7 Common Teen Behaviours and How to Tackle Them

It’s not easy dealing with a teenager. They can often be moody, defiant, distant, and detached. While this type of teen behaviour is considered normal, it doesn’t make it any easier to handle. As a teen, your child faces a variety of situational, environmental, and physiological factors that may affect their mood and mental health.

Do your best not to take their behaviour personally, understand their needs, and approach them with empathy. Below are 7 common teen behaviours you may be faced with during the tricky teen phase and how to tackle them. Good luck!

How to Tackle Common Teen Behaviours

1. Back Chatting and Rule-breaking

Teenagers seem to be rebellious by nature. They’re not much different from toddlers learning about boundaries who test you to define limits. So, what should you do when your teen starts back chatting? Things like, “Why should I?” “You can’t make me.” “I don’t want to.” All common for teens!

nature deficit disorder in teens
Source: Bigstock

Keep Calm

When your teen chats back, and they inevitably will at some point, the key is to not chat back. There will come a moment when they don’t agree with something you say or ask of them.

When this happens, don’t argue, punish, or act like a tyrant. This gives away your power and escalates the situation. Instead, do your best to keep your cool and be less reactive. Doing so will allow you to have a better judgment of the situation.

Keeping your cool does not mean you are giving in. It means you are giving yourself a moment to come back to the situation as a rational adult. Count to ten if you must. Take deep breaths. Or take yourself out of that space by physically going to another room.

Letting your teen see you do this doesn’t make you weak. It teaches them you are human with real feelings and emotions, and it gives them coping strategies they can use when faced with a similar situation.

Set Clear Expectations and Boundaries

Once you are calm, and hopefully they are too, talk to your teen. Hear their side of the story. Listen to their feelings and validate them. Even if you don’t agree with them, they will feel heard and respected, which is the first step to proper communication.

Explain your expectations to your teenager and set clear boundaries. Discuss what you expect from them at home, at school, etc., and the type of behaviour that is and is not acceptable.

Define, for example, how late they can stay out on weekdays and weekends, what chores they are responsible for around the house, when they should have homework done and so on.

Establishing clear boundaries and expectations with your teenager will avoid misunderstandings and power struggles.

Enforce Consequences

Set clear and fair consequences for your teen when they disobey or break a rule. And make sure the consequences are directly related to the behaviour.

Enforce consequences and remove privileges as you see necessary. Be gentle, yet firm and do not offer empty threats. Always follow through and be consistent. Otherwise, your child will lose respect for your boundaries and expectations.

Furthermore, allow for natural consequences. If they oversleep and are late to school or do poorly on a test because they stayed up late playing video games, then they must suffer the consequences of their decision. Do not rescue them. Allow them to fail and learn from their mistakes.

Learning that there are consequences for their actions will allow your teenager to become a responsible adult.

2. Sense of Entitlement

Teenagers seem to be naturally self-absorbed. At times, it seems they do not understand the difference between what is owed, what is earned, or what is given to them in kindness.

A lesson in gratitude. 

When your teen fails to show gratitude for what they have and what they are given help them notice and acknowledge the effort and time taken by the giver. Express your gratitude for people and things as you go through your day to set an example for your teen.

Suggest they start a gratitude journal. Starting a gratitude journal can help them realize what they already have and how it came to them.

Say no. 

When your teen shows signs of entitlement, remind yourself it is ok to say “no” to them, as difficult as it may seem. Your child does not have to have everything they want when they want it. Saying no from time to time will hopefully help your teen appreciate things when they do come their way. There may be push-back at first but stick with it.

Involve them. 

Involve your child in household duties. Doing chores teaches them the hard work it takes to keep things running smoothly in your home and will allow them to value the effort it takes.

Get them involved in volunteer work. Learning about others’ hardships will allow them to see life from a different perspective and help them further value what they have.

3. Laziness

It is important to consider what may be causing your teen’s perceived laziness, especially if it’s not the norm for them.

In some cases, laziness can be a symptom of deeper issues, such as depression, stress, or physical issue. When you notice something is suddenly different, talk to your child. Show concern for their emotional and physical well-being. Listen more than you talk. This will help them feel heard and not judged. Don’t hesitate to talk to a medical professional if needed.

common teen behaviours
Source: Bigstock

Other times, your teen may just be tired or sleep-deprived. When a natural sleep cycle is disrupted, they can appear lazy, disoriented, or unmotivated. Again, talking to them to get to the root of the problem may prove helpful.

