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Do you have a Rebel Teen? How to Parent Children with Different or Difficult Personalities

I counsel teens and their parents for a living. One thing that the most successful and happy parents do well is that they adjust their parenting style to each of their child's temperament and personalities. This article was formulated to help you do two things. The first thing is to understand your child's personality, and the second is to provide tips to adjust your parenting style to fit your child's personality.

One of the most simple ways to understand you child is through four personality types formulated by Gretchen Rubin. The four personality types are the Upholder, Obliger, Questioner, and Rebel.

Each personality type is defined by how they respond and think about INTERNAL and EXTERNAL expectations.

Internal expectations: What kind of life do I want to live and what should my life look like in pursuit of that?

External expectations: What are others asking or expecting of me?

"Upholders respond to both inner and outer rules; Questioners question all rules, but can follow rules they endorse (effectively making all rules into inner rules); Rebels resist all rules; Obligers respond to outer rules but not to inner rules."

The "Easy Kids"

Upholders and Obligers are the two personality types that I believe don't give their parents much trouble during the teen years. The upholders have rules to their inner world that they live up to and they also live up to the rules that the outer world sets for them as well. Obligers respond to rules and expectations set by others, but have trouble following through with their own rules. Given this, they rarely make trouble for their parents, and parents with kids who have these types of temperaments describe their children as "easy kids".

Tips for teen Upholders- Help them find a clear vision for what they want for their future and encourage them in that. If they have a clear vision, they will pursue it with great determination.

Tips for teen Obligers- Help set rules and schedules for your teen obligers. They respond well to coaches, mentors, leaders, and accountability. If they have positive leaders speaking truth in their life, they will perform to higher standards than if they try and keep themselves accountable.

The Questioner

The Questioner personality type will want good reasons for why they will follow the rules and expectations that come from others. They tend to ask "why" a lot. If there isn't a good reason for a rule they won't follow it, or will follow it begrudgingly and frustrated. At times you may thing your teen who is a Questioner is simply difficult, argumentative, or rebellious. We need people who question the status quo and why certain rules are in place. It is important to understand that if you can work well with their personality style and understand their perspective, they can provide so much value to your family, and the world.

Tips for teen Questioners- Help teens understand the reasons why certain rules or expectations of them are in place. Do not set arbitrary rules for these kids, as they will become more and more frustrated by demands that don't make sense.

The Rebel

Lastly, the Rebel. This is possibly the most difficult personality type to parent. Rebels do not respond well to any rules. They test boundaries and do not like to be told what to do from others, OR THEMSELVES. They want to have the freedom to choose what they want, WHEN they want. Many parents get into exhausting battles telling their rebel children to do their chores. Your rebel child may be on their way to do their chores and before they get to it, you remind them about their chores, it resets their circuits and they are back to square one. They want to resist that rule.

With that being said, their life may seem to be a bit more chaotic than others, but attempting to set more rules may end up backfiring and building resentment between you and your teen. Rebels value freedom and choice. Many parents who have children with this type of temperament think "If I don't set up rules, and if I don't give consequences for the rules, then my child will _______." The dilemma is, the rules that parents set are sometimes a stumbling block for their teen to learn and thrive.

The hardest part with this personality type is that you have to allow them to have the choice and the freedom to fail. It is vital to understand, that if your child's temperament is to resist all rules, don't get into power struggles with your child about the rules. Rather, have a dialogue about the consequences and let them decide. Also, you may consider some training in reverse psychology for kiddos with this temperament.

Tips for teen Rebels - Emphasize the freedom and the choices that a teen rebel has along with the NATURAL consequences that may follow. They want to be able to make the decisions, and if they feel that you have "made" the decision for them they will resist.


Each child has an individual and unique personality. Being able to adjust as parents to the temperament of each child is vital to their success, and to your sanity. I hope these four personality types help you understand why your child is the way that they are, and how to effectively respond to each type of personality.



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