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Puberty is hard


ANN/THE STAR – I have a daughter who just turned 13. She was a very cheerful, easygoing child who never gave us trouble. She was a good student who loved to do things with us like watching television and going cycling. But since she became a teenager, she has become rude and answers us back. Is this due to hormones? In part, yes.

At the beginning of puberty, your brain hypothalamus releases a hormone called gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).

This GnRH then latches onto your pituitary gland receptors, and urges it to produce two hormones – the follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) into your bloodstream. FSH and LH are low when you are a child.

If you are a female at puberty, FSH and LH will trigger your ovaries to produce oestrogen, which will be enable you to begin menstruation and develop breasts.

Body hair will also grow in the pubic area and under your arms. You may get acne. If you are a male at puberty, FSH and LH will trigger your testes to produce testosterone.

This will be responsible for you to start growing body hair (like a beard and pubic hair), produce sperm and deepen your voice. Acne may also be common. These hormones also make you put on weight and muscle mass and help you grow tall. In addition, both boys and girls produce hormones called androgens, although boys produce a higher level of androgens.

So my daughter is going through puberty now? When will it end? It takes a few years, actually.


Stage one starts around ages seven to eight in females and nine to 10 in males. This is the start of sex hormones production. There are very few noticeable physical changes at this point.

Stage two starts between ages nine and 11 in females and around ages 11 in males. Now you can see some physical changes.

Stage three starts after age 12 in females and age 13 in males. There are growth spurts now and physical development becomes more obvious. Periods can sometimes happen in females at this stage.

Stage four occurs at ages 13 in females and 14 in males, puberty is at its most intense.

The male voices become permanently deeper and females get their first period.

Stage five starts around age 15 in both sexes. This is the final stage of puberty, leading you to your full height.


The rudeness, if present, is due to emotions which your teenager cannot process well.

These newly experienced hormones affect your teenager’s emotions and impulses as well as giving physical changes.

The mood swings that teens experience are caused by the different fluctuations in oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

Suddenly, teenagers find themselves interested in the opposite sex. They find themselves interested in dating, sometimes to the point of obsession. Teen hormones, especially oestrogen, can also increase the risk of depression.

But all these emotional changes are not just due to hormones.


There are several other environmental reasons. Teenagers have a lot of things to juggle. Their school schedule and educational expectations have suddenly intensified. Sometimes teenagers have tuition and many other extra-curricular activities.

The sudden increase in competition work burden compared to childhood can be very stressful.

Coupled with this are their friendships and relationships.

They feel they don’t measure up to standards in academics, sports, popularity, beauty and whatever yardsticks people use to measure them.

All this stress accumulates and the teenager can come across as rude because they are angry at everyone and society. But this also happens to adults, and (I think) we are not rude.

Teenagers are still developing kids, and lack maturity and understanding of how they affect other people.

They do not realise that their rude behaviour may be perceived as lack of care towards the other person, especially a family member. When they are rude to you, their mother or father, they are thinking of themselves – and not of you, because their empathy is not developed yet.

During puberty, teenagers are more self-centred and lacking in empathy. Yes, they really, really do not think about what you are feeling because they are thinking too much about themselves and what they are going through in a “me, me, me” phase.


So should I accept this rude behaviour? After all, they cannot help it, right?

You need to understand the basis of this rude behaviour, and manage it.

Never just accept and do nothing about it. Stay calm and composed.

After all, you are the adult. Don’t manage rudeness with your own rudeness!

Count till 10 if you feel angry, before you retort. You can be stern, but do not retaliate with emotional or physical violence.

Have a healthy conversation by sharing your feelings.

Teens are not always angry at every hour of the day. Politely share with them the consequences of their rude behaviour. (Eg if they continue to hurt your feelings, you are going to ground them, or the school may give them a bad report card.)

Teens also face a lot of bullying that they may not want to tell you about, so be on the lookout for it.

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