Normal Teenage Development

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“Suzanne Gelb Image”

”Rebellion — Why do Teenagers do it?”


Dear Dr. Gelb:

I don’t have children but I am close to my adolescent niece. She is rebelling, almost like she is struggling with who is in charge of her life. Is there anything I can do to help her with what I think is her search for herself?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Rebellion:

I believe that nonconformance is a natural part of development. The mind continues to struggle to expand its independence. Just like young birds in the nest that are learning to fly, they will flap their wings and struggle with the idea until their wings are strong enough to leave the nest. Parents must be vigilant, making sure that the young ones’ wings are strong enough before they give them the nudge for their freedom to fly and soar.

Parents and loved ones need to respect a child’s need to be different and to have his or her own way, but they must always remember that the adult is the teacher and “No” must mean “NO” with an emphasis on consequences for disobedience.

”Conformity – When to go Along, When to Differ?”

Dear Dr. Gelb:

I try to teach my two teenage boys to make good choices and not get caught up in peer pressure. They know right from wrong, but have a hard time knowing when to go along with others and when to disagree, or even when to compromise. How can I help?


A: Dr. Gelb says . . .

Dear Consequences:

Consequences are what it is all about. We can’t teach a growing mind by just saying, “No,” followed by punishment for rebellion. It is natural for the mind to want to explore. In fact, without curiosity most likely we would become nothing, learn nothing and do nothing, being content to just eat and sleep, like a pig in a pen.

We must respect and nurture the curiosity in the young mind. It is not enough to tell children that they can’t do something, because they want to know “Why not.” There is something about the forbidden that is appealing to the adventurous nature in us. So the key lies in patiently explaining and offering reasons for not behaving in certain ways, and where possible, explaining the consequences for particular choices.

Dear Readers:

Answers to questions in today’s column can be supplemented with excerpts from “Yesterday’s Children” (Q#1: pp. 8-11; Q2: p. 11) written by psychologists Marti Barham, R.N., Ph.D. and Tom Greene, Ph.D. For more information visit my Web site at

”’Suzanne J. Gelb, Ph.D., J.D. authors this daily column, Dr. Gelb Says, which answers questions about daily living and behavior issues. Dr. Gelb is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Honolulu. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology and a Ph.D. in Human Services. Dr. Gelb is also a published author of a book on Overcoming Addictions and a book on Relationships.”’

”’This column is intended for entertainment use only and is not intended for the purpose of psychological diagnosis, treatment or personalized advice. For more about the column’s purpose, see”’ “An Online Intro to Dr. Gelb Says”

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