspect in your child’s social life and development. There’s no right or wrong way to handle them, but communication, planning in case things go wrong can help your child have fun and stay safe at the same time. 

Peer Influence

Peer influence involves doing things because you want to be accepted and valued by others. Peer influence can be positive; it is not always negative. It is normal for teenagers to change their dress to feel part of a social group.

A confident child, with a strong sense of values, is more likely to know where to draw the line when it comes to peer influence.


Cyberbullying involves using technology to intentionally and continuously humiliate, harass, embarrass, torment, intimidate or threaten someone. It is hard to spot; however, there are steps to prevent and stop cyberbullying.


Teenagers take risk all the time, from trying new tricks, truancy, smoking, underage alcohol use, to underage sexual relationships.

You could teach your child how to assess risks. Communication is key; talk about your family values. Try to channel their desire to take risks into extracurricular activities or community activities like sports or drama.

If you’re worried about teenage behaviour

If you’re worried about significant and negative changes in your child’s behaviour or attitude, along with withdrawal from family, changes in mood swings, poor school attendance you could:

  • Talk with other parents and find out how they handled the situation
  • Seek professional support – counsellors, teachers
  • Discuss concerns with your child

As a child reaches adolescence, they go through changes – emotional, physical, social and cognitive.

Physical Development in Teenagers

Physical changes in girls can start as early the age of eight. During puberty, the following physical changes happen:

  • Growth of pubic hair
  • Changes in body shape and height
  • Breast development
  • Menstruation

Teenage boys start going through physical changes between the ages of 11-12. It also normal if physical development starts at any time between 9-14 years. The physical changes include:

  • Changes in body shape and height
  • Growth of pubic, facial and body hair
  • Deepening of voice
  • Ejaculation during erections
  • Development of the penis and testes

Social Changes in Teenagers

You may notice your child searching for their identity, figuring out who they are and where they fit into the world. They may try different clothing styles, art, friends, music and so on. As they become older, their identity becomes more defined, and you’ll get hints of what kind of adult they will become.

They want to be independent. They may want more responsibility both at school and at home. Choosing subjects to study at school, getting a part-time job, and getting involved in extracurricular activities are steps towards independence.

Teenagers are more likely to look for new experiences, even dangerous ones. Simultaneously, they are learning how to control their impulses. This is because their brain is changing in these years.

Teens are likely to be thinking more about ‘right’ and ‘wrong.’ As parents, your actions and words still influence their sense of right and wrong; however, they develop their understanding of personal values and morals as they grow into adulthood. They are also influenced more by friends, especially when it comes to self-esteem, behaviour, and self-esteem.

At this stage, your child starts to explore her sexual identity and sexuality.  They get involved in romantic relationships or go out with someone special to them. Romantic relationships don’t mean that they are getting into intimate relationships, though. Some young adults, intimate or sexual relationships happen later in life.

Technology, specifically mobile phones, social media and the internet, can significantly influence how your child interacts with his peers and how they learn about the world.

Emotional Changes in Teenagers

During adolescence, you might notice that your child shows strong feelings and intense emotions. Their moods are unpredictable, and this emotional rollercoaster may cause conflicts in the house. During this stage, a child’s mind learns how to control and express emotions in an adult-like way. As the child grows through puberty, these mood swings begin to settle.

At the same time, the child becomes more sensitive to your emotions. They may misread facial expressions or body language as they learn how to understand other people’s feelings. They get better at this as they move into their late teenage life.

Teenagers also become more self-conscious as they move through the teenage years, especially about their physical appearance. Self-esteem is often affected by appearance. Teens also tend to compare their bodies with those of their friends and peers.

During this time, they learn that actions have consequences and sometimes risks as their decision-making skills develop.

Change in Teenage Relationships

Expect shifts in your relationship with your adolescent child. However, maintaining strong relationships with both family and friends is essential for healthy emotional and social development.

 Adolescent teens want to spend more time with their peers and less time with their families. This might be hard for parents. Peers only influence your child’s short-term choices like interests and appearance.  However, a parent’s influence is vital to your child’s long-term decisions, like values and morals and career choices. 