4. Disrespectful Behaviour

Teenagers will often engage in power struggles, eye-rolling, and even the occasional temper tantrum. In some extreme cases, they may even become verbally abusive when they do not get their way or when they feel unfairly singled out.

When this happens, it is important to stay calm and establish clear boundaries and consequences immediately. Otherwise, these actions can translate into disrespect for all authority figures.

Such behaviour can follow them into adulthood, which can lead to a poor work ethic and workplace misconduct, eventually leaving them unable to function in society.

Follow the same steps to dealing with a Back Chatting teen to handle their disrespect.

5. Staying Up Too Late or Sleeping In

It is estimated that 9% of Australians have a diagnosed sleep disorder and 66% of teenagers have reported at least one symptom of a sleep disorder. Teens need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep per night. However, most get 6.5 to 7.5 hours of sleep each night.

Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, as well as poor academic performance.

teenager sleep
Source: Bigstock

There’s a variety of reasons for teen’s staying up too late or sleeping in:


During puberty, teens’ body clocks shift forward by about one to two hours. This means that teens get tired later in the evening. However, they still must wake up early to go to school, which often creates a ‘sleep debt’ they have a difficult time recovering from.

Allow your teen to sleep in during the weekends, in moderation, to help them catch up on their sleep. Also, naps after school from time to time may prove to be replenishing.

Encouraging your teen to go to bed at least 10 minutes earlier each night for several weeks to establish a habit may help. Once they are used to that, you may be able to increase it by another 10 minutes.

Screen time

Light exposure from screens prevents adequate melatonin (the neurotransmitter responsible for sleep) production. Discourage screens, or any stimulating activity, at least one hour before bedtime. It is estimated that teens who put away their phones one hour before bed gain 21 minutes of sleep per night.

Avoid stimulants

Have your teen steer clear of stimulants in the evening. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks can impact sleep.

If your teen has difficulty waking up in the morning, it may be due to sleep deprivation. Avoid judging and try talking to them to determine their sleep patterns and state of mind. Go over their schedule to determine if they are over-committing to activities and help them free up time for rest.

READ MORE: Teenagers and Sleep: The Why, What and When (Plus Handy Tips!)

6. Screen Addiction

While devices and social media aren’t necessarily bad, screen addiction can affect your teen’s lifestyle and attitude.

It is impractical to not give your teen a device. In fact, it may backfire! So, how can you prevent screen addiction in your teen and help them build a healthy relationship with their device?

woman on phone
Report to Centrelink online or by phone. Source: Pexel

Set clear rules and boundaries for device and internet use. Establish how much time they can spend on it, when they can use it, and when it is off-limits.

Use apps to help you keep track and set time restrictions if you need to.

You can even have an open arrangement where you monitor their internet use and browser history. Having everything clearly spelt out will prevent them from feeling you are sneaking behind their back and will establish mutual respect.

Teach or remind your teen about online predators, and cyberbullying, and to not share sensitive information online, such as your home address, phone number, or credit card.

7. Lack of Motivation

If you feel your teen is just not wanting to do things for themselves or the household, encourage them to work hard by giving them a ‘why.’

Giving them a reason to do things other than “because I told you so,” helps them power through the inevitable inconveniences and difficulties they may encounter along the way.

When your teen has a goal, help them achieve it by keeping them accountable. Sit with them and break down their goal into small, actionable steps to keep them motivated and reduce overwhelm.

Express your pride in them each time they reach a milestone, when they stick with a difficult task, and when they overcome an obstacle. Additionally, remind them that mistakes are how we learn and evolve.

Moreover, teach them essential life skills. They will feel empowered to be able to do things on their own and become independent. If they can do it themselves, let them!

Whether it’s one of these common teen behaviours above or something else, the best way to handle any teen is with love, empathy, and clear communication.

Don’t get discouraged if things are difficult at first. Persevere, be consistent, and have clear tools and actionable steps to handle some of the most common teen behaviours.

And don’t hesitate to reach out to a medical professional when some of the issues become too complex for you to handle on your own. Please also be aware of the more dangerous teen behaviours that will need addressing:



Inhaling Helium: 

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Gloria Ruby Ramirez is a writer, mother, and lover of coffee, twinkle lights, and rain who believes in the magical power of words. She is passionate about parenting, mental health, and the environment. She is a former agricultural microbiologist/plant pathologist with a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology from Arizona State University. Born in the desert of northern Mexico, she is mum to her beautifully energetic son and Shih Tzu, Gerty. When not writing, Gloria can be found spending time with her son and family, reading, or embroidering.

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