Resolve a parent-teenager conflict
If it feels like every conversation with your teenager ends in a fustrating shouting match, take heart - you aren't alone. A parent-teenager conflict is a common encounter.
Parenting teenagers is not easy. Parent-teenager conflicts are very normal! Kenny Toh, Founder of the Institute of Advanced Parentology gives us some tips on how to handle your teenager.
“I can’t get my message across to my teenager.” “My daughter refuses to talk to me.” “My son does everything opposite to what I want him to do!” “I don’t understand why my child keeps building a wall between us.” “How can I get my teenager to listen to me?”
If these are some of the thoughts running through your head, take heart – you aren’t alone. I commonly hear such statement from parents with teens.
I also commonly hear parents writing off teenagers as unnecessarily rebellious and uncontrollable. But I beg to differ.
That’s a dangerous generalisation that typically sets parents up for trouble. When we put labels such as ‘rebellious’ and ‘uncontrollable’ on children or teenagers, we cease to try to understand them and the underlying reasons for their behaviours. In many families, conflicts between parents and teenagers are normal. And it is tempting to attribute these conflicts to some qualities that exist in the latter. Yes, teenagers are in a crucial developmental stage in which they try to establish a sense of identity, to assert themselves, and to form their own ideas about the world. But none of these justifies or explains the pervasiveness of conflicts their parents experience with them.
It is possible for any well-intentioned parent to relate effectively and connect with his or her teenager. But it takes willingness to examine how we might have contributed to the problem or conflict. Remember, it takes two to Tango.
Contrary to popular beliefs, teenagers do not rebel without a cause. Their rebellion is a reaction against an external force that attempts to control them or restrict their freedom of self-expression.
Real life survey
In a survey I once conducted with a group of fifteen year olds to investigate their opinions on what they wish their parents would stop doing, the top responses turned out to be: “Stop treating me like a child,” “Stop restricting me from doing what I like,” and “Stop judging my friends and choosing them for me.”
It’s extremely insightful when we get teens to open up and share what they think and feel about their parents. As a father, I know that most parents mean well. We wish to protect our children from harm and raise them into morally upright human beings. But our good intentions do not always turn out well, as caring for our children is simply not enough. They need our understanding, acceptance, love, encouragement, guidance and support. Give up the need to control your child’s behaviour or shape them into who you think they ‘should be,’ and naturally the impetus for rebellion will disappear. Which child can resist a parent’s acceptance and love?
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Conversation is like a dance. Take the lead, and steer it towards discussions that promote understanding instead of conflict. As you get curious about what your teen is thinking and feeling, and if you resist dictating how they should think or feel, understanding will grow and conflict will diminish.