A girl is smiling at the camera.

What is Normal Teenage Behavior?

When it comes to the behavior of their teens, many parents wonder what is normal and what isn’t. Adolescent life allows for a wide range of behaviors and personality traits. Some aspects of teenage development can seem challenging or dysfunctional to parents but are parts of normal teenage development. Some of these challenging behaviors include:

  • Boundary testing
    • Attempting to push the limits set by parents, guardians, or other authority figures and determine what consequences might result from infractions
  • Increased independence
    • Spending more time with friends and others outside the home environment or seeming less amenable to spending time with parents and family members
  • Exploration of identity and interests
    • Developing new tastes and exploring preferences, from clothing and style choices to music, to recreational activities, to foods, to gender identity, and more.
  • Increased sensitivity to social issues
    • Young people may become intensely focused on current events and social causes and demonstrate strong opinions related to social issues they feel passionately about
  • Moodiness
    • Teen angst and irritability are normal responses to changes during adolescent transitions and as teens experience new relationships, responsibilities, and challenges 
  • Rebelliousness
    • Adolescents and teens demonstrate independence and the desire to differentiate themselves by defying rules or norms

While many of these normal teen and adolescent behaviors can pose challenges to parents, school staff, and other authorities, they typically normalize as teens enter adulthood. Extended or intense episodes of challenging behaviors, however, may indicate a problematic disorder requiring assessment and, potentially, treatment. 

a teen and woman in a clinical programming session

Behavioral Red Flags

Some behaviors can be objectively harmful to self and others and indicate the presence of a mental health condition requiring treatment. A variety of symptoms may indicate a behavioral issue, including:

How Parents Can Help Their Teens

While behavioral problems in teens may be confusing and distressing, there are things parents can do to ensure that their teens get back on track. A comprehensive assessment with a licensed mental health expert is a good way to determine if the issues parents are concerned about are caused by an oppositional defiant disorder or a similar condition. Guessing is not a good way to handle such an important issue. 

It can be daunting for parents to approach difficult developmental or potentially problematic behaviors with their children. Understandably, this may tempt some to ignore the problem in the hopes that the issues will resolve naturally over time. While avoiding a conversation with your child about seeking treatment may be more comfortable for parents in the short term, ignoring the symptoms of possible behavioral health problems can allow these conditions and their negative consequences to become worse and harder to address.

Muir Wood Adolescent and Family Services is staffed by experienced psychiatrists, psychologists, and neuropsychological testing experts able to accurately assess clients and determine if they exhibit problematic behaviors and conditions. Once a diagnosis is reached, the program tailors integrated treatment plans to the needs of each client and family. The ability of the Muir Wood treatment team to work closely together on client cases makes it possible to use a number of treatment methodologies and coordinate activities to achieve treatment goals and better help clients plan for ongoing care to manage their conditions.