I think we need to define typical teen versus difficult child

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
I've heard a great deal of typical teen this & typical teen that ~ then I hear with the tweedles issues, etc, etc, etc.

in my humble opinion, I think this board needs some kind of "list" of typical teen versus difficult child.

TTs don't generally push a parent & run. Or am I wrong?

TTs, as far as I know, love the phone, love hanging with friends, & watching tv, play computer games, etc. TTs are trying to define themselves & where they fit in the world.

difficult children are very ego centric - TTs?

Let's get a way to sort this out - can you help? I know this may sound simplistic but I need & many of you may need a way to sort this out.


Active Member
in my humble opinion, it's the difference in how our difficult child's internalize things and deal with situations that makes the difference- at least for my son. He gets the typical teen insecurities but because of his sensitivity to rejection or whatever, he sets a brush fire, or explodes on something, or gets up during the night to stab the walls instead of just moping around for a few days or having a snotty attitude when things aren't working out well for him.


Well-Known Member
What I would say is difficult child's are Typical kids on steroids.

If a typical kid was having a fit over not getting to use the phone because they were on punishment, then the difficult child would be in an all out rage. typical teen might stomp to their room, yell at mom and dad how unfair life was, how they were ruining their whole life, slam the door, and pout. A difficult child would scream, rage, toss furniture, kick holes in the walls, break the door, and refuse to stay in his room. Profanities would fly.

See the difference?


Shooting from the Hip
Way To Go Janet!

You just explained to me that Onyxx is, indeed, a difficult child.


Crazy Cat Lady
My outbursts and behavior as a teen were written off to my being a "difficult teenaged girl".

Looking back through the mirror of many years of learning (much gained from this site), I have realized that my bipolar actually manifested during that time period.

I don't think there is really a clear line between typical teen and a bigger problem.


Love me...Love me not
I would say that while a "Typical Teen" has their own self-interest at heart, they have a sense of their own place in the world-- In other words, while a typical teen will push their boundaries, they do recognize that they are a child, they belong to a family, they have a sense of loyality to family, friends and neighbors and an innate sense of self and empathy for others...

A difficult child lacks this basic frame of reference and needs to be "taught" some of these sensibilities in order to react appropriately within society.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
For us although K is not a teen yet, I would say pre-teen because she is acting very hyper-sexual!, she can't really do any of those things without us.
It is basically everything on high gear, like Janet said.
I explained it to K one day that she basically has Super Human Powers, she feels more, more anger, more joy, more sorrow... more everything.
Even tastes!
Everything is amplified!
When someone makes you angry, it isn't the normal reactions of most kids... it is- K crawling across the floor hours later and twisting his arm behind his back! But couldn't verbalize why, until 4 days later. (Happened last week in school)

I am leary of when she actually enters the teen years.


I like Janet's description - typical teen on steroids.

Most teens I know are stubborn, disrespectul, self-centered know-it-alls. The difference between typical teen and difficult child is really, I think, the depth of those behaviors. And, like Daisy said, are they aware that they are a piece of a larger universe, or are they still stuck thinking they are the universe?

hearts and roses

Mind Reader
Keep in mind that there are other support sites where typical teen means Troubled Teen.

When I'm here, I understand that we're referring to a TypicalTeen as in self absorbed and kind of obnoxious but not over the top.

It's very VERY difficult to differentiate between typical teen behavior and difficult child behavior, but most of the time, if you learn to read your kid well, you will know which is which. At least, after a while, maybe.;)


Well-Known Member
I think Janet's description is a good one. But I also believe that you really have to take it case by case. There are many things that my difficult child does, or does not do, that are typical teen things and things I might have seen easy child do. Then there are other things he does that easy child would never do but I wouldn't necessarily say they difficult child things, just personality quirks or traits that are his alone. His gfgness is not to blame, it's just who he is.

If the behavior becomes dangerous, threatens family stability or is very self absorbing, it's probably difficult child related.



New Member
typical teen whose parent is unemployed deals with the unemployment without calling home from school screaming at parent about the unemployed parent being at fault for everything in their life. difficult child calls home 6 times in 30 minutes to repreat the it's all your fault mantra.


A typical teen recognizes the parent as an authority figure. A difficult child does not. Let's say you ground your teenage kid. A typical teen will make you miserable but a difficult child will either make you miserable or just sneak out. And, a typical teen seems capable of learning from his/her mistakes. A difficult child just keeps making them over and over--maybe because it is someone else's fault all the time.

This is an interesting thread!



Well-Known Member
I am raising a typical teen right now and one of my older sons was a typical teen.

typical teen's may challenge your authority, but they will accept it. They do not like to lose their privileges and eventually may sulk, but accept the consequences and, like Janet says, they don't kick the wall or punch you.

typical teen's don't break the law for fun or become intrigued with the "bad" kids. My daughter thinks the bad kids are losers. typical teen's often talk to their parents about their lives and it's pleasantly not always a list of why their life is so rotten. They also usually have a lot of positive friends and interests. My daughter is a big girl jock.

typical teen's in my opinion don't start sex at 12 and 13. They think before they act and are not overly impulsive to the point that trouble follows them. They don't WANT to get into trouble and they are able to control themselves. difficult child's either can't control it or dont' control it. They certainly act before they think.

typical teen's get into trouble and make bad choices, but they learn from them and don't keep repeating them.

typical teen's tend to have better self-esteem than difficult children. They also tend to have good social skills so they don't alienate people. They understand social norms.

