This is an important question, and it is often asked, especially by parents who see their teenagers doing strange things. In Get Real!, our profile assessment for teenagers, I explain it in this way:
Teenagers “try on” different types of behavior as they grow up. Have you heard of the “Terrible Twos,” when toddlers push the limits on parents and others trying to learn where the boundaries are? In adolescence, many mental, physical, emotional and spiritual changes occur. During this time, teens “try on” different behaviors to see how they feel, often imitating people they admire. Usually, when an experimental behavior does not work well, or is frustrating and futile, they give up with little damage done. Any adult can look back on their teenage years and remember how they settled down to the “natural” style they had when they were younger. That’s why the Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is older, he will not depart from it.”
The basic personality we are born with is probably seen best between the ages of 4-14, then goes into a tailspin from 14-18, and then smoothes out and produces a great life from 18 and older. Although they are not “required,” the turbulent teen years seem to be a “fact of life” that most people experience. In Who Do You Think You Are… Anyway?, I have written: Parents, can you remember your own energy at this age? How about your dreams for achievement or greatness in ways your family did not understand? As you matured, you put a lot of that “silliness” away. But in doing so, I hope you have not become like the people one teenager described when he said, “Most grown-ups are really given-ups!”
As your teenagers go through adjustments, keep your finger on their pulse. If their heart is still warm and tender, and their will is pliable, thank God. I like this thought from Logan Pearsall Smith: “Don’t laugh at a youth for his affectations; he’s only trying on one face after another till he finds his own.” For added perspective as a parent, find your own face in an old high school yearbook! It may help you remember some of the experiences and phases you came through in order to become the reasonably sane and responsible adult you are today. Therefore, while your children are “finding their face,” you won’t lose your mind!