It’s hard to get along with your parents when you’re a teenager. Not only have you become more focused on your friends and probably a bit moody as well, you and your parents truly want different things. You want independence, freedom, and just to have fun. Your parents want you to be safe, be responsible, and make good decisions. Often, in your efforts to achieve your goals, you fail to satisfy what it is that your parents want and actually need. And herein lies the biggest source of conflict between teens and parents.
Teens often express to me that their parents are always mad at them or never let them do anything. First, I caution against the use of the words always or never. Are they literally always mad at you, or literally never let you do anything? I doubt it. Be honest here, and figure out what the reality is. It might feel like they’re always mad at you, but can you think of some times recently when they weren’t? Like when you had dinner or a BBQ or watched a movie together? Maybe when you took out the trash or did the dishes? Were they mad at you then? Have you gone anywhere with your friends lately? Do your parents sometimes say yes, even if seems like they’re always saying no?
Things aren’t always as black and white as they seem. So, while it might feel like it’s always or never, it’s very rarely true. There is a bigger question here, though, which is why do they seem angry with you so much of the time, and why aren’t you getting to do more of what you want? This is where the differences between teens’ and parents’ needs and wants really pop up.
If your parents feel that you are not behaving safely, responsibly, or appropriately, you’re going to have a problem. It is their job as parents to keep you safe and to teach you how to behave appropriately. They will do literally anything and everything to see to it that this occurs. The problem is that safety and appropriate behavior may not be top of mind for you. Rather, your priorities may instead lie with having fun with friends, without necessarily considering the same consequences your parents might.
Often, the conflict between teens and parents causes teens to behave even worse. If your parents have said no to something, largely due to your own behavior, you might double down and get mad, determined to get what you want anyway. But defiance only perpetuates the cycle. The good news is that this cycle can be broken, and if you can do it successfully, you will very likely get along better and get more of what you want.
Here are some tips:
- Keep your goal in mind at all times. You want to do what you want.
- Think about your parents’ goals at all times. They want to know you are safe, making good choices, and telling the truth.
- Choose behaviors that confirm for your parents that you will stay safe, that you’re making good decisions, and that you are trustworthy. This might not come easy.
- Show your parents with action and behavior, not just words, that you deserve the privileges and permissions you so desire.
- Discuss with your parents how you are doing with this and how they’re feeling about you. Ask what you could be doing better, and then do it.
- Watch as you gain more trust, freedom, and independence, now that you’ve make your parents feel comfortable granting this to you.
- Don’t be surprised by setbacks. You are human. You will mess up sometimes. Your parents will know and will respond accordingly. It might feel like you’ve take 3 steps forward and two steps back sometimes. That’s okay, as long as you acknowledge what you’ve done wrong, learn from it, and don’t do it again.
- Realize that the outcome largely depends on YOU. So often, teens feel out of control, like their parents have all the power. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Sure, they can prevent you from doing something they don’t want you to do, but if you become the best possible person you can be, they won’t want to stand in your way.