“Parents often talk about the younger generation as if they didn’t have anything to do with it”. ~Haim Ginott
I write a lot about parents understanding their teens, so this time it is going to be about teens understanding their parents. When things are not going well, teens often think the problem lies solely with the parents. They can rattle of a list of all the things their parents do that are unfair, or drive them crazy.
They often do not have any perspective about their own behavior, and how it may be contributing to the problem. Granted, this is something that comes with maturity, but I do think teens are smart and do have the capacity to evolve to a higher level of functioning. So this is for them.
First of all, it is important to know that every situation is co-created by the parties involved. This means that both parties are contributing something in order to create the present outcome. You can focus on wanting parents to be different, but another way to change the situation is to change your own behavior. You can recognize that if you are sullen and withdrawn, and only give parents one word answers, they will interpret this as rejection, disrespect or anger, even if this is not what you intend.
It is a parent’s responsibility to look out for your welfare, that is why they set rules. It is not their intention to ruin your life or make you miserable. It is a big responsibility to raise a child, and they do not want to fail. If they do not set expectations for school performance, or they give you too much freedom, their fear is that you will sabotage your future. They realize that what is fun at sixteen can result in life being limited and stressful when you are forty. What happens between the ages of say fifteen to twenty-two determines the kind of life you will have for the rest of your days.
When you get mad at them for setting restrictions and make them feel like terrible people, this makes them sad and frustrated. People who do not really care about their children let them do whatever they want. Your parents set limits because they do care.
There will be times when you want to discuss and extend the limits. If you have demonstrated mature and responsible behavior, you can approach them to have a discussion about the issue. A discussion is not simply pleading your case. It is listening to their concerns, and explaining to them how you intend to uphold the values and behaviors they have taught you.
If it seems impossible to have reasonable discussions or much communication at all, family counseling can often ease these challenging years for all.
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