Based on research done on adolescent behavior, the source of the problems that parents face with teenagers is the misperception that all teenagers are rebellious. Surveys conducted in this field have often found that teenagers are more similar to their parents than initially expected: the media merely portrays teenagers as subverting authority when in reality, the parents’ perception of their child is what truly influences how said child behaves. If you notice arguments between parents and children, they’re often about petty, trivial, everyday matters rather than moral behavior; noticing this trend is key to repairing the parent-child relationship.
Believing your child to be “out of control” indicates that you wish for them to be “in control” or that you wish to be able to “control” them. However, given the nature of human behavior, it is natural for humans to wish to become independent someday. Therefore, talking to them warmly and welcoming them to a conversation coming from a position of equality could help bridge the divide between yourself and your teenager.
Oftentimes, people will rebel if they feel as though they are misunderstood. Spending quality time and showing that you care rather than allowing yourself to get angry should ideally work. If not, then speak to said teenager when you are not angry, for anger is often a destructive emotion that can destroy bonds of intimacy between people.
Gently guide your teen to discovering the truth for themselves, and they shall learn over time. Perpetuating past cycles of frustration and using repeated methods of parenting shall not allow for you to bridge this generational gap, so striving to be as understanding of your teen’s situation is best, for puberty and adolescence is a trying time for everyone, and it’s difficult for adults to remember what that time was like themselves. Furthermore, times have been changing, so adolescent development in a different context shall undoubtedly be different as well.
View your teen as an equal and speak to them warmly, showing genuine warmth and care about their problems. This approach should earn you an unexpected display of warmth as well, over time. Reciprocity on the interpersonal level happens slowly, but it can be achieved.
Christine Wei is an aspiring writer, blogger, and artist. She is an undergraduate student majoring in Public Policy at Duke University and has written numerous articles for The Chronicle, Duke’s student newspaper.