My oldest daughter, the ex-drug addict, had a liable temperament, was overly sensitive, felt like an outcast at school (that is what started the drug use...to fit in), took bold, scary chances, cut herself, had many tantrums, and put up a few bogus suicide attempts. This is NOT a typical teen...lol.

There is quite a difference. N., my thirteen year old, is a lot of fun. By 13, J. was already into drugs and collecting a hodge-podge of misfits as friends.
J. was no fun at all as a teenager! :tongue:


Well-Known Member
Interesting thread!

My only experience with a typical teen was while Son #2 lived with us, and he was night and day different from Miss KT. When he decided he didn't want to be part of the family, it took less than 24 hours of our ignoring him, not calling him to dinner, etc. before he decided he was better off in the family. Miss KT just didn't care.


Roll With It
Excellent discussion. I have begun to see many disturbing things written off as typical teen. Mostly because no one wants to deal with it, at least that is what I am seeing.

Jess developed way early. Bras in 4th and 5th grade early. When she went to middle school the boys would use crowded hallways to grope her. Full on grab and feel her up. NOT "just" bra strap snapping, actual molestation.

The school principal and her homeroom teacher told me that this was typical teen behavior and to be "expected". They "couldn't do anything" because the halls were too crowded. The homeroom teacher was fresh out of college, not even 22 and flatter than a pancake. She actually SAID that Jessie should wrap ace bandages around her chest to flatten her and if jessie didn't then she "WANTED" the boys to feel her up.

THAT is ABUSE. NOT typical teen. So many many things are now said to be "typical teen" that would have meant "JUVIE" when I was a teen.

typical teen, in my opinion, means dramatic, self absorbed, loves phone and friends and hates school and rules. But mostly follows the rules, is involved in things, and often has a smart mouth but is rarely outright defiant with-o actual provocation.

That is my opinion, and I agree with Janet's description.

typical teen has become too easy a way to not deal with unacceptable behavior, in my opinion.


Active Member
I think we have different ideas of what makes a typical teen. But then - what IS normal, in our household, anyway?

I described my eldest as easy child. But some of her behaviours would definitely have fallen into difficult child territory.

* Incredibly egocentric. "Where's mine?" was her frequent cry, especially if she came home from a party (having been eating party food, very special) to find we'd eaten a meal that was also a favourite of hers. She wasn't in need of food, just didn't want us to have anything she hadn't, even if she had had stuff we hadn't.

* a catalyst for fighting between household members - she would come home from uni (she lived with grandma during the week) and within minutes of her arrival home, people would be screaming at one another. Every freakin' time. And remember, I said 'uni'. She was legally an adult at this time.

* at times loudly defiant and aggressive. She did draw te line at physical attack, however. But then - so did easy child 2/difficult child 2.

* Even now in her late 20s, she can have serious anxiety problems. They were appalling when she was in her teens.

* capable of being sneaky and dishonest, was the earliest of my kids to become sexually active at about 15 or 16 (although not promiscuous - is now married to her first and only sexual partner). And lied about it, until her first Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) caught her out.

Whenever I've used the term "typical teen" what I've been trying to say, is that sometimes even a easy child can be a big handful, epseically in their teens and especially if they have psychological damage to deal with. easy child was molested at the age of 5, by an older boy (and I tihnk some oters) in the school playground. Just because it was "just another kid" doesn't mean it was any less damaging to her. She took two years to tell us anything, and then clammed up and refused to cooperate with therapy. Now she's an adult she wangts to deal with it but has buried it so deep she only knows it happened intellectually. But the damage continues, I believe.

I believe like a lot of other factors, typical teen is a spectrum. For easy child, life hasn't been easy. She's grown up in a dysfunctional family. She's the only child to really remember me when I was not disabled and I beleive has resented me for becoming disabled. She then is angry at herself for being unfair and again, this becomes buried. Not healthy.

When I look back at some of the battles we had with easy child, when I think of the things she told us about allegedly typical teen girls we all knew (who were using drugs and sleeping around in their early teens and their parents never knew, still don't know) then perhaps my concept of typical teen is more elastic than for many of you.

So when does the label change to become a difficult child one? For me, it is when the problems become so great that they require intervention of some sort, either medications, or therapy or a serious modificaiton of parenting methods. When a disability is diagnosed and treatment put in place. When the parents have to go to further lengths than normal, to support that child towards the goal of a normal, healthy, independent and happy adult life.



Well-Known Member
I don't have a teen but I'd have to hazard a guess that typical teen behavior is mostly not dangerous and/or will be grown out of by the teen given a reasonable period of time with-out outside interventions. A typical teen may dress, for example, in a way that is distasteful to his parents or other elders but quickly figures out how to dress appropriately when looking for a part time job. Even if they hate it! The kid with the purple hair that has a shot of getting into a good college most likely will take the interview seriously enough to dye her hair back au natural. They do enough school work to at least pass a class even if they're capable of excelling. They might be perpetually angry with their parents but reach out when they need them.

A difficult child tends to take things to extreme and push the limits consistently. They either don't care about consequences or aren't capable of meeting expectations. They spite themselves and hurt those they love... and sometimes feel horrible about it. They are often slaves to their impulses and insecurities. They often resent authority because, in my humble opinion, not measuring up makes them feel inadequate especially as their peers are beginning to find their way in the world.


Well-Known Member
I made a comment a couple of weeks ago that Wm had an element of typical teen because he didn't want his goals to be "boring". I hear that a lot from TTs and it stuck me when you wrote that about Wm.

Is he typical teen? No way.