Arguments at home increase as teenagers seek more independence. This shows that the child is maturing. During early adolescence, conflicts tend to be more. Regardless of how often arguments occur, your relationship with your child isn’t likely to be affected in the long-term.

The differing views mean that your child has begun to think more abstractly and is questioning different points of view. Adolescent children also struggle to understand how their words and actions affect other people.

A strong relationship with your child is an essential step for raising a resilient child.

Joburg is a city of many contradictions. Its skyline is dotted with beautiful skyscrapers and its streets full of soul…the art and music ‘feel’ throughout the city is something to marvel at. The sound of jazz and soul, the scents and tastes from all over the world are easy to find here. But if you listen keenly enough you’ll also hear and almost taste the pain of so many jobless and desperate men and women, those that have to sleep out on the streets and those abused by the heartless, brutal and violent history of this Nation. (Someone felt and seen all over the continent) But I love the city. It is ‘Love at first sight’. I love it because it’s a truly cosmopolitan city. Its development cannot be rivaled by any other Sub-Saharan Africa Nation. (But is the Nation really unified?) Which brings me to this question, can Africans govern themselves? Or are the trappings of power too tantalizing for us as a people. Many African nations demanded and fought for their independence. They pushed for self rule, but I find myself questioning the logic behind that agitation. Were we ready? Or did we just see the lifestyle of our colonizers and desire it without having a proper model of leadership from our own traditional and cultural backgrounds? The African was ruled by fist and the Chief/King acquired and grabbed whatever he wanted. Could our national forefathers have seen an opportunity to gain and amass wealth from our liberation as a people? Were they ready to ‘LEAD’? What is Leadership? At its very core it’s the ability to ‘Influence’, and how can you lead without first leading yourself or having a vision for where you want to take those that follow you? Our leaders only influence on negative, decisive and harmful ways. I find that many African nations inherited a system of governance and a vision/plan that they never stopped to ask if it was viable for their people and whether it would ensure success for their people. A failure from our fore fathers has meant that we are still playing catch up with the rest of the world on a playing field that wasn’t ours to begin with. Could it be we are still being driven by aspirations that were thought of with the European citizenry in mind? Joburg is the city that made me realize just how unequal the continent really is, we have a highly developed city and country but also an inhumanly poor citizenry especially of the common South African. A nation with only about 8% of its land owned by the ‘African’ South African; a cosmopolitan city and nation of unequal’s beyond measure. For us to truly claim that we are capable of leading ourselves we’d have to begin by drawing up our own future, by determining the future we want for ourselves with our own terms and goals. Free from western influence or ideology. We have been driven by a passion to be at par with the rest of the developed nations yet we fail to satisfy the simplest of needs, ‘education, health, ease of doing business, allowing organic growth of businesses and ideas’ etc. If development means selling our land and buying into the aspirations and dreams of others then the African will never truly enjoy the liberties his fore fathers fought for, he’ll never fully enjoy the rights of self determination and the freedom to dream, try and fail in his own personal endeavors. He’ll spend his entire life trying to live and attain the ideals of others. I strongly believe we can rule ourselves and attain the highest standards and ideals unique to us, we are different for a reason, our products and nations should model that uniqueness. And I strongly believe that ideological transformation must begin at our schools, at the lowest level. Because though we have many highly educated professionals in our respective nations we also have many who have bought into the ideology of claiming we are a global village and thus should conduct ourselves as such, to me that is just another level of colonization, the mental colonization of the African continent. Allow me to clarify; I have nothing against the world, or the ‘white’ man. I have many such friends, I love them. They are amazing people, unique in their own special ways. And I respect that. I want my children to grow in a society that respects their unique difference from others, a society that will allow my daughter to choose her future. A place where she’ll compete with others on a level playing field and she won’t feel the need to sacrifice her ‘African uniqueness’ on the crucible of global competitiveness and uniformity. She can well remain a child of Africa ready to solve African problems with organic African solutions without necessarily looking to the west for answers for her life and future. Can you imagine such a continent with me?