Parents Perplexed by Change in Teen’s Personality

Can you help us understand and deal with the shift in personality and temperament that has come over our daughter since she entered puberty? She used to be a ball of sunshine – compliant, obedient, and pleasant – but she has changed significantly since hitting the teen years. She's irritated, moody, and secretive about insignificant things. What can we do?

It sounds like your family has hit the “teenage time-warp.” When kids enter the teen years, they often begin pulling away from their parents and look to connect and identify more closely with their peers. This process is usually accompanied by a quest for new ways to express their individuality and assert their own personal preferences. Psychologists call this separation and individuation. Not only is it completely normal, but it’s also an important stage in every kid’s journey from childhood to maturity.

Unfortunately, this process can sometimes involve acts of disobedience and defiance, especially if mom and dad have a parenting style that tends to be relatively strict and authoritarian. In situations like these, we advise parents to consider the wise words of Christian youth expert Josh McDowell: “Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.” In other cases – like yours – a formerly happy, well-adjusted grade-schooler suddenly and inexplicably seems to transform into an entirely different personality – dark, pensive, and non-communicative. This can be upsetting to the rest of the family, but it isn’t necessarily cause for alarm.

Without more detailed information it’s difficult to know exactly what to say about the changes you’ve seen in your daughter’s attitude and behavior. Is her secretiveness simply an expression of a desire to maintain privacy and establish her own identity, or is she actually telling lies and practicing deception? Is her moodiness merely an aspect of normal adolescent withdrawal, or do you have reason to believe that she may be slipping into a serious depression?

As you probably know, the teenage years can be emotionally turbulent, filled with physical changes, hormonal changes, and the shifting demands of peer pressure. Research indicates that a significant percentage of young people will experience clinical depression at some point during this phase of their growth and development. If you fear that your daughter may fall into this category, we’d encourage you to talk with your family physician or a trained psychologist.

We’d also encourage you to contact Focus on the Family’s Counseling department and talk to one of our caring Christian therapists. They’d be happy to discuss your situation with you, learn more about your daughter, and recommend some specific steps that you can take. They are also in a position to provide you with a list of referrals to professional counselors in your local area.


If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Boundaries With Teens

Why Christian Kids Rebel

Losing Control & Liking It: How to Set Your Teen (and Yourself) Free

Grace-Based Parenting

The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships: How to Forge a Strong and Lasting Bond With Your Teen

Game Plan for Parenting: The Teen Years

Helping Kids Make Good Life Choices

Speaking Your Teen’s Love Language 

Helping Kids Make Good Life Choices

Preparing your Teen for Life 

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Loving Your Teen Through Life’s Seasons

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