“You can have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power.” ~ Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
Most conflict between teens and parents is either caused by, or results in a power struggle. It is not unreasonable for parents to believe they are the ones in control, and must create firm boundaries if they are to be good parents. In some families this works well. However, in many, the path is far from smooth.
Some children are more strong-willed than others, or are under pressure from their more liberated friends. Sometimes, as parents, we are unreasonable, or unnecessarily rigid. Teens have a highly developed sense of fairness and justice. It may not always be accurate, but nonetheless, it is strong. Some parents think, mistakenly, that when a teen struggles for power, it is best to nip that in the bud. Consequently, they react in an overpowering way. This creates a more intense power struggle.
The only way to circumvent the whole business of struggle, is to actually give the teens some power. That does not mean giving them their way. It means allowing them some part in the decision making process. Not allowing people to have some input in decisions that affect them is a sure way to encourage rebellion and resistance. Parents are often afraid that if they give teens any power at all, the situation will rapidly get out of control. My experience in working with many families, is that things get most out of control when parents try to be too controlling!
Most teens can be very reasonable, and seem to me to be more than willing to compromise if they see that their needs are being sincerely considered. It is not always an easy process to shift gears in this way, but communication and problem solving skills can be learned. Learning them is a powerful investment in family harmony and lasting positive relationships.
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