Teen Angst

Helping adolescents deal with anger and other emotions effectively

Teens and Parents: A Battle of the Wills

Raising a teen… what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

As a teen boy storms out of his room screaming and yelling all because he was asked to clean it, his mother shakes her head in disbelief and wonders what alien force has abducted her sweet child, who used to sit upon her lap for hours just snuggling… Ahh, those were the days of innocent serenity. And as she banters back and forth with her son she catches a glimpse of her mother in the mirror. Only at second glance it isn't her mother, it's her! Yikes! Quickly clasping her hands over her mouth she has a flashback to her teen years when she told her own mother, "When I have a teenager, I'll never treat her like you treat me!" Caught in the middle of the battle of the wills, she asks herself, "What, or better yet, who have I become."

Battle of the wills…

In one corner you have the parent coming in with vast years of experience and knowledge and in the other corner you have a teen coming in with a little more than a decade of worldly wisdom. Don't underestimate the teen's power though… by using "I'll wear you down" and "dig my heels in" tactics the teen can quickly overthrow the opponent, aka the parent. What do you do when your teen is running the show? Do you submit to the quest for autonomy or stand your ground?

As teens march toward autonomy they may express less affection toward family members, and spend daunting amounts of time with friends or online via texting, IMing, or posting on social media sites. Things such as appearance, social acceptance, and fitting in become increasingly important; for many, these things become a basic necessity of life. Emotionally, teens may be stuck in between being a child and a young adult, which leads to 100% pure awkwardness.    

Rest assured, a teen's quest to become autonomous and independent is a perfectly normal part of adolescent development. Although you may get a few gray hairs in the process, your teen's rejection and questioning authority is helping him or her grow into a young adult. So, rather than plucking your gray hairs or transforming into a Tasmanian devil, feel confident that your teen is simply trying to get a sense of who he or she is and how to fit into this big bold world.

How on earth do you survive your teen's adolescent years when you barely survived your own? Experts will say that being consistent, setting safe boundaries to allow them to explore their environment, and limit-setting are fundamental parenting skills. In addition to those things, let’s not forget to keep the lines of communication open so your teen will feel comfortable talking to you.

So if you are the parent of a teen, you know how difficult it is to find the perfect balance. When you received your little bundle of joy over a decade ago, you probably didn’t know that you would have to become a professional juggler, multi-tasker, authority figure and mediator all wrapped up into one! Parenting is not an easy feat! So, pat yourself on the back if you're raising a teen today, because regardless of what the job market says, parenting is one of the most underpaid, overworked, stressful yet most rewarding jobs hands down. It's a privilege to help prepare our children for leaving the nest; to equip them with all that we can so they can begin their journey.

Adolescence can be a rough stage of development. Some teens spin out of control… some parents spin out of control, too. The teen years are filled with independence seeking, button pushing tactics and talking "furbish" lingo; that leaves you Googling words just to know what he/she is saying. What is interesting about this age is that one day your teen may be telling you that you don't know what you're talking about and the next day your teen may be seeking out your advice. The perplexities of adolescence… The good news is that most teens emerge from this stage of development unscathed. Meanwhile remind yourself that "This too shall pass…"

So no more plucking gray hairs (you know only 10 more will grow back in its place) rather congratulate yourself for surviving this stage… And not to sound too clichéish, but Kelly Clarkson sings it best with her song "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." Here's a toast to raising a glorious, autonomous, independent and yes, let's not forget assertive teen.

Parents please share your thoughts, comments, words of wisdom, and support for all other parents in the same boat as you. Teens, this one's for you too. Feel free to offer parents some of your own advice about raising a teen.

Raychelle Cassada Lohmann, M.S., L.P.C., is the author of The Anger Workbook for Teens.

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